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The in box. Haisman: Days of pension rage.

April 7, 2012

The following was forwarded to me by one of the Pension Stalwarts:

Pension Stalwarts ……

Did You see the article that TRS Trustee Robert Lyons sent out — declaring –“Freeport Paper Gets It Right”? (article follows)

No wonder Lyons thought they got it right. The Freeport Journal Standard essentially reprinted the TRS news release ….. and of course they quoted Lyons once or twice.

I hate to cover old ground but I didn’t like this “New Reality” stuff when I first heard it from Ingram at the IEA RA. I hate to be “disloyal” to TRS, IEA and the flag but I didn’t like it then (I did rise to a mike and challenge Dick Ingram) and I like it even less after a week of “further explanation”!

I was called last Friday morning  by a prominent IEA official who couldn’t understand why I was upset with Ingram. This high ranking official explained why Ingram was not asking us to line up and drink Civic Committee Cool Aide. I listened. I really did. I tried to remain calm. I tried to objectively assess why the TRS Teacher Trustees agreed unanimously with Ingram’s “New Reality”. I studied. I listened. I read. I shook my head in disbelief …. I’m not a sophisticated political analyst but even I could see where Ingram’s “New Reality” was going to take us. I was told I was “over reacting”.

Seemed to me that Ingram was saying  that the State was just not going to make it’s contributions and we better accept it — not Fight but cope. Not Fight but capitulate. Not Fight but become collaborators with “the Pension Killers”.  Ingram has been in this state for a year and he is tired of fighting.  The same prominent IEA official and one or two TRS Teacher Trustees told me — I just didn’t get it. I was being unreasonable.

We have been grappling with this pension crisis for decades.  At the 1983 IEA RA — I proposed acts of civil disobedience — in the State Capitol — as an antidote to a 7 billion dollar unfunded liability at TRS.   My New Business Item (labeled the “Days of Pension Rage NBI” by my detractors) was overwhelmingly defeated at the 1983 IEA RA.  We kept fighting to get pensions on IEA’s Radar Screen.  In 1993, frustrated — I ran for President of the IEA  — to get pension funding and the issue of TRS unfunded liability (now … 9 Billion) on the IEA radar screen.  I was the longest of long shots, I was the darkest of dark horses — somehow I stumbled over the finish line and was elected. I believe to this day, I was elected because we took on the unfunded pension liability issue.

In 1993 — not to brag (too much) but we  proposed to do something about the unfunded liability.  The ‘IEA Pros’  said we were crazy and we were tilting at windmills.

A lot of people worked real hard  — the IEA has now and had then an excellent lobbying shop — we worked the grass roots — we passed the1995 “Pension Ramp Plan”! It was designed to pay off the 9 Billion unfunded TRS liability in a mere 45 years. I was assured in 1995 by “the lawyers” the ramp was iron glad. It was iron clad till it ran into — “Blago The TRS Raider”! I thought we solved the problem in 1995 ….. I was wrong.

In 2011 — 30 years after the “Days of Pension Rage NBI” — I  proposed NBI #16  at another IEA RA. NBI #16 was intended to mobilize IEA grass roots against the Pension Killers and a 45 Billion unfunded liability. It worked. I think modest pensions and financial security for 300,000 hardworking school teachers is worth a fight — 30 years of fighting.

Apparently Dick Ingram thinks one year is long enough to fight.Maybe Ingram is the smart one — he fought the Pension Killers for a year and quickly became dispirited.  Ingram had a change of heart.  He came to the amazing insightful conclusion that if the state didn’t pay it’s contribution to TRS — TRS would become insolvent. Insolvent in 15, 20, 30 years — pick the date that scares the hell out of you the most!  Call me harsh but it seems to me Ingram has collaborated with the Pension Killers by predicting  insolvency of the system — just last March he was saying was sustainable. Last night on PBS’ “Chicago Tonight” it took the commentators about 16 mill-a-seconds to use Ingram’s comments against every school teacher – retired or active in Illinois! Did you see Wednesday’s Trib editorial?  Surprise — The Trib used Ingram’s own words to make the “Pension Killers” case!  We have met the enemy and they are us!

I know the folks on the “inside” are now saying Ingram was misquoted, misconstrued, misunderstood.  I read the articles. Seemed to me he was tacitly agreeing to cut benefits as a solution to the pension crisis.  Seems to me he is suggesting — at least implicitly — that unconstitutional  is OK.  After all the state — “has got a problem”.Guess what?  “WE” are the problem!

I know Ingram  has six finance degrees, I know he has the actuarial magicians at his beck and call, he is able to meet with ‘The Speaker’ during elevator rides, he seems to have made friends with Ty Fahner and the Civic Committee. What do I know in comparison? No finance degree. No actuarial wizards. No access to the legislative ‘Tops’. No rich friends on the Civic Committee.  But It just seems to me Ingram’s”New Reality” is self- defeating, simplistic,  a ‘Quisling’s stance’!

Really? To conclude that if the State doesn’t make its contributions TRS will go broke…REALLY? How very Insightful.

I don’t know if we should call for Ingram’s resignation. I don’t know if he should be fired. But I do know he has damaged the chance for a stable pension for every teacher in Illinois. He did that while occupying a position that calls for a system advocate.

If I could get my friends on the TRS Board to answer my emails — I’d like to ask them to explain why they voted unanimously to accept — Ingram’s “New Reality”….obviously…. I don’t get it. I apparently lack the insight to grasp it. I’m waiting to be convinced. But until that moment ….

I’m still going to fight for my pension. Until I catch a glimpse of my leader’s “insight” —  I  will stand in opposition to Ingram’s capitulation.  No Trustee Lyons — I do not think Ingram has “got it right!”

- Bob Haisman

Here is the Freeport Journal-Standard article discussed above.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2012 7:50 am

    So who’s this IEA high ranking official, Bob? We must know. We all have a right to know. I called TRS this week and spoke to a guy named Urbanek. He treated me like I was some sort of freak!

  2. April 8, 2012 9:37 am

    This is a good review of the history, sad as it is.

    Jerry, over at TRS Dave Urbanek has been responsible for all of the excellent, crystal clear messaging that TRS has put out over the years, including the dozens of precise letters-to-the-editor that are archived on the site. When you go thru the archives, you start to wish that he were the IEA’s communications guy. He also responds to emails promptly and with precision. I’m guessing that he’s been just as burned as anyone by “the new reality.”

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