More on why pension bankruptcy is not an option in Illinois.

Glen Brown

-By Glen Brown

Even though the State’s liabilities continue to increase and the State of Illinois has a cash-flow problem (and we know the reasons why), bankruptcy is not an option. Why? Because bankruptcy would destroy the State of Illinois’ credit rating completely and its ability to borrow at affordable interest rates; the State’s budgets would be slashed; bond sales would plunge, and the bond market would destabilize. Most importantly, the U.S. Constitution prohibits any state from declaring bankruptcy or “impairing the obligation of contracts” (Article 1, Sec. 10).

As stated by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “Various pundits [who suggest] enacting federal legislation that would allow states to declare bankruptcy, potentially enabling them to default on their bonds, pay their vendors less than they owed, and abrogate or modify union contracts [are idiots]. Such a provision could do considerable damage, and the necessity for it has not been proven.

“States suffer from ‘structural deficits’ or the failure of revenues to grow as quickly as the cost of services… Structural deficits stem largely from out-of-date tax systems, coupled with costs that rise faster than the economy in areas such as health care. Fixing these structural problems would help states and localities balance their operating budgets without resorting to [desperate measures]… It is far more constructive to focus on fixing these basics of state and local finance than to proclaim a crisis based on exaggerations of imminent threats.

“It is unwise to encourage states to abrogate their responsibilities by enacting a bankruptcy statute. States have adequate tools and means to meet their obligations… Confusion between short-term cyclical deficits and debt, pensions and retiree insurance – and the overstatement of the magnitude of the latter set of problems – draw attention away from the need to modernize state and local budget and revenue systems and address structural problems that have built up over time in these systems.”

Glen’s post of Eric Madiar discussing bankruptcy is on his blog.

Glen Brown: Today’s News: Lisa Madigan will not appeal the Illinois Supreme Court’s pension ruling, and Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune wrote an article entitled “Ok, what about this idea on pensions?”

Glen Brown

– From Glen Brown’s blog.

The last line of Zorn’s article is, “You got a better idea?”  

I do, Eric:

Isn’t it about time the state addresses the flawed Pension Ramp?

“…Starting in 1995, yet another funding plan was implemented by the General Assembly. This one called for the legislature to contribute sufficient funds each year to ensure that its contributions, along with the contributions by or on behalf of members and other income, would meet the cost of maintaining and administering the respective retirement systems on a 90% funded basis in accordance with actuarial recommendations by the end of the 2045 fiscal year. 40 ILCS 5/2-124, 14-131, 15-155, 16-158, 18-131 (West 2012). That plan, however, contained inherent shortcomings which were aggravated by a phased-in ‘ramp period’ and decisions by the legislature to lower its contributions in 2006 and 2007. As a result, the plan failed to control the State’s growing pension burden. To the contrary, the SEC recently pointed out:

“‘The Statutory Funding Plan’s contribution schedule increased the unfunded liability, underfunded the State’s pension obligations, and deferred pension funding. The resulting underfunding of the pension systems (Structural Underfunding) enabled the State to shift the burden associated with its pension costs to the future and, as a result, created significant financial stress and risks for the State.’ SEC order, at 3. That the funding plan would operate in this way did not catch the State off guard. In entering a cease-and-desist order against the State in connection with misrepresentations made by the State with respect to bonds sold to help cover pension expenses, the SEC noted that the State understood the adverse implications of its strategy for the State-funded pension systems and for the financial health of the State. Id. at 10. According to the SEC, the amount of the increase in the State’s unfunded liability over the period between 1996 and 2010 was $57 billion. Id. at 4.5 The SEC order found that ‘[t]he State’s insufficient contributions under the Statutory Funding Plan were the primary driver of this increase, outweighing other causal factors, such as market performance and changes in benefits.’” (Emphasis added.) Id. at 4 (In re PENSION REFORM LITIGATION (Doris Heaton et al., Appellees, v. Pat Quinn, Governor, State of Illinois, et al., Appellants) Opinion filed May 8, 2015, JUSTICE KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion).

The current “Pension Ramp” does not work for the five public pension systems. The “Ramp” entails larger payments today as a result of the 1995 funding law – Public Act 88-0593 – to pay the pensions systems what the state owes. There needs to be a required annual payment from the state to the pension systems. The debt needs to be amortized for a longer frame of time (a flat payment) just like a home loan that is amortized; though the initial payment will be difficult in the beginning, over the long term it will become a reduced cost and a smaller percentage of the overall Illinois budget as it is paid off throughout the years.

How about the state requiring an “actuarially-sound” annual payment to the pension systems?

“Decades of mismanagement and failure to match contributions are the predominant reasons that the state’s pension systems are suffering to the degree that they are today. Years of pension holidays, continually borrowing against the systems without a plan for repayment and a severe economic recession, which caused investments to plummet, further exacerbated the problem” (Senate President John Cullerton).

How about acknowledging the State of Illinois has a chronic revenue problem, and its policymakers have stolen money for decades from public employees’ pension plans to hide these facts?

  • “At the core of the budget ‘crisis’ facing [Illinois] is [its] regressive state tax structure. Low-and-middle-income families pay a greater share of their income in taxes than the wealthy… [A regressive tax] disproportionately impacts low-income people because, unlike the wealthy, [low-income people] are forced to spend a majority of their income purchasing basic needs that are subject to sales taxes” (United for a Fair Economy). Illinois income tax uses a single-rate structure that results in low-income wage earners paying more taxes than the wealthy. Illinois is among 10 states in the nation with the highest taxes paid by its poorest citizens at 13 percent (The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy).

Read the entire post on Glen’s blog here.

Glen Brown: On raising revenue.

Glen Brown

– By Glen Brown. Glen writes on his blog at Teacher/Poet/Musician. This post is cross posted at his site.


“…The General Assembly may find itself in crisis, but it is a crisis which other public pension systems managed to avoid and, as reflected in the SEC order, it is a crisis for which the General Assembly itself is largely responsible.
Moreover, no possible claim can be made that no less drastic measures were available when balancing pension obligations with other State expenditures became problematic. One alternative, identified at the hearing on Public Act 98-599, would have been to adopt a new schedule for amortizing the unfunded liabilities. The General Assembly could also have sought additional tax revenue. While it did pass a temporary income tax increase, it allowed the increased rate to lapse to a lower rate even as pension funding was being debated and litigated.

“That the State did not select the least drastic means of addressing its financial difficulties is reinforced by the legislative history. As noted earlier in this opinion, the chief sponsor of the legislation stated candidly that other alternatives were available. Public Act 98-599 was in no sense a last resort. Rather, it was an expedient to break a political stalemate…” (In re PENSION REFORM LITIGATION (Doris Heaton et al., Appellees, v. Pat Quinn, Governor, State of Illinois, et al., Appellants) Opinion filed May 8, 2015, JUSTICE KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion).

What some of us have been saying for a very long time:

The state’s regressive tax rate is what few legislators want to confront. Politicians, the Civic Committee, Civic Federation, Illinois Policy Institute, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Chicago Tribune have capitalized on a mostly gullible public by calling for radical pension reform as the solutions for the budget problems in Illinois. They were diversionary, scapegoating tactics that would have allowed policymakers to escape their legal and ethical responsibility.

“At the core of the budget ‘crisis’ facing [Illinois] is [its] regressive state tax structure… That is, low-and-middle-income families pay a greater share of their income in taxes than the wealthy… [A regressive tax] disproportionately impacts low-income people because, unlike the wealthy, [low-income people] are forced to spend a majority of their income purchasing basic needs that are subject to sales taxes” (United for a Fair Economy).

Illinois income tax uses a single-rate structure that results in low-income wage earners paying more taxes than the wealthy. Illinois is among 10 states in the nation with the highest taxes paid by its poorest citizens at 13 percent (The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy).

Pass a graduated rate income tax like the majority of states in this country. The state needs a tax rate that is “efficient with minimal impact on the economic decisions that taxpayers have to make” (Center for Tax and Budget Accountability), one that captures increased revenues in times of economic growth, one that maintains revenue collections during poor economic times, one that is simple and not liable to inconspicuous error, one that is transparent and builds trust with the state’s government officials (Center for Tax and Budget Accountability), and one that helps 99 percent of the state’s population.

“[From the recent Illinois Supreme Court Ruling]: Senator Hutchinson:Would another alternative be the proposal that the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability outlined before the conference committee, which would have re-amortized the current unfunded liabilities to a new gradual [level] dollar payment schedule to achieve well over eighty percent by 2059?Senator Raoul: Yes. So that—that and many other things could have been possible alternatives.”

Focus on why the State of Illinois cannot obtain more revenue.Besides federal sources of income, the state uses only 11 sources of revenue: personal income tax (but note Illinois was tied for the fourth lowest individual tax rate on households in the top income bracket), corporate income tax (note extortionate tax breaks given to many Illinois corporations!), sales tax (Illinois does not tax services like most other states for another significant source of revenue), corporate franchise tax and fees, public utility taxes, vehicle use tax, inheritance tax, insurance taxes and fees, cigarette taxes, liquor taxes and other miscellaneous (or rather unsubstantial) tax sources (Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability).

“A majority of states apply their sales tax to less than one-third of 168 potentially-taxable services… [States that do not tax services, such as Illinois], could increase [its] sales tax revenue by more than one-third if [it] taxed services purchased by households comprehensively.” Illinois is one of five states with sales taxes on fewer than 20 services (The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).

Expand the state’s tax base. A broader-based taxation system that would provide a decrease in taxes for low-income and many middle-income families. Taxing services alone “would generate enough revenue to stabilize the General Revenue Fund and prevent structural deficits that lead to cuts in basic needs and social service programs” (Center for Tax and Budget Accountability).
Increase taxation on the wealthy: Illinois is in the top 10 of regressive state tax systems where the wealthiest taxpayers do not pay as much of their incomes in taxes as the poorest and middle-income wage earners. “Since the rich are able to save a much larger share of their incomes than middle-income families – and since the poor [can] rarely save at all – the taxes are inherently regressive” (The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy).

Establish a financial transaction tax or “Robin Hood Tax”: a .50 cent tax on every $100 of transacting.

Eliminate tax loophole for “Tax Increment Financing Districts.” 

Eliminate “Edge Tax Credits” and other tax loopholes for large corporations in Illinois.
Revamp the flawed Pension Ramp: [“Starting in 1995, yet another funding plan was implemented by the General Assembly. This one called for the legislature to contribute sufficient funds each year to ensure that its contributions, along with the contributions by or on behalf of members and other income, would meet the cost of maintaining and administering the respective retirement systems on a 90% funded basis in accordance with actuarial recommendations by the end of the 2045 fiscal year. 40 ILCS 5/2-124, 14-131, 15-155, 16-158, 18-131 (West 2012). That plan, however, contained inherent shortcomings which were aggravated by a phased-in ‘ramp period’ and decisions by the legislature to lower its contributions in 2006 and 2007. As a result, the plan failed to control the State’s growing pension burden. To the contrary, the SEC recently pointed out]:

[“‘The Statutory Funding Plan’s contribution schedule increased the unfunded liability, underfunded the State’s pension obligations, and deferred pension funding. The resulting underfunding of the pension systems (Structural Underfunding) enabled the State to shift the burden associated with its pension costs to the future and, as a result, created significant financial stress and risks for the State.’ SEC order, at 3. That the funding plan would operate in this way did not catch the State off guard. In entering a cease-and-desist order against the State in connection with misrepresentations made by the State with respect to bonds sold to help cover pension expenses, the SEC noted that the State understood the adverse implications of its strategy for the State-funded pension systems and for the financial health of the State. Id. at 10. According to the SEC, the amount of the increase in the State’s unfunded liability over the period between 1996 and 2010 was $57 billion. Id. at 4.5 The SEC order found that ‘[t]he State’s insufficient contributions under the Statutory Funding Plan were the primary driver of this increase, outweighing other causal factors, such as market performance and changes in benefits.’” (Emphasis added.) Id. at 4 (In re PENSION REFORM LITIGATION (Doris Heaton et al., Appellees, v. Pat Quinn, Governor, State of Illinois, et al., Appellants) Opinion filed May 8, 2015, JUSTICE KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion)].

The current “Pension Ramp” does not work for the five public pension systems. The “Ramp” entails larger payments today as a result of the 1995 funding law – Public Act 88-0593 – to pay the pensions systems what the state owes. There needs to be a required annual payment from the state to the pension systems. The debt needs to be amortized for a longer frame of time (a flat payment) just like a home loan that is amortized; though the initial payment will be difficult in the beginning, over the long term it will become a reduced cost and a smaller percentage of the overall Illinois budget as it is paid off throughout the years.

“Decades of mismanagement and failure to match contributions are the predominant reasons that the state’s pension systems are suffering to the degree that they are today. Years of pension holidays, continually borrowing against the systems without a plan for repayment and a severe economic recession, which caused investments to plummet, further exacerbated the problem” (Senate President John Cullerton).  Thus, there needs to be a required “actuarially-sound” annual payment from the state to the pension systems! Indeed, the State of Illinois has a revenue problem and its policymakers have stolen money for decades from public employees’ pensions to hide this fact.

What will state policymakers most likely do instead?

They will shift the state’s normal costs to the pension systems to local school districts. They will attempt to amend the Pension Protection Clause. They will ignore the fact that current Tier II teachers are contributing too much to their pension plans. They will attempt to create a Tier III defined-contribution savings plan for new teachers. They will continue to increase the inequities that have existed in Illinois for years (budget cuts for the middle class and poor, corporate welfare for the wealthy elite). They will continue to blame public employees and retirees for the state’s budget problems. They might even attempt to negotiate with the unions again, hoping for another foolish agreement, like Senate Bill 2404…

Glen Brown on the pension win.

win

– By Glen Brown

Today we celebrate a legal and moral victory. We can believe in the Illinois Constitution for protection and believe in the sanctity of contractsonce again. We can believe the Pension Protection Clause “confers additional, independent protection for public retirement benefits separate and distinct from the protection afforded by the Contract Clause” (Brief of ISEA, RSEA, Heaton and Harrison, Plaintiffs-Appellees, 22). We can believe the Pension Protection Clause decisively has no reference to “subject to police power.” We can believe Illinois legislators “may not rewrite the Pension Protection Clause to include restrictions and limitations that the drafters did not express and the citizens of Illinois did not approve” (32). We can believe “no reserved power allows a state legislature to sidestep the plain prohibitions set out in its own constitution” (41) at least for now.

As readers of my blog know, I have stated many times to possess a right to a promised deferred compensation, such as a pension, is to assert a legitimate claim with all Illinois legislators to protect that right. There are no rights without obligations. They are mutually dependent.

Fulfilling a contract is a legal and moral obligation justified by trust among elected officials and their constituents. Senate Bill 1 was, indeed, a foul insensitive attack on public employees’ and retirees’ rights to constitutionally-guaranteed benefits.

I wrote four years ago that challenges lie ahead for current public employees, retirees and their families, and for every citizen of Illinois. These facts have not changed: there are liars and thieves among us who will continue to choose which contracts to honor and which ones to violate in the future.

We know they will attempt another legislative thievery of our benefits and rights again. Thus, we must continue our vigilance. Most importantly, we must continue our resistance against the dishonest politicians and their mendacious accomplices, such as members of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, the Civic Federation, Illinois Policy Institute, and their ilk.

We know corrupt legislators will pass laws for their own advantage. We should recall that despite their pledges, the legislators’ criteria for justice are their considerations for what is expedient for them—their re-elections to remain in power and wealth.

Read the entire post here.

Illinois State Representative Tom Morrison is either stupid or a liar.

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For years we have tried to talk to members of the Illinois General Assembly about pensions.

The depressing thing about spending retirement time doing that is that it is time we won’t ever get back.

Too many of those responsible for making these decisions in Springfield are just ignorant about the facts.

And some are liars.

Take Palatine Republican State Representative Tom Morrison.

Please.

Morrison along with his cohort in crime, Republican State Representative from Belvidere Joe Sosnowski, want to throw out the pension protection clause from the Illinois Constitution.

They have already thrown in the towel on how the Supreme Court will rule on the Democrats’ pension theft SB1.

They, like just about everybody else, believe the courts will rule in favor of the pension protection clause as written.

In a recent column in the Daily Herald reprinted by Reboot Illinois, Morrison writes:

Whether the courts side with the state or with the unions, the fact remains that the only permanent solution to the state’s $110 billion pension crisis is to change the Illinois Constitution, which is something my colleague Rep. Joe Sosnowski has already filed legislation to do.

Sigh.

No Tom. Even if you succeed at shredding the constitution into little pieces of paper there will still be the $110 billion dollar pension liability.

Shouldn’t he know that?

So is Tom stupid?

Or a liar?

For the working people of Illinois, what is the difference?

However, this is more than just about whether Tom Morrison could find his butt with one hand while holding a GPS with the other.

It is about the level of moral corruption and depravity these legislators have sunk to.

My pal Glen Brown wrote to explain all this to Representative Joe Sosnowski who has already introduced legislation to change the constitution:

It is shameful and reckless that a representative who has sworn an oath to uphold the State and U.S. Constitutions would propose an amendment that ignores and challenges a legal contract. Breaking a contract threatens the integrity of all laws that govern and protect the citizenry, for the values of the United States Constitution (Article I, Section 10) and the Illinois State Constitution (Article I, Section 16 and Article XIII, Section 5) are dependent upon the understanding and integration of all of the articles and amendments in totality; “the strength of the constitution[s] would not be proven by considering each article or amendment in isolation from the others” (Tom Beauchamp, Philosophical Ethics).

I love Glen.

What a joker.

Explaining facts or ethics to Morrison or Sosnowski?

Stop, Glen! I’m laughing so hard you’re killing me.

John Dillon and the oldest living member of the Illinois Teacher Retirement System.

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– Blogger, retired teacher and my friend John Dillon and I had lunch today. We were joined by Glen Brown. He shared the story of the oldest living member of TRS.

The other week at an interesting gathering of fellow retirees in Skokie, I listened to an illuminating presentation by Rich Frankenfeld from TRS.  It was a long drive, but well worth it.  In his update, Rich covered a variety of areas for concern:  the financial condition of TRS, health insurance information, various plans available to all of us in the room, and other “major issues” including the threat and possible outcomes for SB1.   The President of the Skokie Organization for Retired Educators (S.O.R.E.) is, of course, Fred Klonsky.

Of note was another review of the changes to Cost of Living Allowances under the new SB1 for Tier 1 retirees and the forced “simple” interest for Tier 2.

While speaking to several of the points in his program, Rich dropped a small piece of information that caught my interest.

“Our eldest recipient of a pension from TRS is currently 108 years old.”

Spoiler alert (Biss, Nekritz, Madigan, et.al.): Klonsky quickly retorted that he was personally planning to beat that number.

108 years old?

I’ll assume it was a she, but still what an incredible and protracted life-span.

Born in 1906.  The year Theodore Roosevelt warns the nation that we face a corporatist elite that would endanger all our freedoms; the yearThe Jungle is published; and the year of the Windber Strike by 5000 workers in Pennsylvania marching to join with the nascent United Mine Workers.

Started teaching in 1927.  A lanky but gifted pilot takes an outrageous gamble to fly solo across the Atlantic and somehow land in Paris, France.

I envision her teaching 40 years while the world struggled to survive economic collapse, bleed profoundly to thwart fascism, endure the pervasive terror of an accumulation of nuclear weapons, Viet Nam…

She retires in 1967.

According to the Chicago Tribune, an average salary for a teacher in 1967 was between $6800 and $7400.  By the way, even then the Tribune seemed concerned about the increases in teacher salaries over the last decade.

(http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1967/01/02/page/58/article/study-shows-illinois-lags-in-school-aid)

So, assuming she has her full time in and she has a stipend, let’s figure her 75% of salary for her retirement annuity at $6000 per year.

She earns a Cost of Living Allowance in 1968.  And, still alive, she receives that COLA for 47 years!  YOU GO,GIRL!

On the other hand, this is an unexpected extension in a life span that actuaries or Senators like Dan Biss would call an unexpected change in assumptions.  We all live too long now; therefore, SB1.

But when you actually run the numbers, it seems less onerous than the Senator would have me believe. In fact, her final annuity earnings seem closer to penury than an easy subsistence.

3% Compounded COLA on $6000 over a period of 47 years = $24,071.

3% Simple Interest COLA on $6000 over a period of 47 years = $14,460.

(http://www.moneychimp.com/features/simple_interest_calculator.htm)

Keeping retirement weird. On friends.

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John Arnold just gave $100,000 to the Rahm Emanuel campaign for re-election as Mayor of the City of Chicago.

It is actually small change if you recall that Rahm already has nearly $10 million in his campaign war chest. As a percentage, that’s not even a good tip.

Why would Arnold, who lives on Lazy Lane in Houston, Texas give a rat’s behind about who is Mayor of Chicago?

Arnold has a history of being interested in charter schools and pension theft.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe John Arnold and Rahm are just tight. Good friends.

Like the way Bruce Rauner and Rahm are friends.

Remember that story about Rahm and Bruce sharing an expensive bottle of Napa red at the dude ranch in Montana?

Friends are important. Important friends are even more important.

John Dillon and Glen Brown are friends of mine. Although we have never shared a bottle of expensive Napa red and we wouldn’t even know how to book a reservation at a Montana dude ranch.

We do share lunch at a Greek restaurant in Lombard every once in a while.

Glen loves the bread.

John, Glen and I have become friends since I retired. We met fighting for pension rights. Not just our own pensions, but for every public employee that was made a promise and has watched as the state has tried to break that promise.

John and Glen love explaining law and promises on legislative visits. And they produce fantastic fact-filled essays.

Read John’s last post and Glen’s response.

They are typical of what John and Glen have offered us for years.

I often joke that they are like jailhouse lawyers. They understand and can explain pension law better than the best lawyers that the Civic Committee can buy with their millions.

Oh, yes. I write about pensions. Sometimes I draw funny pictures. I can write a good rant now and then. But John and Glen are my go-to guys when I need facts. And they are the go-to guys for retirees all over the state of Illinois who follow their blogs.

Every once in a while I will call Glen up and go on a wild rant. I will be writing my next blog post out loud.

Glen will listen and say, “That sounds about right.”

It’s around this time that people give thought to what they are thankful for.

Over these last couple of years I am thankful to all the retired teachers I have come to know through the fight for our moral and legal right to what was promised us when we began our careers as teachers.

I am particularly grateful for meeting John and Glen.

It is good to know that we have been vindicated by the recent ruling of Judge John Belz who wrote, “The State of Illinois made a constitutionally protected promise to its employees concerning their pensions benefits.  Under established and uncontroverted Illinois law, the State of Illinois cannot break its promise.”

When some of our leaders grew weary and wanted to compromise on that promise, John and Glen could not agree that it was right to concede on a moral and legal obligation that the state had made to us all. I joined in that dissent.

And there you have it.

Rahm has his billionaire friends on Lazy Lane in Houston, Texas.

And I have mine.

Democrats.

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Representative Lou Lang.

The most telling part of our interaction with north suburban politicians yesterday was how cynical they were. All four of them.

Senator Dan Biss and Representatives Robyn Gabel, Laura Fine and Lou Lang.

Democrats all.

This all took place at the IPACE endorsement hearings. The results of the votes taken will be announced later after state IPACE concurrence, which is expected.

I couldn’t help but contrast and compare their response to questions of pension theft with  the way my friend Glen Brown talks about pensions. His writings always place the issue within the context of the law, justice and fairness. He talks of legal precedent set firmly in a world of moral obligation and justice.

Nearly two hundred years ago, Chief Justice Marshall stated unequivocally: “The power of changing the relative situation of debtor and creditor, of interfering with contracts, a power which comes home to every man, touches the interest of all, and controls the conduct of every individual in those things which he supposes to be proper for his own exclusive management, had been used to such an excess by the state legislatures, as to break in upon the ordinary intercourse of society, and destroy all confidence between man and man.

“This mischief had become so great, so alarming, as not only to impair commercial intercourse and threaten the existence of credit, but to sap the morals of the people and destroy the sanctity of private faith. To guard against the continuance of the evil was an object of deep interest with all the truly wise, as well as the virtuous, of this great community, and was one of the important benefits expected from a reform of the government” (31).

This is the time for citizens of Illinois to openly resist the way in which the state’s politicians (without moral conscience) have now chosen to “regulate public morals and welfare.” This is the time to protest against the liars and thieves who have manufactured a financial crisis; to protest against the liars and thieves who have perpetuated a financial predicament through irresponsibility, mismanagement and corruption; to protest against the liars and thieves who have ignored moral responsibility and refused lawful remedy for the financial problems they have created.

Over nearly two hours of discussion, mainly having to do with their votes to diminish and impair our contractual pension benefits, the four political candidates (running unopposed) never made reference to law, fairness or justice.

Except when they were asked a direct question.

Twenty-seven year Representative Lou Lang – a liberal Democrat – could hardly keep himself from laughing when asked about the issue of fairness.

“We don’t deal with what’s fair in Springfield.”

When asked about the impact of Senate Bill 1 on current retirees, Representative Robyn Gabel appeared surprised at the question.

“It didn’t occur to me,” she said without an ounce of embarrassment.

Reboot Illinois released a poll today on the Governor’s race.

Reboot is affiliated with Republicans, yet their numbers are consistent with other polls.

The results are interesting for a number of reasons.

Rauner leads Quinn state-wide by 10 points. That’s about where Quinn was in August when he ran four years ago and won by 30,000 votes.

What jumps out this time is the support each candidate has from his base.

Raunner has the support of 83% of Republicans. Quinn has 63% support from Democrats.

By my estimation, that 63% are not those of us in the pension systems.

That’s is what happens when you stab your base of support in the back.

Yesterday the Democrats tried to argue that the pension issue was just one issue among many. They scolded us that we shouldn’t be one-issue voters.

But as Glen Brown points out, what they did to us is not one issue. It is about their view of the law.

And fairness.

And justice.

And if these Democrats can do this to us with so little discomfort, who won’t they screw?

Guest blogger: Wisconsin might be an omen for the public employees of Illinois

The confrontation between freedom and power has an indeterminable history.  One hundred and fifty-two years ago, John Stuart Mill, in his famous essay, On Liberty, examined the “struggle between Liberty and Authority… between subjects, or some classes of subjects, and the Government” (Mill 1).  A question he might have asked today is, what should be the limits of power that legislators have over their constituents, such as public employees, when some of these lawmakers’ decisions border on political despotism?

How can public employees guard against such arrogance, self-interest, prejudice, and prevarications?   In a democracy, there must be dialogue, for “[the] silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility” (17).  This revival of absolutism today forecloses the right to be heard and exiles truth from being openly canvassed.  Moreover, it extinguishes critical thinking and the understanding of the relationship among ideas and matters of fact.  In regards to creating and passing any legislation, the closest we can arrive at an acceptable course of action, such as in the establishment of a just law, is by posing counterarguments to any arguments that might be presented before it can become a law.

No doubt, teachers and other public employees have become the culprits for the mismanagement of the States’ budgets all across the country.  “Shared Sacrifice” has become the new slogan of ignorance that is repeated with the regularity of a fast-food commercial.  Many individuals and legislators have adopted this tautological jingo and tabloid thinking as tactics designed to terminate further discussion of any complicated bill that requires a thorough examination and analysis of its ramifications.

To call public employees whiners, un-American, and other ridiculous names is also an attempt to further suppress any knowledge of the cause-and-effect relationship between a State’s budget deficit and the State pension systems.  Name Calling is an ignorant, fallacious scheme.   To stigmatize and blame teachers, firemen, policemen, and other State employees for the financial mess is reprehensible and alarming.  Perhaps some people have not learned how dangerous scapegoating is.  Have we already forgotten the attempted assassination of Congress woman Gabrielle Giffords?  It does not take long to realize how dubious and perilous some ploys are and how indefensible and unethical they might be.

To threaten or to change public employees’ constitutionally-guaranteed pensions with the passage of a law that mitigates certain benefits and to deprive public employees’ rights to bargain is an encroachment of their right to human dignity and justice.  It is a calculated infringement of those principles, made evident by the lack of reciprocity and obligation for those legislators who knowingly create and pass such laws and by those who willingly support such inequity and fabricated causality.

In Illinois, “Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired” (Article XIII, Section 5 of the Illinois State Constitution).   Nevertheless, the current House Speaker, some legislators, and their lawyers will continue to challenge the denotations and connotations of some of the Article’s diction even though there are existing case laws that state that “Any attempt to unilaterally diminish the State employee’s pension after [an employee] is hired and enters the system would violate the Pension Protection Clause” (Memorandum to Hon. Pat Quinn, Governor of the State of Illinois, from Gino L. DiVito and John Fitzgerald, 12 April 2010).  In a world of freedom, justice, and peace, “Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his [or her] interests” (Article 23, No, 4 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly of the United Nations, Resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948).  In Wisconsin, however, one governor does not believe “human rights should be protected by the rule of law” (Preamble to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights), and that conviction is unethical, injudicious, and discriminatory.

-Glen Brown