Pension doublespeak: The Chicago Tribune.

John Dillon

My friend John Dillon deconstructs the Tribune’s editorial on pension theft. You can read John’s always sharp essays at Pension Vocabulary.


Doublespeak: Evasive, ambiguous language that is intended to deceive or twist meaning to the opposite. Deliberate attempts to disguise truth through the careful usage of spin, twists, and methodical alterations to historical accuracies.  

My good friends and I watched the latest Star Wars episode, “The Force Awakens,” the other afternoon, and my memories of another blogger partner’s prescient comment crept up into the present moment.

“No matter the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously found their attempt to take away our pension benefits were unconstitutional, you can bet these liars and thieves will return again and again to steal more of what they have stolen already.”

He was right.

Today’s Bruce Dold and Trib company’s editorial exceeds George Orwell’s doublespeak spinning the latest inability of narrow-minded Governor Rauner to grasp an ego-inflating olive branch from Senate Leader Cullerton to resurrect SB2404, an older version of forced consideration for public employees’ pension benefits.

Simple version: A deal between Cullerton and Rauner to resurrect his original pension reform bill requiring a choice between a COLA or health care for retirees – now altered to force a choice between increased salaries or COLA’s – was torpedoed by Rauner’s maniacal need for the Governor to add his own anti-union sentiments and inclusions to the agreement.

But the Tribune hopes “Can this marriage be saved?”

What follows is an essayist argument that would have made Orwell (and party member O’Brien) delightedly proud.

Doublespeak:  “Given the Supreme Court decision to toss deeper pension reform – a plan we supported because of its much larger costs savings for taxpayers – Cullerton’s plan right now is the only game in town.  It doesn’t promise dramatic savings. But it’s a start.”

Comment: A 38 page unanimous decision by the Illinois Supreme Court is not a “toss.”  In fact, when a Justice like Karmeier is given the nod by six other Justices to write the decision, he has his clerks and their clerks at his disposal to generate the information, the precedents, the legalese, and the final product.  He is not told to go ahead and write what ‘you think we all think’; quite the opposite, his opinion is then reviewed and scrutinized by the clerks and the other Justices prior to release. It is not a toss – IT IS A JUDICIAL DECREE.

Doublespeak: “…a plan we supported because of its much larger costs savings to taxpayers…”

Meaning: We ignored the moral and legal argument by those who had been employed by the state with no social security and no access to anything but a defined benefit even as the state avoided paying them year after year, decade after decade for what was owed in matching contributions.  We stood behind our politicians like James Thompson who declared openly that services were provided without increased taxation (at the expense of public retirees).   The Pension Protection Clause never meant anything to us, and it still doesn’t.

Doublespeak: “Cullerton’s plan right now is the only game in town.  It doesn’t promise dramatic savings.  But it’s a start.”

Meaning: Let’s pretend that this symbolic adventure back into litigation is something more than just that – a likely expensive attempt by the state politicians to once again avoid making payment for our debts.  Forget the state budget.  Let’s ignore our constitutional duty to pay those from whom we have stolen and their own judicially guaranteed benefits once they begin service in the public sector.  Let’s continue to suffer under a ridiculously patched together scheme to pay back our debt in Illinois through a balloon payment schedule that will leave us all bereft of funds by 2018.

Doublespeak: “Madigan’s chronic refusal to compromise – his devotion to politics rather than governance – has led to tragic service cuts for the state’s most vulnerable citizens…”

Meaning: Let’s ignore the other issues beyond the Governor’s refusal to advance a budget despite the suffering so many marginalized and others feel now.  It’s all Madigan’s fault.  Recall that just yesterday the Governor regarded the fall off of important Lutheran Social Services, as “we’ll feel a little pain as we go through this transition.”

I’ll be listening to the State of the State tomorrow.  And on Thursday, I’m sure I’ll be entertained by the next piece of Doublespeak from Bruce Dold and the Board at the Trib.

One Reply to “Pension doublespeak: The Chicago Tribune.”

  1. Dear Fred,
    Sadly, the prediction of continued attacks is accurate. We have few real friends in the General Assembly (Republican, Democrat, or otherwise). Union leadership has also failed to effectively confront these attacks with their “go along to get along” non-defense of employee earned and owed benefits.

    What we do have is each other and our votes. Like you, even though I will not necessarily vote for an opponent, I do not vote for people who support pension theft.

    Perhaps it is time that others (like the We Are One coalition) drop the “lesser of two evils” approach and exact a permanent cost for failure to represent our interests. No money, no workers, no votes. Every time, all the time.

    If pension theft is successful, does it really matter if it was “enemies” or “friends” who made it happen? (With “friends like these, we don’t need “enemies”.) The result is the same in either case. We lose. Instead, let us identify and support people who actually support us.

    Time to find out who really stands with us. Be very clear that when an official “crosses the Rubicon” and votes for pension theft, they will NEVER get our support again. I know that there are some Democratic members of the General Assembly who feel they will not pay a long term cost for supporting pension theft. They think we will forgive and forget. Our support is meaningless to them because it is unconditional.

    I know in my case, they are wrong. I don’t know about you, but I will not give these thieves my vote, EVER. Active workers should join us in withholding support from these quislings, starting NOW in this election cycle.

    It may or may not result in other candidates being “Quinned”. But our votes count too. Let us ONLY vote FOR people who are FOR us. There needs to be a permanent cost exacted for every betrayal of our trust and support.

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