Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Forecast by IRTA Leadership for Coming Months

No Winner
Forecasts by IRTA Leadership

October 12, 2016 

At a meeting of the WLSU of the IRTA in Countryside this morning, leaders of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association predicted we might prepare ourselves for much of the same in Springfield’s political stalemate as we move forward(?) after elections.

That’s not the good news, they agreed.

Described by IRTA President David Davison as a “political junkie,” Executive Director Jim Bachman was quick to describe his observations of the political scene on the national level as not so very fascinating as something quite else.   In addition, Mr. Bachman reminded us that what occurs on the national level has drifted downward on our own state level – an environment where discourse and compromise are sadly missing elements. 

The IRTA has now a membership of nearly 37,000 retired educators. 

The Mission Statement incudes the following: “The Association serves the needs and interests of its members through advocacy, education, cooperation and socialization in a flexible organizational structure.”

Part of that “serves the needs and interests” was evidenced in the Association’s hiring of the law firm of Gino DeVito to argue against the Madigan-supported SB1 in the Illinois Supreme Court, and the eventual unanimous decision striking down the attempted pension theft on May 8, 2015.

Although discourse in the capitol may be polemic, Bachman believed both sides of the aisle have finally had the time to digest or acquiesce to the undisputed decision by the ILSC that precludes their coming after retirees’ pension benefits. 

In his mind, this includes benefits like TRIP or TRAIL (health insurance plans) – also protected in earlier Supreme Court deliberations (Kanerva v. Weems).

Contradictorily, he believes the next battle will occur between WeAreOne and the General Assembly regarding whether current workers’ benefits are covered upon entering the work force or at the end of their profession.   He believes that they are covered and points to the recent decision of May 8, 2015:

46…”The protections afforded to such benefits by article XIII, section 5 attach once an individual first embarks upon employment in a position covered by a public retirement system, not when the employee ultimately retires.”

Jim Bachman - Executive Director IRTA
Additional language in the section echoes in even more concrete terms.
When asked about what key players are currently involved in the latest iteration of a “consideration” offering, as in Senate President Cullerton’s earlier SB2404, Bachman replied it was probably too early to tell.  He reminded us all that it may well depend on whether one powerful Speaker will release the votes for such a bill.  He expected that another committee like the one that hammered together the unconstitutional SB1 might come about as the willing and interested members of General Assembly moved from November through December. 

What might such a bill look like?  Bachman offered a possibility:

Active Tier One teachers can elect to keep their 3% compounded Cost of Living and receive no further raises in the computation of the final annuity benefit OR Tier One active teachers can elect to drop their 3% compounded COLA and include their annual raises as part of the final annuity settlement (in essence, become a Tier Two recipient).

Because the attack would be on active educators, WeAreOne would be the organization to muster a legal defense against the next attempt to curtail benefits.  Here again, Bachman believed that there was quite enough in earlier precedent to thwart such an assault.  

Currently, the IRTA has $130,000 in its Emergency Legal Fund.  Before the legal battle in 2015 over SB1, my records indicate the IRTA had nearly $350,000 reserved for the upcoming litigation.  Let’s hope we need not gird for another confrontation, but it is one good reason to continue sending a donation to our legal defense fund.

The six-month interim budget allowed by Rauner will end soon, and our state is now awash in debt.  In fact, this is how we now do business in Illinois – by not paying our bills.  And each dollar we owe become one with a late charge and interest attached.  This is no longer a change by the governor.  This has become his history, his way of operating a state.

Bachman suggests that the legislators are becoming slightly more open to other ideas for revenue.  Perforce.  We can expect discussion this time around about taxation on services, or even taxation on retirement income.  But in each of these cases, there are diminishing returns and possible reactions which might lead to lessening income. 

Game of Thrones 2.0
Ralph Martire’s (Director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability) often recommended re-amortization of the pension payments – away from the balloon mortgage of the 1995 payment schedule for the money owed – is gaining interest.  On the other hand, according to legislators I have talked to, the first years’ payments of such a readjustment prevent it being taken seriously.  Too much is owed to provide for a greater payment the next two years in order to find a stable amount.  And think about Rauner’s backlog of bills since.  Not likely at all.  Not likely ever.

People in the audience also asked about a graduated income tax, but Bachman reminded them the issue is constitutional as it states in Article IX: “A tax on or measured by income shall be at a non-graduated rate.”  Once again, not a likely scenario yet; not until the General Assembly has found no more road down which to kick a can. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Factless Soothsayers: Former Representative Sandack,  the I.P.I. & Bruce Rauner (& ReBoot Illinois)

My neighbors and their “millennial” children living in the basement are leaving Illinois for Indiana.  They’ve had enough, they tell me.  “The taxes, Madigan, the Obamas…”

They’ll be happier there and better off, they tell me over an afternoon beer.  And almost an hour closer to their slip in Grand Haven where they spend much of their time sailing. 

They’re recently retired (and so are their children – not-so-recently).

So, one more Illinois resident family leaves and becomes another statistic in the ongoing argument that Illinoisans are fleeing the state of Illinois in Biblical proportions.  Look back and you might turn into salt?

I often drive on the Southside expressways, so I commonly see the signs welcoming all of us to Indiana, and the puffed-up promises of a better life in a state where the median income is 31st as contrasted to Illinois’ 18th position according to U.S. Census’s Bureau reports.  But we’ve all learned it is appearances that are dressed as reality that humans eagerly swallow in American politics.

I’ve heard first-term governor Rauner’s constant pitches that we are “losin’ people to our neighborin’ states.” 

Are we?  Have we been?  I’ve wondered…

Rauner echoes the arguments of his close allies in the Illinois Policy Institute, and  characters like former Representative Ron Sandack (81st District) who all follow this line of argument like a phalanx of myrmidons.

“The wealthy will leave, I tell ya!  And then, we’ll be left to pay the increased taxes,” former Representative Sandack urged at a recent meeting I attended when he was asked about a graduated tax policy. 

For former Representative Sandack and many others like our governor, any of their pet issues are causing  people’s mass exodus to other places: taxation, pension issues, workman’s comp., union power, local rule, etc.

Yet, new evidence and research from Natalie Davila, Mike Klemens, Robert Ross, and Lyman Stone from KDM Consulting notes quite the opposite of the argumentative positions of the current governor, the I.P.I., and former Representative Ron Sandack.

Indeed, in trying to ascertain whether or not there was some accuracy in the governor’s and his backers’ positions about Illinois citizens’ out-migration, KDM reviewed the numbers carefully. 

"People are leaving' - people tell me…"
Because of the recently available records of tax information and census information from earlier periods in the previous century, the researchers were able to crunch the numbers of people leaving, the income strata of those who did, and the in-migration to Illinois of those before not calculated in these glass-half-empty positions by the governor and friends.

Significant findings:

1.    Net out-migration for Illinois is not new.  The state has seen net out-migration every year but one since 1925.
2.    Illinois net-migration is overstated if international migration is ignored.  Otherwise migrants from other countries are not counted when they move to Illinois, but are counted when they move out of Illinois to other parts of the country.  Including international migration reduces net migration out of Illinois by one-third.
3.    Both in-migration and out-migration are tied to the economic cycle.  People move when times are good and sit tight when they are bad.  The 2011 income tax rate increases came as Illinois was moving out of a recession, and migration could have been expected to increase.
4.    Many migrants don’t move far.  Illinois’ largest out-migration is to Indiana.  Indiana’s and Wisconsin’s largest out-migration is to Illinois.
5.    Illinois is a big state in terms of population so out-migration in absolute numbers is large.  However, a larger percentage of both Indian’s and Wisconsin’s population moves to Illinois than vice versa.
6.    Net out-migration from Illinois to Indiana and Wisconsin has declined.
7.    Illinois net out-migration rates fell in 2011, the first year of the income tax increase, but increased significantly in 2014.

I’ve bolded these findings because they are SO opposite the constant harangue by Rauner, the I.P.I. or former Rep. Sandack.

This new research report indicates that all the arm flailing, screaming, and eye-bulging philippic by Representative Ronald Sandack may be just so much delirium aimed at the masses.  Mass hysteria, if you will.

From Sandack’s former website:
“The data reflects a continuation of a trend of out-migration from Illinois that has lasted more than a decade. Between 1995 and 2009, the state lost on a net basis more than 806,000 people to out-migration.
When people leave, they take their income and their talent with them. In 2009 alone, Illinois lost residents who took with them a net of $1.5 billion in taxable income. From 1995 to 2009, Illinois lost out on a net of $26 billion in taxable income to out-migration…” 

Someone’s wrong.

And the Illinois Policy Institute, always willing to be one more serviceable haruspex when it comes to promising immediate catastrophe for all Illinois’’ citizens unless they stampede to the far right:

Illinois residents are fleeing the state. When people leave, they take their purchasing power, entrepreneurial activity and taxable income with them. For more than 15 years, residents have left Illinois at a rate of one person every 10 minutes.”
Imagine Indiana’s and Wisconsin’s to Illinois?  I suggest you read the KDM report.  I suggest former Representative Sandack read it, too.  In addition, the Reboot Illinois people, have today released a poll indicating over 50% of people under the age of 35 want to get somewhere else.   I appreciate that weather ranks right up there with taxes as a reason to get out of here – especially as we head into the colder months. The poll questions seem a bit contrived, and making certainty out of imagined opportunity lacks reliability to me, but you should probably look that over too, if you haven’t already.

Illinois has enough problems and issues.  We all of us – even state workers – owe the state $billions for money that was diverted and used in order to provide every citizen with benefits and services on the backs of those who worked for us.  The politicians in Illinois’ General Assembly will try to avoid facing this issue with every breath they have left.  And Rauner, the I.P.I. and Sandack-like characters will try to find some way, any way, to blame a select group for the decades of mismanagement rather than find an honest solution.   

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sing a Song of Sick Pence

“Sing a Song of Sick Pence…”

Apologies to those of you who are Mother Goose Purists.  But the original poem is one of many political rhymes that hearken back to a time long ago when monarchs and “would-be” sovereigns ruled the lives of the great multitudes. 

I’ll include the poem at the conclusion of the blog; however, part of the poem’s original description was an account of the baked delicacy’s moment of opening in a room of dim candlelight and the subsequent storm of winged creatures who had survived the baking to extinguish the lights and cause considerable hurly-burly among the company.  Fun in the 1600’s. 

Is there a better metaphor for the Trump/Pence ticket in the 2000’s?

On Tuesday, October 4th, Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Mike Pence will face Democratic nominee for Vice President Senator Tim Kaine in their debate for the 2016 contest for the White House.  Pence is current governor of Indiana, and Kaine is a Senator from Virginia.

Only a dozen years ago, many women paraded in Washington at the March for Women’s Lives to demonstrate their demand for reproductive rights and general women’s rights.  How many?  Estimates range from 1.15 million to 800,000 – larger than the year-later  “million man march. “ One of many thousand signs indicate their refusal to surrender the right of choice:  “It’s Your Choice; Not Theirs.”

Senator Tim Kaine will be defending that position on Tuesday.  And others.

Mike Pence will be opposed.  Strongly opposed.

In fact, Pence’s record shows he is Trump’s olive branch to the religious right, who had at first wondered at his willingness to surrender to Christian virtues after flaunting them his entire life. But now they too have endorsed Trump, one of their flock saying the other day on NPR that “those who do God’s work often show up disguised or the least unexpected” and therefore we have now decided to support Trump as our Christian delegate in the religious war to save America. 

Argue with that logic, if you will.

And, Mr. Pence will have their undying support for the most part.  In his political history, Pence co-sponsored an amendment against same-sex marriage when a member of the 6th District in Indiana’s Congress.  Later, he voted against any “hate-crime” status for violence committed against people based on sexual orientation. 

Pence voted against raising the minimum wage (2006-2009) and vouchers to assist low-income families with rent assistance.

Pence refused to follow Federal opportunities to reduce the numbers of prison rapes, and instead regarded Indiana as a state with the ability to do its own scrutiny.

“He has supported deporting undocumented children and sick people and favors building a fence on the border (sound familiar?): In 2009, Rep. Pence co-sponsored a bill that would have eliminated automatic citizenship for children born on US soil to undocumented parents. A few years earlier, he voted in favor of bills that would have allowed for the detention of undocumented immigrants seeking hospital treatment. He also voted yes on a bill—foreshadowing Trump's current platform—to build a fence on the Mexico border.
“He has decimated access to abortion: In March 2016, Gov. Pence signed a measure prohibiting women from obtaining an abortion because of the race, gender, or disability of the fetus, making Indiana only the second state in the nation to do this. (Editor's note: To link the pain of making the horrendous decision to end a life of a child in the womb with the flippancy of sex or gender is deplorable. )The law also held doctors legally liable for wrongful death if it was found they had performed an abortion motivated by one or more of the prohibited reasons. These sorts of bans are opposed by much of the medical community, out of fear that women will censor themselves when it comes to making difficult decisions with the help of their doctors. Following the Supreme Court's decision in a landmark abortion case in June, a federal judge blocked this Indiana law from going into effect.
“He slashed Planned Parenthood funding, spurring clinic closures and an HIV outbreak: In 2011, Pence pushed an amendment through the House to defund Planned Parenthood. This amendment helped kick-start a wave of state actions aimed at removing government support from the women's health provider. Indiana was successful in its efforts, but a federal judge blocked the law from going into effect. When Pence became governor in 2013, Indiana continued to slash resources for the women's health provider. By 2014, state funding for Planned Parenthood had been cut nearly in half from 2005 levels. The organization was forced to close five of its smaller clinics, none of which had ever provided abortions, but they did provide STD testing. Soon, Scott County, Indiana, home to one of the closed clinics, became the hub of an enormous HIV outbreak.
“He gave protection to businesses in Indiana that discriminate against gay people: In March 2015, Pence signed a bill into law permitting business owners to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers due to their religious beliefs. The bill also allowed religious beliefs to be used as a rationale for other forms of discrimination. As my colleague Molly Redden described it: "An employer who refused to hire Jewish employees could cite his religious beliefs as a defense against discrimination lawsuits. So could a landlord who refused to rent to Muslims, or a business that refused to serve atheists." In response to this bill's passage, athletes, celebrities, corporate leaders, and others criticized the state publicly, and some even pulled out of planned business projects there. The band Wilco canceled an Indianapolis show, referring to "thinly disguised legal discrimination," and Apple's chief executive, Tim Cook, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post slamming the law.”
Finally: Periods for Pence has now become Tampons for Trump.
What started as an Indiana-grown protest movement of over 70,000 women against an abortion restriction law has become a broader movement that now targets presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
The protest started in March of this year, as Gov. Mike Pence signed a new anti-abortion bill into law. The law would have required burial or cremation for the remains of all miscarriages and abortions. It also would have banned abortion if the sole reason was due to the fetus' sex, race or a fetal abnormality, like Down syndrome (or umbilical cord prolapse or a hundred other reasons to abort or tragically miscarry?). Again, please note that a would-be mother/parent of a child suffering from anencephaly, which would doom its difficult death in a few days or a week, has been paired with some callous being who would negate a life for gender or race.  

Thank goodness, a judge's injunction stopped the law from going into effect on July first.

Between March and July, Midwestern women began sending their used napkins and tampons to the Governor to ask him – as the self-appointed specialist – to tell them if they had broken the law.    Now that the poll-dropping governor has signed on with Trump’s ticket, this same movement has changed their moniker from Periods for Pence to Tampons for Trump.  You can find them on Facebook.

But do not doubt that Pence, with that polished and fixed politician’s face will be as easily unnerved and unhinged as his boss, 3:20 a.m. Tweeter on Portly Pageant Girls Trump.  Pence is the “real deal.”  He is a smooth, oily and unflappable twister of facts, truths, and intelligent observations.  His motivation is as deeply rooted in basic Biblical principle as a Taliban’s in the Koran. 

A young and eager Senator from Virginia will be up against a charmer who has taken his entire state down the path to a neighbor-against-neighbor fundamentalist ideology. 

Wish him luck.

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened
The birds began to sing—
Wasn't that a dainty dish
To set before the king?

The king was in the counting-house
Counting out his money,
The queen was in the parlor
Eating bread and honey,

The maid was in the garden
Hanging out the clothes.
Along came a blackbird
And snipped off her nose.