Dems and Repugs. Pensions and health care.

Illinois Supreme Court justice Bob Thomas challenges state’s lawyer on pension theft.

Even if the U.S. Senate passes anything close to looking like the Trumpcare health care bill that the Republicans passed in the U.S. House it will be a life-threatening disaster for millions of American families.

I can’t even make pre-existing condition visual jokes on Facebook and my blog about it. Others have tried. The crisis just can’t be made funny or ironic.

I was reading Paul Krugman’s analysis this morning in the NY Times.

This isn’t one of those cases where people try to do what they said they would, but fall short in the execution. This is an act of deliberate betrayal: Everything about Trumpcare is specifically designed to do exactly the opposite of what Trump, Paul Ryan and other Republicans said it would.

Later Krugman writes:

There is a powerful faction within the G.O.P. for whom cutting taxes on the rich is more or less the only thing that matters.

And on a more subjective note, don’t you get the impression that Donald Trump gets some positive pleasure out of taking people who make the mistake of trusting him for a ride?

As for why they think they can get away with it: Well, isn’t recent history on their side? The general shape of what the G.O.P. would do to health care, for the white working class in particular, has long been obvious, yet many people who were sure to lose, bigly, voted Trump anyway.

Why shouldn’t Republicans believe they can convince those same voters that the terrible things that will happen if Trumpcare becomes law are somehow liberals’ fault?

And for that matter, how confident are you that mainstream media will resist the temptation of both-sides-ism, the urge to produce “balanced” reporting that blurs the awful reality of what Trumpcare will do if enacted?

In any case, let’s be clear: What just happened on health care shouldn’t be treated as just another case of cynical political deal making. This was a Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength moment. And it may be the shape of things to come.

What struck me about what Krugman says about Trumpcare is that exactly could be written about Illinois pension reform if you replace G.O.P. with Democrats and replace health care with pensions.

We wrote basically this column over and over again four years ago when Illinois Democrats passed pension theft.

Both Trumpcare and pension reform are attacks on the lives of working and poor people and it is a bi-partisan thing by whatever the party is in power – Repugs now in D.C. and Dems when Pat Quinn rented the Governor’s mansion.

In writing the decision that ruled the Democrat’s pension theft unconstitutional, the justices of the Illinois Supreme Court wrote:

The General Assembly may not legislate on a subject withdrawn from its authority by the constitution and it cannot rely on police powers to overcome this limitation.

As we have already explained, there simply is no police power to disregard the express provisions of the constitution.

It could not be otherwise, for if police powers could be invoked to nullify express constitutional rights and protections whenever the legislature (or other branches of government) felt that economic or other exigencies warranted, it is not merely pension benefits of public employees that would be in jeopardy. No rights or property would be safe from the State. Today it is nullification of the right to retirement benefits. Tomorrow it could be renunciation of the duty to repay State obligations.

Eventually, investment capital could be seized. Under the State’s reasoning, the only limit on the police power would be the scope of the emergency. The legislature could do whatever it felt it needed to do under the circumstances. And more than that, through its funding decisions, it could create the very emergency conditions used to justify its suspension of the rights conferred and protected by the constitution. If financial markets were rational, this prospect would not buoy our economy, it would ruin it.

In the days before the Illinois legislature voted to steal our pensions I and my fellow teachers and retirees met with many, mostly Democratic state representatives, to present our case against pension theft.

In many cases they had not read the bill. We met with a number who had not seen the bill nearly 12 hours before voting on it. Many had no idea about the consequences, intended and unintended.

Many knew it would not pass constitutional muster.

It was ruled unconstitutional almost exactly two years ago.

The threat of pension theft was and remains a terrible fear for many active and especially retired public employees.

The fear of poverty in their old age has taken a physical toll on the elderly.

When we argued that pension theft and health care are moral – not just a political or a legal obligation – the current leadership of the two Parties cannot claim moral superiority.

5 Replies to “Dems and Repugs. Pensions and health care.”

  1. Fred – I think you’re old enough . . . Help me remember what all those people did before ObamaCare?

  2. Fred,
    The House lost nerve and dumped on the Senate. Nothing resembling what they passed will see the light of day.
    Until the lawmakers of both hoiuses grow a set and tackle the health care lobby, i.e. the insurance companies and providers we will not see any legislation that mkaes sense in the long run simply because the economics will not work. Health care takes up to much of the economy, that is it costs to much. The costs need to come down and there are ways to do it but both Obama adn Trump bope to the industry, not doing what is good for society.
    These mopes thinkl that id the captain of the Titanic had arranged the chairs differently that tub would still be floating, because until costs are wrung out of the system that is all they are doing, rearranging the chairs.
    As for Krugman, if you read him no wonder you don;t get economics.
    Isn’t he the sexist mope from harvard?

  3. from Illinois Pension Reform Is Without Legal and Moral Justification (May 29, 2012):

    …The significant issue of pension reform is its attack on public employees’ rights to constitutionally-guaranteed, earned compensation and the legislators’ obligation to safeguard those promises. An unconscionable constitutional challenge of those rights and earned benefits generates a serious threat to their secure sense of worth as citizens and creates the unfair possibility for an economic disadvantage for a particular group of people and their families. This can never be legally or morally justified…

    As citizens, we are advocates of a unification of the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution, which protects all of us from any violations of human rights and contracts, as much as we would wish others to be motivated by a way of life that is also governed by a complete moral system of thinking. There are no good reasons for legislators’ attack on public employees’ rights and benefits and their attempt to equate public employees’ lives to an exchange rate in dollar amounts. The General Assembly cannot justify pension reform in accordance with fundamental, constitutional principles of reason and morality…

    The keeping of promises is the General Assembly’s legal duty. It is something the United States Constitution requires them to do whether they want to or not. Unfortunately, many legislators are willing to act without moral or ethical principles, even though “claims of rights [are] prima facie or presumptively valid-standing claims” (Beauchamp).

    What is at stake right now is not a potential adjudication of claims that public employees will have against policymakers who want changes to public employees’ benefits and rights, but to respect the public employees’ contractual and constitutional promises because they are legitimate rights and moral concerns not only for public employees, but for every citizen in Illinois: for any unwarranted act of stealing a person’s guaranteed rights and compensation will violate interests in morality and ethics and the basic principles of both the State and United States Constitutions that protect every one of us.

    For that reason, it is imperative that policymakers and stakeholders examine their own ethical and moral principles and their conduct in view of the fact that they will have to justify their decisions to the citizens of Illinois. Certainly, moral responsibility and legal obligation to fund the public pension systems should not be ignored.

    It is a moral concern and legal duty to reform the state’s sources of revenue and to address the incurred pension debt through restructuring so the state can provide services for its citizens and fund the public pension systems instead of incriminating public employees, and thereby forcing them to defend the State and United States Constitutions. It is the State of Illinois that has the “primary responsibility for financing the system of public education” (Article X, Section 1 of the Illinois Constitution), and the public employees’ pensions are an integral part of “the system of public education” in Illinois.

    There is no justice in granting financial benefits for the wealthy among us and attempting to place the burden of financing public pensions upon schools and taxpayers by Illinois policymakers; there is no justice in granting tax breaks for wealthy corporations and, at the same time, legislating cuts to public employees’ and retirees’ constitutionally-promised compensation. It is ethically wrong to perpetuate unfair distributions of debts in Illinois, especially when Illinois legislators give “undeserved weight to highly-organized wealthy interest groups, [those groups] tending to ‘drain politics of its moral and intellectual content’” (Tribe)…

    Beauchamp, Tom L. Philosophical Ethics: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982.

    Tribe, Laurence H. American Constitutional Law. New York: The Foundation Press, Inc., 1988.

  4. This vid. on the Supremes is almost word for word the same as when the City tried to rape its retirees, survivors, and current workers of colas and a 2.5 – 3% hike on every check to the currents pension. Then on the other hand, we have a school board that doesnt have a clue on simple math to keep the Chicago schools opened for another month or so. I think we need Ms Lewis to march in there (old school style, yard stick in hand) and give some lessons

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