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Keeping retirement weird. Can you hear me now?

August 1, 2015

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I picked up the ear molds for my new hearing aids last Thursday. The molds allow the part of the aid that goes into the ear canal to fit a little better. I can’t say the design of these things has improved much since I bought my first pair. There has been some improvement in the technology. I can control the sound level on the damn things from my smart phone and the phone app helps me find them when I misplace them.

Which I do.

Yet for all the pain in the ass that they can be, I have recommended them to my friends who have some hearing loss. Anne loves that I wear them. If I want the TV louder I grab for the smart phone.

We went to a play at the Goodman Theater last night and the sound was good even from the nose bleed seats because I had my hearing aids.

I bought them with a discount from a company that has a deal with the Illinois Retired Teachers Association. I didn’t save all that much, but I saved some.

Hearing aids can be expensive. Depending on the level of technology, they can run up to $3,000 each.

And they are not covered by Medicare.

Millionaire members of Congress decide which items are covered by Medicare and which are not.

Even though the science shows a relationship between hearing and good health, the millionaire members of Congress don’t think men and women over 65 need to hear anything.

Or have sex.

Drugs for erectile dysfunction and penis pumps are not covered by Medicare.

I know, you’re probably laughing.

Penis pumps. Funny, right?

But it is no joke.

Think about this. Millionaire members of Congress sit there and cross off things from a list of what is covered by Medicare. Doctors don’t decide what is covered.

Your congressman decides. The same ones who keep voting to abolish the Affordable Care Act. They decide if men over 65 can get an erection.

Or that men and women over 65 don’t need to hear.

They will cover this but not that.

And under current funding restrictions, if something goes on the list then something has to come off.

And in their wisdom they have decided that those over 65 who can’t afford it don’t need to hear or have sex.

The millionaire members of Congress say that hearing and sex are life-style choices.

I know. You’ve heard these idiots say that homosexuality was a life-style choice.

Now they’ve added sex after 65 to the list of what is a life-style choice.

And hearing.

Chicago’s Progressive Caucus offers revenue solutions, not pennies from heaven.

July 31, 2015

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If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street.
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat.
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

– The Beatles

Alderman George Cardenas has come up with his idea for solving the City’s budget deficit.

Tax pop.

I don’t drink pop, so I will be untouched by the Cardenas Plan.

So will the city’s wealthy. And isn’t that the idea?

In 2004 the kids at my school brought in pennies to donate to victims of the Indonesian Tsunami.

We raised over a thousand dollars. Nobody thought our students’ pennies would have a significant impact on the horrible events of that natural disaster. But it was the kid’s idea and they were demonstrating a good heart.

Alderman Cardenas’ idea doesn’t even rise to that level.

Amanda Kass of the Center for Budget and Tax Accountability explains clearly why the ruling of Judge Novak on the city pension deal requires a serious revenue plan.

Aldermanic ideas on the level of a penny tax on soda pop won’t do it.

Yesterday the Progressive Caucus on the City Council made some serious proposals.

Fran Spielman of the Chicago Sun-Times, who last week began her report on Judge Novak’s pension decision by commenting on the seratonin levels of the retirees present for the decision, described the Progressive Caucus proposals as a smørgasboard.

Fran obviously has been spending too much time at IKEA.

While the Caucus proposed many ideas, the main thrust of them was to raise revenue from the wealthy who have not been paying their share.

Raising the tax on property is one of the few significant ways in which the city has home rule. The Caucus wants low-income home owners and seniors protected from an inevitable increase.

Local politicians love to say that we can’t wait for Springfield to solve the revenue problem.

That is like saying we can’t wait for the Cubs to acquire good players to win a championship.

Along with freeing up TIF money, Springfield is exactly where the solution lies.

A transaction tax on the LaSalle Street financial exchanges; a corporate income tax; a graduated city income tax; a graduated state income tax all require action in Springfield.

What about Bruce Rauner?

What about him?

The Illinois legislature has veto proof majorities of Democrats.

In both chambers.

The Progressive Caucus has provided a real revenue plan.

Will the Mayor and the city unions support them by going after their party comrades in Springfield?

Logan Square is lucky. We have neighborhood public schools that have budgets to slash. East Humboldt Park doesn’t get that priviledge.

July 30, 2015

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When Mayor Rahm set the record for closing neighborhood public schools it left East Humboldt Park with none. No neighborhood public elementary school.

They don’t have to worry about budget cuts.

Anymore.

Neighborhood public schools in Logan Square, on the other hand, will lose $4 million dollars.

The good news is that we still have neighborhood public schools. So we still have budgets to cut.

In Rahm’s Chicago that’s called a privilege.

City-wide, Mayor Rahm’s CPS  cuts amount to over $100 million.

Logan Square’s Kelvyn Park High School will have to do with $1.7 million less than last year.

That will follow a 27% budget cut in 2013.

A bunch of us protested at the Logan Square monument on Tuesday.

By the way, I did my student teaching at Kelvyn Park.

“You’re harming retirees,” Judge tells Mayor Rahm. She refuses to stay her ruling.

July 29, 2015

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Charles Lomanto, a 28 year employee of Chicago’s Streets and Sanitation Department speaks at a news conference Friday, July 24, 2015, in Chicago after Cook County Judge Rita Novak issued a written ruling stating that a 2014 law aimed at reducing multibillion-dollar shortfalls in two of Chicago’s pension funds is unconstitutional.

Last Friday, Cook County Judge Rita Novak overturned a 2014 state law that reduced cost-of-living benefit increases for retired city workers and laborers and increased contributions by current employees. Those changes were coupled with increases in taxpayer payments to their pension funds.

Today Judge Novak refused Mayor Rahm’s request for a stay until the Illinois Supreme Court might rule.

Of course, the ISC may not want to rule. The Justices could refuse to hear the case and say they have already decided this issue.

The two city pension funds would have to restore higher benefits to retired city workers, issue checks to make up for reduced benefits since Jan. 1, take out less money from current workers’ paychecks and return the money already collected to workers who have been paying more into the retirement accounts.

Mayor Rahm’s lawyers begged Judge Novak to put a hold on things in case the ISC overturns her decision.

“I don’t see there is much likelihood of success on the merits at all once the case reaches the Supreme Court,” Novak said in denying a stay on her ruling.

She also said retired workers, more than 40 percent of whom get less than $29,000 a year in benefits, were being harmed.

Indeed. As comments from city workers on this blog show.

In ruling against the city, Judge Novak rejected arguments that the deal had been bargained between the City and employee unions.

The Judge responded by saying the unions, such as SEIU, had no standing to bargain a contractual obligation involving employees not formally represented by SEIU. And further they had no standing to bargain a diminishment of constitutionally protected benefits, particularly benefits of current retirees who do not belong to the unions.

This was exactly the case in the failed SB2404, which was bargained between the state’s public employee unions and Senate President John Cullerton.

They joined together to include current retirees in a the bill, reducing COLA benefits, even though many current retirees were not members of those unions and were not represented by those unions’ leaders.

Huckabee.

July 29, 2015

MIKE HUCKABEE

Rahm won’t quit on pension deal based on union leadership sell-out.

July 29, 2015
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Attorney Gino DiVito representing us before the Illinois Supreme Court.

Mayor Rahm won’t give up on his pension theft.

It doesn’t matter that Cook County Judge Rita Novak ruled it unconstitutional.

It doesn’t matter that all seven members of the Illinois Supreme Court, Democrats and Republicans, ruled that any reduction in benefits constitutes an illegal act.

Rahm argues that because SEIU 73 President Christine Boardman and other sell-out city union leaders agreed to it, it is legal.

That is the totality of his argument.

Three days after a Circuit Court judge tossed out the reforms and shot down all his legal arguments, Emanuel insisted his “collaborative approach” with organized labor would prevail before the Illinois Supreme Court.

Never mind that the state Supreme Court already has overturned state pension reforms and is likely to do the same to Emanuel’s plan to save the Municipal Employees and Laborers Pension Funds.

Never mind that Circuit Judge Rita Novak cited the “crystal-clear direction” provided by the Illinois Supreme Court and the high court’s reading of the Illinois Constitution: Membership in a government employee pension system “shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”

“The only solution is working in a collaborative basis [with labor] to come up with something because the taxpayers cannot bear the burden alone,” the mayor said after returning from a European bike trip with his daughter.

“I happen to [believe] both in the substance of our argument in front of the Supreme Court, but also in the substance of the approach we had, which was a collaborative approach working with labor. I’m not gonna [say it’s a] forgone conclusion, just because one judge ruled, that it means the Supreme Court will rule that way. I think the approach will stand the test of time — meaning, employees deserve a retirement system and taxpayers also deserve to make sure that everybody’s contributing to the process and the solution.”

The lesson is obvious.

When you have an iron-clad constitutional protection that is crystal clear, as Judge Novak said, watch out when our union leaders start offering to compromise on that iron-clad protection.

Ironically it was only last April when we stood at the IEA Representative Assembly, before the ISC had ruled and asked our union leaders for a promise that they would not bargain away what we expected to win in court.

Mitch Roth, IEA General Counsel, was brought to the microphone to say it was his legal opinion that if the Representative Assembly voted to make the IEA take a position of no compromise on our constitutional pension rights, “we would have to withdraw from the We Are One coalition” of state unions.

That not only doomed our request for the promise. It was simply not true.

It was fortunate for state employees that Gino DiVito, who represented us in oral argument before the ISC, was uncompromising in his defense of the pension protection clause.

Good thing it wasn’t Mitch up there.

Union mis-leaders have given Mayor Rahm the only argument for pension theft that he has left: “union collaboration.”

Good thing for us the courts aren’t buying that argument either.

Lisa Madigan. No time for fighting public corruption. There are pensions to steal.

July 28, 2015

AG Madigan

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