– 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.