Drapetomania? (The Governor Comments on the Film Lincoln)
NOUN: Drapetomania was a “medical” disease supposedly capable of spreading through combines of plantation slaves in the American South that led to the slaves’ sudden and surprising attempts to flee their conditions of bondage (despite this factuality, please note my sense of abhorrence). Of course it is a ridiculously impossible condition, but it is one coined unbelievably by a white medical doctor (Samuel Cartwright) in what was a desperate attempt to justify why a human being might be disgruntled with the concept of being a slave – and not fully satisfied with conditions or outcomes that would be physically, emotionally, spiritually and humanly injurious, to say the least. When reading Huckleberry Finn, one can recognize the confusion of those who wonder at Jim’s disappearance, even after his family is threatened selling “downriver.”
While the horrors visited upon the many hundreds of thousands of those who were kept in bondage must never be forgotten, my post today reflects the current Governor’s complete obliviousness to the pain he will inflict upon the hundreds of thousand of public servants, retired and current, who toil without knowing that he sees himself as another Lincoln by bringing pension benefit reduction down upon them. All of this by using his mantra “pension reform.”
While I watched Lincoln, the latest film by Steven Spielberg, I was struck by an aggressive use of close-ups and washed color to create a sense of claustrophobia and darkness, just as momentous events like the Civil War, involuntary bondage, and Lincoln’s own life were about to end. The struggle to force the 13th Amendment was an effort of moral highs and lows in a political world likely unchanged today.
Quite differently, Governor Pat Quinn, not a retired public worker in the State of Illinois, watched from an entirely dissimilar perspective. Quinn noted that the film denoted just how hard it was to get something like pension reform through. “You will appreciate the battle to get pension reform if you see the movie and see how hard it was to abolish slavery and get that amendment for the people” (http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/bill-kellys-truth-squad/2012/nov/18/Illinois-Quinn-pension-reform-lincoln-slavery-/).
Of course, when Quinn points to pension reform, he highlights his own past record of trying to accomplish this colossal task for which he feels “he was put on earth.” Unfortunately, his “amendment” would hardly help nearly 1 million people in Illinois – those who work as public servants. Thus far, the groups that the Governor has assembled to accomplish Illinois’ fiscal Armageddon (Rep. Nekritz, Sen. Brady, Rep. Senger, Sen. Nolan, Administrator Stermer) have not found any solutions in revenue, the issue many actuaries and authorities are pointing to as the only way out of this dire predicament.
Instead, they have concentrated on cutting benefits, wages, and end-of-life promises for public sector workers, active and retired. Their proposals, in the form of bills, generate new methods of capping or eliminating COLA’s (Nekritz, Stermer, Brady), providing defined-contributions rather than benefits (Senger), shifting costs to the local districts (Nekritz, Stermer), or finding methods to bleed the public sector workers for the benefits promised in the past (all).
Meanwhile, Quinn has decided to demonstrate leadership for later legislative action in January by refusing to accept the normal conditions of contractual talking points with AFCSME this last week.
“Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn dropped a bombshell that echoed through the homes of the state's 40,000 union employees over the Thanksgiving holiday. After extended contract negotiations, the Quinn administration announced Tuesday it would terminate the contract between the state of Illinois and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees, its largest employee union”( http://www.daily-journal.com/archives/dj/display.php?id=499818 ).
Remember that one significant part of Quinn’s position (as put forward by his working group) is the need to eliminate the promised health care to thousands of Illinois public sector workers, first through a coercive choice between that and a COLA that appears on proposed bills if this bargaining attempt is not successful.
The head of AFCSME, Mr. Henry Bayer, added, “In 40 years of collective bargaining, Pat Quinn is the first and only Illinois governor to terminate a union contract," Bayer said, adding the action will "lower employee morale, provoke instability in the workplace and make settling a contract more difficult” (http://www.daily-journal.com/archives/dj/display.php?id=499818).
It occurs to me now that perhaps Quinn fell asleep during the film “Lincoln.” I wonder at this possibility because he suggests “they (the politicians) went to great lengths to use the Democratic process properly” (http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/bill-kellys-truth-squad/2012/nov/18/Illinois-Quinn-pension-reform-lincoln-slavery-/).
Huh? This was not quite the same film I enjoyed. I recall a serious number of politicians endorsing the 13th Amendment after being promised satisfying sinecures or being threatened possible exposures for faults that reminded me of the current state of politics in Illinois even today – an unseemly political climate which has left all of us with a fiscal debt that cannot be paid without changing the very nature of our doing business. We need look at revenue, not business as usual coming from the Speaker or other lesser leaders, Governor.