Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ty Fahner's Doomsday

Ty Fahner (Doomsday Puppeteer)

In a memorandum to fellow members of the Civic Committee, a bombastic screed carefully choreographed to achieve the widest impact on print and televised media, President Tyrone Fahner announced his belief that the Illinois pension system was now officially “unfixable” on Wednesday, November 14th

Fahner’s Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, long a bastion of wealthy CEO’s fighting to curtail the collective bargaining rights of unions or the earnings of public employees, warned that legislators had lost the ability to make any significant headway on the “pension crisis” as they had waited too long. 

Beginning with the premise that nothing would work at this point, a position unfettered by real or actuarial numbers, the Civic Committee president’s memorandum urges the immediate

      Elimination of all cost of living increases
      An immediate cap to pension salaries
      An increase of the retirement age to 67
      A shift of the annual costs to local districts/employees over a period of twelve or more years.

Fahner told Crains Business that the numbers are “there” in a binder over “an inch thick.”

Once again, Mr.. Fahner has initiated the charge on forced pension reform in Springfield, just as he has for the last several years.  You’ll remember that Mr. Fahner, although not a member of the General Assembly was a co-author of SB512, and also a signer on the promise to get it right next time after the failure of the draconian bill to cut current and retired teachers’ benefits in 2011.  If anyone would have an inside track on how pensions were underfunded to begin with, it would be Mr. Fahner, who served as an appointed Attorney General of Illinois under Governor “Big Jim” Thompson, who managed the pension holiday program effectively to the point that the funded ration for pensions dropped from 90% to 30%.   

In fact, Thompson boasted while leaving office that he had supplied the citizenry of Illinois with more services than they had ever known with no increased costs to anyone (except of course public servants, then and now).  Mr. Fahner was his chief attorney-general in charge of the 1982 botched Tylenol murder investigations, and later a good friend with whom he and Thompson traded expensive cars.  I have a file an inch thick. But I digress.

But, wait a minute!  Perhaps this time Fahner’s numbers are based upon some real insight, not just another attempt to generate a better playing field for those many companies in the Civic Committee who already enjoy tax loopholes, giveaways, and breaks provided by Governor Quinn and the General Assembly. 

Maybe, just maybe, Fahner is realizing that the problem IS a revenue problem, not a pension problem.  Maybe he knows, just as Ralph Martire of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability warned, that all the proposed cuts thus far would only account for about 25% of the problem.  Indeed, that the legislators will just have to come back for more from the taxpayer, even if the General Assembly passed all the cuts on the backs of the public sector who already gave their required amounts over the decades. 

Maybe Fahner is now hinting at what others are finally saying in the General Assembly.  It is time to consider a revenue source like a progressive tax system in Illinois.  “According to the Center for Tax and Budget Accounting, replacing our flat tax system with the system Iowa has in place would provide an additional $6.3 billion in annual revenue.  In addition, the move to a graduated tax would bring tax relief to nearly 94% of all taxpayers in Illinois” (Pension Vocabulary. Oct. 25).

We can expect more drumming and dire predictions from the Civic Committee, but remember that real reform will come with a change in revenue and a promise kept to pay the promises made in Article XIII, section 5.


  1. In Illinois, the attempt to bust the public sector unions, to decrease the Cost-of-Living Adjustment in exchange for precarious health care benefits, to increase employees’ contributions and retirement age, and to shift the burden of the state’s negligent debt to school districts and, thus, property owners is an exploitation of public employees.

    “Cutting benefits by raising the retirement age or [eliminating] cost-of-living increases is no solution... That should be obvious, but there are plenty of snake-oil-selling politicians [and business organizations] who want to do just that. There is only one way to avoid benefit cuts, and that is by raising more revenue” (Economic Policy Institute, April 2012).

    When certain Illinois policymakers wield the power to impoverish some people by destroying their rights; when the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago’s money not only influences the General Assembly’s decision-making policies but generates and perpetuates economic inequality, the people’s trust in the legitimacy of the Illinois state government degenerates into profound skepticism and resentment.

    Without a doubt, corporatists are prosperous in Illinois. The 97th Illinois General Assembly guarantees their affluence and will continue to do so. Our submission to corporatists’ corruption, extortion and oppression and our assent to the General Assembly's shameless hypocrisy, protection and perpetuation of wealthy powerful interests must be addressed.

  2. First we had "binders full of women," now we in Illinois are lucky enough to be presented with "binders full of numbers."
    Is "binders full of..." the new buzzward, just like someone's leaving an office because "he doesn't want to create a distraction?"

    From now on, please use the correct spelling of Ty's last name--