Glen Brown on smoothing. 

-Glen Brown
Illinois adopted asset smoothing (Senate Bill 1292 in 2011) to determine the actuarial value of its plan assets. The asset smoothing method uses expected returns on the asset mix and averages both past and anticipated asset values, generally over a period of five years.
Consider the State of Illinois’ consistent underfunding of its annually-required contributions to the pension plans, the transferring of the state’s “normal costs” to the public pensions, the inadequate revenue growth for the long-term costs of public pension benefits, the unfunded pension liabilities and funded ratios, the historical rates of return, amortization periods, discount rates and inflation rates, and the state’s current flat-rate tax system and budget practices, to name just a few. They still need to be addressed.
Consider that the long-term consequences of legislative policy decisions are also based upon preferred and changeable data, that public pensions carry liabilities into perpetuity, and that the immediate effects of any legislation passed will affect primarily middle-class citizens who are victims of an imperfect fact-finding and decision-making processes.
We would agree that claims are considered effective when supported by sufficient, accurate, and relevant evidence; however, will Illinois legislators and the governor agree about evidence and solutions for the state’s public pensions’ unfunded and future liabilities? The answer is NO. The governor and legislators of the State of Illinois will not focus upon solving the state’s revenue and debt problems so that they can decisively commit to a responsible funding for all of the state’s debts.

This friday’s episode of Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers.

On the road?

Anne and I have been on the road for the past two weeks.

 If you can imagine “the road” as a flight to Boston and then to the Portuguese archipelago of islands in the middle of the Atlantic called the Azores.

 There are nine islands and we got to see three of them: Sao Miguel, Faial and Terceira.

 They are magical.

 But it has meant I have missed co-hosting a couple of episodes of Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers.

I’m back this Friday.

Our in-studio guests on Hitting Left:

John Daley, who helped create Lumpen Radio and is host of Radio Free Bridgeport. He will be joined by Niketa Brar and Elisabeth Greer.

Niketa and Elisabeth will bring us up to date on the struggle to save National Teachers Academy, the South Loop elementary school now on the mayor’s chopping block.

Niketa Brar is the founder of Chicagoans United for Equity, a community group that promotes equitable education and community development by building power across ward lines, race lines, and class lines in our city.

Elisabeth Greer is is the chair of the local school council at National Teachers Academy. She has a rising second grader and a child who will be starting kindergarten in September 2018. Elisabeth has been involved in the fight for NTA’s existence since first learning about CPS’ proposal to destroy the school.

When she’s not attending Board of Ed meetings, marching in protests, or talking to the media about NTA, Elisabeth is a professor of English at the City Colleges.

I’m flying home to Chicago on Wednesday, weather permitting,

I will be happy being back with my bro.

John Dillon explains pension “smoothing”. Gained a lot of weight this year? Not so bad if you average it as part of the gains and losses over the past ten years.


-John Dillon. John blogs at Pension Vocabulary

One of the elements of the addition of a Tier III in the new law for latest hires in Illinois is a change in how state government calculates the amount of money TRS and other programs will receive from the state government in Illinois for the years going forward: 2018, etc.

Making common sense of how one might determine what would constitute a required annual contribution is a bit complicated, because that contribution by the State of Illinois to TRS is dependent upon the fluctuating rates of investment returns in the reserves into which we (teachers) all pay.

Confused?  Believe me, as a retired Language Arts teacher, me too.   But think of it this way:

If the investments in TRS do better than the funds assume (predict) in a current year, the state and local governments can fund pensions with much less tax money, which could be in turn used for services, infrastructure, or citizen benefits.

However, if the investment returns do poorly, the required annual contributions  by the state will need to increase to meet the needs; and that will crowd out the same programs – the services, infrastructure programs, and citizen benefits mentioned above.

With me so far?

So…if TRS is down 5% this year in investment returns, the state picks up the additional 5% of contribution.  Or if the investment returns are up 3% this year, then the state is able to lessen its payment by the corresponding amount.  Right?

Yes, that is, until a little actuarial gimmick called smoothing is applied to the mathematical reality.

According to one economist, smoothing is a “actuarial camouflage,” a method to dampen on-book asset volatility.”  The practice is meant to protect the payer from the shocks of sudden changes in market returns (or volatility) in gains and losses during a single year.  So, why not spread the damages or gains over five, or ten, or twenty years to artificially reduce asset volatility?

Analogy:  I’ll meet with my Doctor later next month.  He’ll be checking my weight carefully again as he does every six months.  Let’s just say that I have a deep and abiding love for good food and paired wines.  And my weight has fluctuated during those times we have met.

Doctor:  Well, I must tell you that I see you have gained about five pounds despite the last serious talk we had in April.  And you had done so well the time before with a drop of nearly eight pounds.

Me: Yes, you know, Doctor, I think we should smooth the last five years of our appointments.  I calculate an overall average loss of a single pound over our ten meetings.  That’s a hopeful indicator, don’t you think?

Doctor: Does that make you feel better?

When the smoothing is done, it is more likely that the underfunding of pensions will continue as it artificially reduces asset volatility and reduces funding pressures in the short run.  In my case, my assets may look better than they are (pun intended), and the same is true of this engineered value of pension assets and returns.

According to the Rockefeller Institute study on Public Pension Funding Practices, “Funding policies and practices that take a long time to repay shortfalls protect current taxpayers and beneficiaries of government services from sharp and possibly unaffordable changes.  But they create risk that the pension plan will become deeply underfunded and that future taxpayers who never benefitted from past services will have to pay for them.  This is particularly true of the plan suffers a series of shortfalls over several years.”

Welcome to Illinois.

According to TRS, the original state contribution for TRS expected in fiscal year 2018 – $4.65 billion – will be recalculated.

“TRS must retroactively “smooth” the fiscal effect of any changes made in the TRS assumed rate of investment return over a period of five years.  The “smoothing” applies to assumption changes from 2012 on.  Up until now, the fiscal impact change in the assumed was totally absorbed at one time.  For example, in 2016 TRS reduced its rate of investment return from 7.5% and the result was a $402 million increase in the fiscal year 2018 state contribution to TRS.  Under this new law, that $402 million increase would be phased in over a five-year period.“

The only way it could get any more slippery or worse is if Illinois found a way to short the funding even more.

They did:

According to Mr. Richard Ingram, the executive director of Illinois’ TRS,  “Over the last several years state government has taken its responsibilities to TRS very seriously and has paid its legal obligation in full. Still, the legal state contribution for the last several years has been insufficient to improve the System’s long–term finances. State government’s annual contribution is set artificially by law. It is not an actuarial calculation.

As it does every year, for FY 2017 the TRS Board asked its actuaries to calculate two state contributions — the payment calculated under state law and the payment calculated under actuarial practices. Under standard actuarial practices, the state’s annual contribution for FY 2017 should be $6.07 billion.

The calculations set in state law artificially lower the state’s annual funding level. For instance, state law:

  • Requires pension costs to be calculated on a 50–year timetable instead of the standard 30 years
  • Establishes a 90 percent funding target instead of the standard 100 percent goal
  • Requires the debt payments on state pension bonds to be deducted from the total contribution.

Illinois teachers have always paid their required share and are counting on their pensions to sustain them in retirement. The state has never paid its full share.

The annual contribution is the amount of money required by state law to fund TRS pensions during the coming year, as well as a payment on the System’s unfunded liability, which currently stands at $71.4 billion.”

The inclusion of another Tier by the General Assembly as a laurel to Republicans and Rauner does not fix the hole nearly 80 years of underfunding has excavated.  It provides some relief (like SB7 did) to borrow to pay off debts, once again on the backs of those who paid into their pensions as demanded each and every paycheck.

Does that make you feel better?


When it comes to pensions, it’s not always sunny in Philadelphia. Or West Virginia. Or Alaska. Now Illinois.

The Tier III option is a Hobson’s Choice.

When the Illinois legislature voted to pass a budget and then to override the governor’s veto they quietly included some bad medicine for public employees. They added a Tier III to the state’s Teacher Retirement System.

The new tier III offers a hybrid pension plan of a defined benefit and a defined contribution option. The current situation for Tier II teachers is terrible. They pay more then they will ever receive back in retirement and basically prop up with their overpayment a system only 40% funded. The underfunding is due to the failure of the state to raise adequate revenue and pay what they owe.

With the new Tier III they can move some of their payment to risky Wall Street investments, putting into constant jeopardy their retirement savings.

They have a choice. It is a Hobson’s Choice.

The industry publication, Pensions and Investments reports on how these hybrid plans are working in other states.


“While it’s important to note that Pennsylvania preserved a good portion of its defined benefit plan, I think this (new) plan is not saving all that much money and is just forcing employees to take a benefit cut,” said Bailey Childers, executive director of the National Public Pension Coalition in Washington.Ms. Childers said Pennsylvania is an outlier in that, while most states’ pension plans are well-funded, politicians in the Keystone State didn’t make full payments to the state pension plans for years, so Mr. Wolf “was stuck fixing a big problem.”

“The employees didn’t do anything wrong; they’ve been making their contributions through every paycheck, so states like Pennsylvania should take a step back and push for changes,” she added.

West Virginia:

In 1991, West Virginia closed its teacher retirement system to new employees to address its underfunding issue, according to a 2016 NIRS survey shared by Ms. Oakley. After 10 years, the replacement DC plan was costing the state twice as much, so it went back to a pension.

“Switching to the DC plan did not help with the funding or legacy costs. When (West Virginia) realized most teachers couldn’t retire, they switched back to a DB plan,” said Ms. Oakley.


In 2005, Alaska moved all employees hired after July 1, 2006, into a DC plan from its two DB plans. At the time, the state faced a combined unfunded liability of $5.7 billion for its two plans and retiree health-care trust, Ms. Childers said.

Although the switch to DC was made to slow the increasing unfunded liability, the total unfunded liability more than doubled, ballooning to $12.4 billion by 2014. Legislation has been introduced to move back to a DB pension plan, according to an NIRS case study.

Shamefully, the state’s public employee unions did nothing to oppose the enactment of Tier III and the move to defined contributions.

None of those running to oppose governor Rauner have offered up detailed solutions as to how the $130 billion pension liability will be paid.




If federal and state statutes drive funding and staffing levels, how is it that CPS can choose to ignore or follow them at will? And why can’t other Illinois districts do the same under SB1? Bev Johns responds.

CPS CEO Forrest Claypool.

The first thing to remember is that in all things education there is Chicago and then there is the rest of Illinois.

The same rules rarely apply.

Most of the state’s poor and students of color live in Chicago and Cook County. When bad things happen they usually happen here first and then travel down state.

For years, special education funding to CPS has been in the form of a block grant, with no guarantees of how it will be spent. In recent years the money has been co-mingled with general education funding. There were no guarantees that special education funds would result in direct and dedicated funding for Special Education teachers or at what ratio of teacher to student.

CPS has now told parents it will no longer co-mingle the general education and special education dollars in their block grants. If true, this is a win.

Meanwhile the legislature has sent to the governor a school funding formula, Senate Bill 1, which will send special education dollars to districts as block grants as they have always done to CPS, allowing for co-mingling of general education and special education dollars. The state will no longer require direct and dedicated funding for special education teachers.

Interesting that when I asked my state representative, Will Guzzardi, about this part of SB1, he told me, “As far as the number of teachers, staffing ratios for special ed are written into federal and state statute; it’s those ratios, not the funding line item, that as I understand it are the driver of how districts staff up.”

So, I am confused.

If federal and state statutes drive funding and staffing levels, how is it that CPS can choose to ignore  or follow them at will.

And why can’t other Illinois districts do the same under SB1?

From Bev Johns:


“As far as the number of teachers, staffing ratios for special ed are written into federal and state statute; it’s those ratios, not the funding line item, that as I understand it are the driver of how districts staff up.”

There is NO Federal or Illinois statute on number of teachers or staffing ratios for special ed.

There is NO Federal regulation on number of teachers or staffing ratios for special ed.

There is NO Illinois regulation on number of teachers or staffing ratios for special ed.

There is an Illinois regulation that says each local school district is supposed to have its own special education teacher workload rule, but many do not, and those that do say workload will be individually determined or have extremely high limits or are very vague statements that limit nothing. (ISBE does NOT approve or even receive a copy of these local school limits.)

Pensions Tier III: Your future 401K will likely not be protected under Article XIII, Section 5, the pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution.

Democratic Party Speaker Michael Madigan.

-John Dillon. John Dillon blogs at Pension Vocabulary.

“We can overturn any law we pass within an hour.”

The most significant and everlasting words I received from a legislator concerning pension reform bills and future promises came back in 2011, when my good friend Glen Brown and I met with Representative Elaine Nekritz in Buffalo Grove area to discuss our concerns about the “pension reform” being pressed by Governor Pat Quinn.

Representative Nekritz was thought to be the probable successor to Michael Madigan before her announcement to retire from Illinois politics this year.

Back then, as Tier One retirees, we realized the General Assembly – facing an underfunded pension liability after decades of shirking their payments – was about to move to some draconian diminishment of promises made and benefits constitutionally protected.   The bill – SB1 – was not yet fully baked, but it was on it’s way.

We had an emotional discussion.  One of many more…

We were such idealists.  She smiled when she replied to our question –

“We can overturn any law we pass within an hour.”

On May 8, 2015, the Illinois Supreme Court echoed our hope unanimously.  Article XIII, section 5, stands.  There shall be no diminishment of benefits earned upon the contractual entering of employment as a state employee.

Earlier Tier Two passed quickly by the General Assembly for those hired after January 1, 2011, and without any real objection by the unions, requiring new hires to work toward a defined pension that is capped at a CPI of about $110,000 and without a compounded cost of living adjustment.  With the caps and the lesser benefits, Tier II workers started paying down much of the debt created by the General Assembly and surrendered nearly 9.5% of their salaries for less than 6% of a return in a defined benefit.

Glen Brown wrote in January of 2015:

“If Tier II is left alone, it will accomplish its mission. The $61.6 billon TRS unfunded liability will shrink over several decades and eventually be eliminated because the state will pay less to the ever-growing number of Tier II members. In fact, at some point in the future, we estimate that Tier II members actually will help create a surplus of funds for TRS that effectively could eliminate the need for any state government contribution to the System.

“But the core of Tier II – the reduced benefits structure – is a problem the Teacher Recruiting and Retention Task Force will review. The benefit structure is unfair to all Tier II members. Right now, a Tier I member’s pension costs roughly 20 percent of an active member’s salary. Because of the benefit reductions in Tier II, a Tier II member’s pension is worth just 7 percent of an active member’s salary. However, by law, active Tier II members of TRS, like me, pay the same 9.4 percent salary contribution to the System that active Tier I members pay.

“What all this means is that Tier II members are paying the entire cost of their pensions plus an extra 2.4 percent to TRS. That extra 2.4 percent subsidizes the pensions of Tier I members” (

And now, Tier II pension reserves are calculated to be at 151% funding.

But now, suddenly,  we have Tier Three.

Remember: “We can overturn any law we pass within an hour.”

According to the IEA, Tier III offers a positive opportunity to “fix” some of the problems with the Tier II design.

Among those problems was an unscored bill Tier II passed which did not meet the Federal requirements for a qualified retirement plan or “safe harbor” limit.

According to IEA’s website, “ SURS and TRS members who first become participants of the pension systems on or after a to-be-determined implementation date (likely no earlier than July 1, 2018) will have the option to:

1) Be in a new hybrid benefit, known as Tier III, or

2) Elect to be part of the current Tier II.”

Elect.  Choose.  Decide to leave the benefits of a promised contractual agreement. This is a form of long-sought-after consideration, wrapped in promises of personal ownership has been part of Cullerton’s olive branch to Rauner and an earlier acceptance by a collective of state workers’ unions.

“Tier III offers a hybrid plan of a partial defined benefit (pension) and a defined contribution plan (401k or etc.).  While none of this is fully formed yet, those Tier II people choosing to go with the irrevocable defined contribution (401K, etc.) will pay minimally 4% of their salary, but see their pension contributions drop from 9 percent to no more than 6.2 percent.

“Also, existing Tier II members will have the option of joining Tier III. The retirement systems shall establish procedures for making these elections which, once made, will be irrevocable. The Tier III plan is a combined defined benefit (DB), often referred to as a pension plan, and defined contribution (DC) plan. Under the DB part, the member’s contribution will be no more than 6.2 percent of salary, but may be less depending upon a system’s determination of the annual normal cost of benefits. The member’s contribution drops from the 9 percent of salary required under Tiers I and II.

Entering finally stage right: the 401K style retirement plan.

In 2011, the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago urged the adoption of a 401K program for teachers to replace the pension structure currently in place – SB512.  But 401k’s had their birth in the Reagan era: Congress acted in 1986 (during the Reagan presidency) to replace defined benefit plans for federal workers (CSRS) with a less generous defined benefit plan (FERS) and a generous 401 (k) plan called a TSP.  This explicit endorsement by the government from a single type defined-benefit plan to a possible combination of defined-benefit/contribution plan to which employees could elect to contribute amounts of their own choice became the starting point for a fast growing industry in financial investing and personal portfolios for retirement (Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2005).

Makes you wonder who will be managing these teacher investments, doesn’t it?  Maybe Ken Griffin at Citadel?

Sorry.  Couldn’t resist.

“We can overturn any law we pass within an hour.”

Beginning with the 2020-21 year, all employer costs (normal and any unfunded liability) for a Tier III member will be picked up by the member’s employer and not the state (prior to that date, the state will contribute 2 percent of each Tier III member’s salary to each system with the Tier III member’s employer picking up the rest, if any exists). Under the DC part, the member must minimally contribute 4 percent of salary, while his/her employer must contribute at least 2 percent and could contribute up to 6 percent of salary.

Your future 401K will likely not be protected under Article XIII, Section 5.

 By 2020, the local districts pick up the cost of your 401K savings plan.  The state has no responsibility to engage in any promised compensation for your investments..

I repeat what I warned in 2014:

Note: Always remember this.  Were the State or Rauner ever able to move public workers to a 401k retirement system, it would not be protected under the Pension Clause.  If the State found that matching contributions to a 401k plus the need for Social Security were too much, the General Assembly could do away with 401k plans altogether. 

I have questions for Senator Daniel Biss.

Senator Daniel Biss with IEA Retired’s Jack Tucker.

Skokie Senator Daniel Biss is running for the Democratic nomination for Illinois Governor. He wants to run against Bruce Rauner.

Like just about all the candidates, Senator Biss is running as a progressive alternative to the Trumpian current occupant of the Springfield mansion.

Senator Biss has two big problems.

He doesn’t have nearly the cash of the front runners, Chris Kennedy and JB Pritzker.

And he was the most outspoken legislator in promoting the pension reform bill that the Illinois Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional.

State Representative Elaine Nekritz, who recently announced her retirement, was the pension theft leader on the House side of the Capitol. Someone wrote to tell me that Elaine was on TV this weekend saying the pension problem would be solved by attrition. I didn’t hear her say that on TV this weekend and couldn’t find it on Google. But that’s been her view over the years, so I don’t doubt the report.


Meaning we retirees will be dead soon enough and if we can move everybody that is new to a defined contribution plan and shift the cost to local school districts, the pension problem will be solved.

Elaine can say stuff like that. She’s leaving the General Assembly.

Daniel Biss is running for governor.

“I see dead people,” is not a good campaign slogan for the governor’s race.

And besides, Bruce Rauner has trademarked it.

Moving new public employees to a defined contribution system is clearly the plan, as is moving pension costs to underfunded local school districts.

That is what was done quite secretly in the budget bills that were passed with legislative votes overriding Governor Rauner’s veto.

I supported the override, but was pissed to discover the secret pension changes.

Here is my exchange with Senator Biss:

June 26th.  Daniel,

Does this article say that you favor moving pension costs to the local school district and does that represent your current view?



June 27th. Fred,

It does not. I don’t think the article says I favor any particular solution it all — I read it (and I recall the interview) as just me whining about what’s wrong with the current situation.

The challenge is that the complete school aid solution involves many steps, including progressive tax reform, way more state revenue in the school aid formula, a better school aid formula, less property tax reliance, and then pension parity between Chicago and TRS. Pension parity could be achieved in any number of ways, but if it were to be done by moving pension costs to the local school district then the “way more state revenue in the school aid formula” part of all this needs to be adequate to stop that transition from harming the non-Chicago schools.

On the other hand, if we were to just move pension costs to the local school district without doing the rest of this, that would certainly harm the non-Chicago schools.



July 11. Daniel,

While we wait to find a date for you to join us on our radio show/podcast I would like to ask you what your views are regarding the changes to the Teacher Retirement System, the creation of a Tier III, that was part of the budget passed over the Governor’s veto.

– Fred


July 12. Fred,

The creation of the Tier III plan is a bad idea that I oppose. Its voluntary nature made it fairly easy for me to decide to support the package notwithstanding that, but I was frustrated to see this proposal in the final package.



July 12. Daniel,

Thanks for your brief response.

I think that Tier III – along with the change to the estimated return on TRS investments – are terrible ideas which are not mitigated by the voluntary component of Tier III. I look forward to talking about this when we schedule a date for you on our radio show/podcast.



July 12. Fred,

Thanks — likewise looking forward to it. So just to make sure I understand, you think the assumed rate of return on TRS investments should be higher than it is now?



July 12. Daniel,

The change by the legislature reduces the amount the state pays into the system. It will increase the liability. Where does the so-called $1.5 billion in savings come from? Shifting costs to the local school districts and reducing the amount paid into the system by rolling back the change to the assumed rate of return on investments. The action of the legislature increases the assumed rate. Just to make sure I understand, you voted to return to the old assumed rate which is higher.



July 12. Fred,

Oh I see, sorry. You’re talking about the so-called “smoothing”? Yeah I hate that.


To be clear, Senator Biss assured me in an earlier email that he would never vote for an unconstitutional pension bill again.

But for many retirees, his role in passing the unconstitutional previous attempt at pension theft has left a bitter taste that won’t go away.

And without notifying voters, Biss and others voted for these pension changes as part of the budget bill and override of the Rauner veto.

His response to me that the Tier III defined contribution plan is voluntary is problematic in that Tier II is so bad that it literally forces employees to switch to a defined contribution plan. It is like putting a gun to their heads and saying they have a right to choose to live or die.

Senator Biss is scheduled for our radio show, Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers, on Friday August 4th at 11AM on Lumpen Radio, 105.5fm.

I’m looking forward to the conversation.

This week’s Hitting Left podcast.

If an elected official tells you the school funding problem in Illinois is a formula, they are telling a lie. The school funding problem in Illinois is inadequate revenue.


By Bev Johns

Is ANY politician telling the truth about Senate Bill 1?

All sides say some schools will NOT OPEN next month (although no one has yet identified even one school that will not open in August). What is true is that many

schools could not remain open all school year without State funding.

State Sen. Andy Manar, who sponsored Senate Bill 1 to change the method of funding for schools, told The Associated Press a veto by Rauner would effectively KILL SB 1.

Manar needs to stop saying we have the “worst school funding formula in the country”.

No, we do not. The lack of funding of our current formula, the failure to increase the Foundation level for 9 years, since 2008, means we rely far too much on the property tax, which results in disparate and inequitable funding.

No matter how many times Manar (and others) say it, the problem is not the formula but the lack of funding. (Comment from Capitol Fax, 7/17/17)

Rauner states that his revised SB1 “for the first time, ensures all school districts in Illinois are equitably and adequately funded.”

His revised plan does NO SUCH THING. 

SB 1 (revised or not) is just about funding FORMULAS, not funding. 

“But as there are many facets to the school funding equation, the one that is most important — and that often is the first component to fall away from the discussion — is funding it.

“In truth, our current funding formula would likely be meeting most needs if it was properly funded.

“It does attempt to funnel more funding to those districts with less property wealth, but it is still using the foundation level of spending per pupil from 2008.

“No formula will work properly with that track record of underfunding.”

Illinois Association of School Boards, Funding reform won’t work without funding,

By Ben Schwarm

“the annual failure to fund the GSA formula at any level close to the recommendations of the Education Funding Advisory Board, which was to have been an iron-clad rule when EFAB was created decades ago.

“I don’t think there would be an argument about equity if the state funded the 50% of education that the Constitution implies it should and that the GSA “equalization” formula was designed for in the 1970s.

“The state can’t equalize anything paying just 26%.

“The structure of the formula didn’t cause the problem.

“Failure to fund the formula as it was intended to be funded, that’s what caused the problem and nothing else.”

Illinois School News Service, April 27, 2017

Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode #24. The show must go on.


As my brother correctly pointed out, I am letting him do the heavy lifting this week, along with Susan Klonsky.

I am 3,000 miles away in the middle of the Atlantic on the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal.

Created by volcanos, the islands sits on two different oceanic shelfs: the North American shelf and the Azorean shelf. They are a bounty of beautiful views, plants and birds.

Meanwhile back home, Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers aired live on Monday with guests Jose Cha Cha Jimenez of the Young Lords Party, Stan Mckinney formerly of the Black Panther Party and Amy Bennington.


Mike, Susan, Cha Cha and Stan were all in Chicago back in the day, fifty years ago at a different time in the Movement.

Mike and Susan recall arriving in Chicago in 1968, just married and with their first child, the streets on fire and meeting the Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton.

Chairman Fred was assassinated by the government in 1969. Both Cha Cha and Stan share their memories of Fred Hampton and stories from their activism.

The show will be rebroadcast on Friday on Lumpen Radio, 105.5fm at our regular time, 11AM and is available now for download here.

I’m back from my travels and will join brother Mike on July 28th with our second gubernatorial candidate Bob Diaber and Radio Free Bridgeport’s John Daly.

Then on August 4th our third show with a candidate in the Democratic Primary will be Senator Dan Biss.

On August 11th we will be talking public employee pensions and the recent actions of the Illinois state legislature with Jay Rehak of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund and some of my blogger retirees cohorts. They are currently fighting over who gets to join us on the show. Best of three rounds.

The financial shock of making newly-hired teachers pay into Social Security and allowing them to be eligible for benefits would affect all current and retired teachers.

From Glen Brown’s blog.

From the Illinois Teachers Retirement System.

“Issue: Requiring newly-hired Illinois teachers to become part of Social Security would help ease the burden on TRS, lower the state’s contribution to public pension systems, help ease the long-term financial problems facing Social Security, and create more income stability for retired teachers.

“Discussion: Making newly-hired teachers pay into Social Security and allowing them to be eligible for benefits would affect all current and retired teachers. Illinois teachers have never been part of the Social Security system. Most teachers rely almost solely on a TRS pension during retirement. Active teachers contribute 9.[0] percent of their paycheck to help fund TRS and school districts contribute 0.58 percent of every teacher’s salary to the System. Last year, all told, teachers contributed $917 million to TRS and school districts contributed $155 million.

“For new teachers to become part of Social Security this scenario would mean a mandatory 12.4 percent payroll deduction split evenly between the member and the employer, which in the case of Illinois teachers is school districts and state government. Teachers would still be required to contribute 9.[0] percent of salary to TRS.

“For school districts, the cost of teacher pensions would immediately rise by a considerable amount. Instead of contributing 0.58 percent per new teacher, every district would have to contribute 6.2 percent per teacher. It is estimated that this increased cost would equal $41 million for Illinois school districts in the first year and more than $2.4 billion over 10 years. Plus, districts would still have to contribute 0.58 percent for each participant in the current system.

“Finally, a 1999 study by the General Accounting Office found that adding teachers and other public employers from around the country who are not currently in Social Security would create, at best, a temporary surge in revenue for Social Security. Over the long term, adding teachers to Social Security would only increase the System’s total obligations and deepen the long-term funding problem.”