They shoot horses, don’t they?


“It’s new years. I’m 65.”

“You’re 64,” said Anne. “You don’t turn 65 for six months.”

“I’m rounding up. Besides, horses’ birthdays are the first of the year no matter what day they were born on.”

Which isn’t exactly true. It is only true for thoroughbred horses that jockey clubs put together for racing purposes.

“Yes, but you’re not a horse.”

“Sometimes I feel like a horse.”

I was thinking about the 1969 movie, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

It was one of the most depressing movies of all time, a metaphor for the Great Depression. The entire movie was about this dancing contest where the last couple standing wins the money. Every once in a while the dancing would stop and the remaining couples would race around the dance floor like horses.

The film was asking, “What kind of system treats people this way?”


At 65, most people qualify for Medicare. Then Social Security.

Illinois public employees don’t.

We receive retirement earnings from our pension system.

Some of us are well past 65. I know teachers who were old enough to retire when I first started teaching thirty years ago. They’re still with us, God bless ’em.

And their retirement payments are calculated on the salary they earned thirty years ago, plus a three percent cost of living adjustment.

When you talk to Illinois state legislators, Democrats mostly, they talk about budgets and shortfalls. If they know anything about pensions, which is rare, they may refer to an actuarial study.

What they don’t often talk about are people.

A lot of these people are old people. 

“We’re not old,” Anne says to me.

And truth is, we’re not.

But there are lots of people in this state who are 65 and older who depend on their pensions. Who earned their pensions. Who paid into their pensions every paycheck for thirty years and longer.

We now have the situation where in both Washington and Springfield legislators are talking about solving their deficits by cutting payments to those people. To us. To me and Anne and to our friends and colleagues.

In DC the Republicans want to reduce Social Security payments by recalculating the Consumer Price Index so it is lower. They call it “chaining the CPI.”

In Springfield the Democrats want to cut cost of living increases to public employee retirees. Deny access to health insurance to seniors. Raise active teacher pension contributions. Raise the retirement age.

Is this legal?  Doesn’t matter to them.

“So, sue us,” they say.

Of course, this will do nothing to solve their budget problems.

I guess they could shoot us.

That would save them a few bucks.

This Wednesday, January 2nd Northern Illinois Jobs With Justice will be hosting a town hall discussion with Representative Linda Chapa LaVia about pension reform proposals.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz will be there to defend her pension killer proposal (HB6258) which, among other things, will:

  • Increase the retirement age.
  • Significantly reduce COLA (even for current retirees).
  • Increase employees’ contributions.
  • Shift the pension costs from the state to the local school districts.

Town Hall Pension Forum
When:  Wednesday January 2nd, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Where:  East Aurora High School (Auditorium)
500 Tomcat Ln., Aurora, IL  60505
Ample parking–enter through Door 5

And then, of course, Thursday, January 3rd join us in Springfield for the pension rally in the Capitol Rotunda.

3 Replies to “They shoot horses, don’t they?”

  1. Someone please press Representative Linda Chapa LaVia and Elaine Nekritz a few questions for me.

    What would the unfunded liabilities of the Pension Funds be IF the General Assembly had made the mandated contributions? Do they even know?

    Why is the Judges Retirement System NOT included in this bill?

    If a GA member is currently earning the 3% IN-SERVICE increase will future increase be 3% or a lower amount?

    Why did they NOT attempt to stop the accrual of the 3% IN-SERVICE increases?

    1. The pension system is funded four ways: Member contributions. Local school board contributions. Return on investments. State payment of their obligation. The unfunded liability is the result of the General Assembly’s failure to meet their obligation.

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