Bob Lyons. If they can take my pension, they can take your social security.

bob lyons 

– Bob Lyons represents retirees on the Illinois Teacher Retirement System board of trustees.

I fully expect at some time in the future that as active and retired teachers and public employees we will face a challenge from the forces that want to cut our retirement benefits where they will attempt to change or totally remove the provision in the Illinois Constitution that protects public pensions. The “cost cutters’ would band together and use the ever popular slogan, “They got something that we don’t, so let’s take it away from them!” Since the great majority of people today do not have a pension, that could be an effective battle cry. What could we do, how could we counter their simplistic argument?

The Republican party candidate for state representative for my district, Ramiro Juarez, is running against Fred Crespo, who despite having been first elected with the strong support of the IFT and IEA, voted in favor of SB1. In a “legislative report card” issued by Juarez, who is a public school teacher, Representative Crespo was given an F on “Pensions” because he “voted for unconstitutional Senate Bill 1 which unilaterally reduces retiree benefits.” OK, but it is what is said next that is significant and greatly broadens the impact of the message. He writes, “Can you imagine this happening to Social Security without asking Seniors for their feedback?”

Why didn’t I think of that! The great majority of people do not have a pension, but almost everyone does get or expects to get social security. If they try to reduce our pension benefits by changing the state constitution, and asking people to vote in favor of such an amendment, our response should be, “If they can take my pension, they can take your social security !” And it is an argument that can work because it obviously would be true. If our state government can change and ignore the protection of contracts in Illinois, what is to stop the federal government from doing the same to reduce the cost of social security and other benefits at the national level. At the first mention by an Illinois politician suggesting that the state’s constitution should be amended to reduce our benefits, we should be asking if he will go after social security next. If its good for one then its good for all, and see what they say.

6 thoughts on “Bob Lyons. If they can take my pension, they can take your social security.

  1. I like your argument, but, unfortunately, Congress has shown itself ready and willing to cut soc sec. The 1983 amendments gradually raised the full retirement age and put in place the so-called “windfall” clause which cuts soc sec benefits for those workers who have earned both a soc sec retirement benefit and also pension from a non-soc sec covered job, such as working for state of Illinois. The Illinois constitutional guarantee looks like it is going to prove a stronger protection than soc sec has. If the recent Supreme Court decision to protect health insurance premiums for pensioners carries through and strikes down SB1, then it will be the case that soc sec is weaker than Illinois pensions. Soc. sec is not a contract and benefits are entirely dependent on will/whim of Congress. All the more reason to fight hard against attempts to eliminate the Illinois constitutional protection. Unfortunately, the proposed argument to appeal to soc sec in this fight is undercut by those 1983 amendments, which pension thieves would be sure to point out.

      1. Anonymous, it’s happening across the aisle. Legislators are taking lessons from ILL-Annoy, Rhode Island (R.I. treasurer Gina Raimondo came to a right-wing sponsored luncheon & propagandized as to how great her state was doing (the way they were–& still are!) sticking it to seniors (esp. teachers–pensions) elsewhere. Guess who was there? A number of so-called Dems. Neo liberal Dems, right wing Republicans, Tea Party fanatics–they’re more alike than different.
        Which means that more of US need to run for legislative offices.

    1. Rauner first said he would be open to taxing pensions and social security in Illinois. Now he has changed it to “never tax social security” in his new ad.(Nothing saying he won’t tax pensions). We know his #1 target is the pensions, but his constant flip-flops, and impossible math proves he can not be trusted. Notice his attacks on teachers unions have stopped. He won’t say anything more and wait until after the election. Then he will attempt to destroy the unions and public pensions. Dark days may be in our future.

    2. Jerry R, many retired teachers, myself included, have already been victimized by the “windfall” clause that you have mentioned. Prior to my teaching career and during many summers while teaching, I have worked other jobs where I have contributed to Social Security. Throughout my teaching career I would get an annual statement from the Social Security Board that would tell me that if I retired at this point in time I would receive a specific amount of money based on the amount of hours I’ve worked and the amount of money that has been contributed toward Social Security.

      When I actually did retire, I met with people from Social Security and found out that the amount that Social Security stated I would get in these annual statements that were mailed to me was actually far below the amount they were going to actually give me. When I questioned the lower amount, I was told that it was because I would be receiving a teacher’s pension and that because of the “windfall” the amount of Social Security payments would be reduced. They were reduced greatly. It felt so unfair.

      With our choices of Rauner and Quinn, it seems that we are caught between a rock and a hard place. I can’t see Vallas taking a strong stance in fighting for teacher pensions.

      1. JR, my situation is same as yours. My “earned” soc sec was slashed because of my Illinois pension. A lifelong Democrat, I refuse to vote for someone who has tried to steal from me so no vote for Quinn or my state senator and representative, Democrats who voted for pension theft. Do not know if I will vote for Republicans or do a write-in, but I feel very strongly: no vote of mine is going to a thief. Never.

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