My annual.


This is Anne and me in Wakarusa, Indiana. 2009.

April is the month I get my yearly physical.

First of all, the results are pretty good for a guy who turns 70 next year. I don’t turn 69 until June, but I like saying, “I turn 70 next year.”

I go to the gym regularly. I try to watch any up-tick in my weight. I have to control my blood pressure with some meds. But all-in-all, the doctor and I were satisfied with the results.

The health insurance system works pretty well for me.

I am insured through a combination of Medicare and the retired teacher’s state health care system. It is not free. I pay a premium for insurance which is subsidized by payments from the state. I helped support the subsidy to retirees by payments I made when I was an active teacher.

Like my pension, that was the deal made when I started teaching 35 years ago.

Now Governor Rauner is threatening to end the state subsidy.

From the Illinois Retired Teachers Association:

Teachers’ Retirement Insurance Program (TRIP) is composed of two insurance programs: Standard TRIP and TRAIL.  Standard TRIP is the health insurance for those retirees under 65 years old and those retirees who are not Medicare eligible.

The February breakdown from Central Management Systems (CMS) of funding sources for TRIP are as follows:

Active Teachers 24.5%

Retirees 31.6%

School Districts 18.4%

State of Illinois 22.9%

Medicare 0.4%

Other 2.2%

IF the governor’s budget were to be adopted with the TRIP line zeroed out, then retiree-participants would have to bear the increased cost or drop out of TRIP and go to the public marketplace for insurance coverage.

Breaking a promise made to me when I began teaching would cause my slightly elevated current blood pressure to rise even more.

To the trolls who will surely want write and tell me how unfair it is that Illinois’s teachers have it so good: Don’t bother.

Nobody is more aware than I am that it could be worse. And it is worse for many, even with the Affordable Care Act that the Repugs are again trying to do away with.

Take the case of the retired mine workers who will lose their health coverage later this month if Congress doesn’t act.

Donald J. Trump made coal miners a central metaphor of his presidential campaign, promising to “put our miners back to work” and look after their interests in a way that the Obama administration did not.

Now, three months into his presidency, comes a test of that promise.

Unless Congress intervenes by late April, government-funded health benefits will abruptly lapse for more than 20,000 retired miners, concentrated in Trump states that include Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Many of the miners have serious health problems arising from their years in the mines.

In mining areas like Uniontown, Pa., and surrounding Fayette and Greene Counties, which Mr. Trump carried 2 to 1, it is an upsetting and potentially costly prospect. “It’s just a terrible, terrible feeling,” said one of the retirees, David VanSickle, who spent four decades at work in the mines. “I think about that 25 times a day.”

The president has offered no public comment on the issue, even as he has rolled back regulations on mine operators, an omission that has not escaped the notice of Mr. VanSickle and other retired miners.

“To me, that was kind of a promise he did make to us,” Mr. VanSickle said about Mr. Trump, whom he supported last fall. “He promised to help miners, not just mining companies.”

Yes. They voted for Trump. But I take no satisfaction in saying that they were foolish to believe him.

In a society that thinks of itself as democratic and humane, where affordable healthcare and quality public education should be a right, it is crazy that we are still fighting for both.


Download Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers #12.

14 Replies to “My annual.”

  1. Many believe that all State retirees get their health insurance free. Not so! While retired State workers (only one of the five state employee groups) have their entire health premium paid by the State, retired teachers do not! Our premiums are subsidized at 50%, far from full payment. At this time, if we leave the State system because we can get a lower premium elsewhere, we can never return. Even if the situation changes. All of this was a part of our contractual agreement with the State. This is deferred compensation. None of this is a generous gift. We paid into the retirement system (at a rate much higher that those in the Social Security system) and now are collecting on that invest.

  2. Fred,
    It ain’t Bruce, it’s our F’d up health care system. Until they, meaning some brave pol (you know any?) tackle the cost problem of our health care system no, and I mean no insurance system will be sustainable long term, teachers, medicare, guarantee or whatever. The top paid guy in the whole messed up system is now the head of the insurance company, not the top docs. Messed up, heh?
    Another wind mill for you to tilt Fred.
    By the way, good job on the health for an old fart. A good system would reward you with some kind of bonus, lower premium etc, but they need all your $ to pay those execs.
    F’d system indeed.

  3. The famous chicken and egg problem. That is, it’s primarily the fault of the health care “system.” I and many others agree with that observation.

    Many taxpayers, however, see it as a goose and golden egg problem. Taxpayers have to keep feeding the goose so that it keeps laying those eggs for retired public employees. Gold, silver or bronze as you prefer. A growing number of taxpayers want to kill the goose. Go tell Aunt Rhody.

    I doubt that Bruce (rhymes with goose) can do this by himself … not to say he doesn’t impart goose-flesh to many readers. In the unlikely event he is able to get his suggestion enacted, it will be another feather to pluck before attempting to cook his goose at the ballot box.

    It’s Fred’s job to egg us on and preserve what he can of the goose which lays. He “cries fowl” … [def’n: “protest strongly about a real or imagined wrong or injustice”]. Taxpayers should have as good an advocate.

    1. Working taxpayers do have an advocate. Me. I am a taxpayer too. The divide is rich and poor, not taxpayer and non-taxpayer.

    1. “Does the state tax your pension?”…….Well, like Fred said the state doesn’t tax any retirement income. And never will because that would mean wealthy people would get a little dinged and we can’t have that.

  4. The state does not tax pensions, IRA withdrawals, social security, or any other retirement monies a retiree may get. Teachers were told again and again by school boards across the state that your retirement will not be taxed so take a smaller raise – or no raise at all – because good things will happen when you retire. Delayed compensation, delayed gratification – teachers understand that. Hopefully the legislators will remember that one of the most consistent and largest group (yes, we are living longer) group of voters are retirees. No, do not tax my retirement. We have paid long enough.

  5. The state also wants to renege on health insurance. The rahmonster did that to retired cops. Again, we all vote. Rahm will get his just rewards. I hope those in this pitiful state government remembers this. Take our health insurance and we will take your job. I am sick and tired of trying to balance this budget on the backs of everyone except the rich and the large corporations who keep their employees state tax revenue. That needs to stop. Let them leave. Go find another state that is willing to pay these large companies to stay. At least list them everywhere so that everyone in Illinois knows which companies are cheating the taxpayers.

  6. I understand and appreciate good advocacy. Some want graduated income tax to raise funds to pay for the retiree benefits that governments can no longer afford with their current revenue base. Some want health care reform that squeezes the obscene profits out of the drug industry and other health care oligopolies.

    A graduated income tax requires constitutional amendment which many voters oppose. Health care reform is controversial. Neither is a sure thing in the real world and both are likely to be several years away, at the earliest.

    So now our elected leaders are faced with a dilemma. Another chicken and egg problem, if you will.
    The faulty systems (tax and health care) seem to have preceded the budget problem. The systems (as chicken) came before the egg (untoward results). Now, pension and benefit costs are crowding out other worthwhile expenditures that governments should be making. However, the underlying problems (faulty systems) are something that we are ALL going to have to deal with for the foreseeable future.

    In this context (insufficient revenues caused by systems that won’t be easily fixed), what is it about public retiree benefits that should be sacrosanct? I know, the Supreme Court says they are a contract right. This provides a legal basis for your claim, but what intrinsic philosophical reason makes your claim more important than repairing schools, hiring new teachers, maintaining benefits for low-income citizens, funding public transportation, providing clean water, etc.? The contract rights theory protects public retirees and bondholders, but why should society give those interest groups a priority claim on society’s resources?

    Perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect an advocacy website to engage in debate. But don’t we chastise Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly for their one-sidedeness? If our leaders are unable to agree on a perfect solution (evidence the Illinois budget crisis), what is a good solution in a world that we all occupy together?

    Your position for this system that doesn’t work is that that all income earners (other than retirees) and all property owners should fund your expectations — to the exclusion of other worthwhile public services that happen not to be contract rights. You attack the laws you and our representatives can’t fix (like income tax and the health system) while asking everyone to honor the law that benefits you. Perhaps the system “makes you do it” because everyone can see it’s leading to bankruptcy and you want to be in the best possible position when a federal judge starts to divvy up the booty.

    In another post, Fred offers to support taxing pensions. That seems like a constructive suggestion. I’ll support taxing only pension above $35K per year AND 401(k) balances in excess or $1,000,000 AND personal residences larger than 1000 square feet per occupant. These would be new laws that perhaps would not require a constitutional amendment. They might lead to wealthy people migrating to Florida or Indiana, but according to Barb that’s “good riddance.” Then how about mandating health insurance deductibles based on a patient’s income and wealth, so that rich folks couldn’t force other people to pay premiums for coverage the rich can well afford?

    Lots of changes would improve income and wealth distribution. They are probably as feasible as graduated income tax and health care reform, but maybe, somewhere, there is a fair pragmatic solution.

  7. Dear Kvetch the anonymous,
    This is all gibberish, code words and distortions.
    Code: This is an “advocacy website.” What the hell is that? This is a personal blog where I get to post my views. And so do you. What? You don’t advocate? Of course you do. Okay. Let’s call your comments “advocacy comments.”
    Gibberish: There is no chicken and no egg. There are at least seven decades in which the state of Illinois failed to pay what they were obligated to pay into the pension systems. That is what caused the current problem and nothing else. That is a debt that must be paid. No chicken. No egg.
    Not just because the courts say it must be paid. But because it is a moral obligation to the workers in this state that were promised something specific.
    The ISC’s decision didn’t just say it must be paid because it was a contract. They made a very important point: If the state can just take away the pensions of the retirees, or even diminish them, because of a crisis they created, what property of the citizens of the state is safe from official theft?
    You choose to ignore that statement of the court because it suits you, just like the legislature chose to ignore the constitution because it was easier than raising sufficient revenue and to re-amortize the pension debt.
    Distortions: I didn’t say I favored taxing pensions. I said that I was not opposed to a graduated progressive tax on everybody’s retirement income. Not just state employee pensions. And not as a first step. The first step being having the rich pay a greater share to the revenue of the state.
    Your lack of moral obligation is clear. You try, just as the Illinois politicians who passed an unconstitutional pension theft tried, to pit the genuine needs of the poor and working people of the state who are losing even the semblance of a safety net against those who have a state pension.
    But you will not argue for a fair tax? Why? Because it will take time to enact.
    There is a moral position for you.
    You asked for debate in response to your gibberish, code words and distortions? You got it.
    Kvetch indeed.

  8. If we add “failure to contribute” to the list of factors underlying the present crisis, and even give it top billing, we end up in the same place. Not enough revenue to meet obligations.

    If I agree [as I do] that more revenue is needed and that people with larger incomes and greater wealth should bear the burden, the crisis won’t abate until the constitutional prohibition against graduated income tax is eliminated — ten months or ten years from now. That leaves everyone in Illinois with the question whether retired public employees and bond holders should be paid in accordance with whatever promise was made to them if those payments impede fulfillment of other government duties. The money certainly won’t be collected from the venal legislators and executives whose seven decades of misfeasance are the primary cause of the crisis.

    I acknowledge that the interests of various groups of “good people” [workers, retirees and the poor] are in conflict. Pointing that out does not necessarily constitute pitting their interests against each other. It’s simply a fact. No better or worse than your failure to point it out as you state your views and try to win adherents to those views.

    My “intrinsic philosophical position” does not involve self-interest; yours does. Self-interest does not invalidate your position. My personal and financial indifference to the outcome in Illinois does not invalidate mine.

    Indeed, many expectations that employees and others have built up over decades are challenged by current realities. Social Security, VA health care, federal pensions, waterfront views, potable water, clean air, etc. are called into question. The federal government can print money, but it can’t do much about rising sea levels. Illinois government can’t print money and can’t seem to do much about the mismatch between revenues and obligations.

    So, in the interim — whether it’s seven more decades or seven more months — should public pensioners and bondholders be paid in full if that puts the welfare of other good people in jeopardy?

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