“… [Most politicians] lie, cheat, and cut ethical corners quite often when [they] think [they] can get away with it, and then [they] use [pseudo] moral thinking to manage [their] reputations and justify [themselves] to others. [They] believe [their] own post hoc reasoning so thoroughly that [they] end up self-righteously convinced of [their] own virtue… Yes, [they] are often selfish and a great deal of [their] moral [and] political behavior can be understood as thinly-veiled ways of pursuing self-interest...” (Jonathan Haidt, Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business)
Last night, John Dillon, David Madsen, Todd Mertz, and I attended a town hall meeting sponsored by Senator Michael Connelly (a politician since 2009) and Representative Grant Wehrli (a politician since January 2015) in Naperville.
It is true most politicians do not concern themselves with the examination of evidence, the real causes of the state’s financial problems, and the best solutions for crucial issues. They are concerned about their party’s agenda, their reputation and re-election, and maintaining their power and influence in their communities. To accomplish this, they like to use simple power-point slides that deliberately omit significant causal explanations for the state’s lack of revenue and pension debt that were caused by incompetent, irresponsible and corrupt politicians.
They like to cast the issue of teacher pensions, for instance, as an object of their bias to elicit mindless, hair-trigger responses from their supporters. They will not talk about how politicians have stolen public employees’ pension money over the decades to pay for the state’s needed services. They will not talk about the faulty back-loaded pension ramp that has increased the service debt to eighteen percent of the state’s budget.
Most politicians do not provide relevant and accurate scrutiny of the issues at a town meeting because they prefer to use fallacious reasoning when alluding to their favorite scapegoat. They prefer to denigrate teachers’ pensions and cost-of living-adjustments instead through use of biased selected instances that falsely extrapolate a particular pension amount of one member to all group members. But they do make it quite evident to their audience that the State of Illinois should not have upheld its constitutional contract with public employees through their not-so-subtle asides about the recent Illinois Supreme Court Ruling on May 8, however.
Indeed, most politicians have no qualms about hurting the lives of people who are not responsible for the state’s lack of revenue and pension debt because most politicians do not view their own conduct from a standpoint of values and interests of those they hurt. They do not want to talk about legal and moral ways to increase the state’s revenue. “We must have reform first before we restructure revenue,” they tell us.
Undoubtedly, they prefer to isolate and offer up the middle-class for hardship and create a dispossession by way of intentionally-diminishing laws when they tell us they support Governor Bruce Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda: a plan that advocates violating the Illinois Constitution once again through pension reform, a plan that creates so-called “empowerment zones” to diminish collective bargaining rights under the guise of “giving local communities a voice,” a plan that will allow municipalities to file for bankruptcy, a plan that will prohibit only labor organizations from making contributions to campaigns of office holders and ban union agency and fair share fees, a plan that will cut unemployment compensation and benefits for injured workers, a plan that will take six and one-half years to reach a $10 minimum wage for millions of workers while perpetuating special exceptions and windfalls for wealthy benefactors...
Most politicians do not care about what is legally and morally right. They do not care about obligations to others – about the fair distribution of the tax burden, about constitutional guarantees, about demanding more of public employees, retirees, and union workers than they are willing to demand of themselves and their wealthy accomplices. Unfortunately, this is also the case in Naperville.
For more on this dog and pony show, click here for John Dillon’s perspective.