Monday, April 22, 2013

Daily Herald/Reboot Invite: And a Response

An Invite from the Daily Herald/Reboot Illinois (and a response)

Slusher: noun.  One who promotes or provides an excessive amount of sentiment.  From “slush” to describe films of over-the-top emotion in 1950’s Hollywood.

Forum provides a chance for all views on pensions to grow.

The Daily Herald has already stated unambiguously that we think pension reform needs to be instituted immediately and we tend to favor — in principle at least, if not in every detail — a compromise approach offered by state Rep. Elaine Nekritz and Sen. Daniel Biss.  For the Daily Herald to describe HB3411 as a compromise is the very definition of fallacious and distorted reporting.  Mr. Slusher would have people believe it is compromise when one side determines to eliminate another side’s benefits without a voice or a seat at the table -  benefits promised constitutionally.  Later on in the essay, you will read  pathetic passage defending their bias; the author will characterize the issues as very complicated.  Not really for the Daily Herald.  They don’t do complicated.

Might we, then, have an ulterior motive to promote a specific agenda in sponsoring along with Reboot Illinois an information program on pension reform proposals? It’s an understandable question. But the answer is an unequivocal no. Our only objective for the Pension Forum scheduled for next Wednesday night is to add depth and detail to the discussion over what to do about the state’s pension crisis.  That’s an interesting obfuscation, especially given the spokesperson for Reboot Illinois is a past member of the editorial staff if the Daily Herald.  And yet, spokespersons for the Reboot organization are trained, curried and graduated into the Reboot organization.  In fact, Mr. Lampinen (the moderator)  considered Doubek not only a friend, but also a mentor...a colleague...a strategic advisor to corporate I have always valued"(Doubek leaves Daily Herald for Reboot Illinois ‘mission’ - Time Out Chicago).  
With that goal in mind, we and Reboot — a nonpartisan political reform website that coincidentally has also supported the Biss-Nekritz agenda — seek to create a program in which some of the leading ideas on the pension issue can get a thorough review before a suburban audience. If you believe that Reboot is a non-partisan political reform website, you are making a very strained and conscious effort to ignore Reboot’s founders’ contributions to the Koch brothers and other organizations that undermine workers unions across the United States.   Nearly $2 million in contributions to the Koch brothers in the past few years would make one wonder what Reboot’s “non-partisan” agenda is really all about.  Of course, once the Koch’s have purchased the Chicago Tribune, we might not expect any surprising revelations.  The continued attacks on public sectors workers will continue, exponentially.

Reboot’s Chief Operating Officer Madeleine Doubek secured commitments from state Reps. Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, and Tom Morrison, a Palatine Republican, and Illinois Education Association President Cinda Klickna to conduct a panel discussion that Doubek and Daily Herald Political Editor Kerry Lester will moderate.  By the way, Doubek is a past editor at the DH.  Let’s see – DH editor picked by Reboot founder who gives millions to Koch bros. to lead new non-Partisan political website?  Laughable.

It’s important to point out that the three speakers espouse positions that differ substantially from each other. Among other things, Nekritz’ proposal would end the compounding of annual 3 percent cost-of-living increases for retirees, make other adjustments to benefits and gradually shift responsibility for making pension payments from the state to local agencies.  Besides running head-on into constitutional conflict, Nekritz’s bill endorses a bill that makes those burglarized with the payment for Illinois’ debt burden.  Some of the component parts appear whimsical; even in the face of the pain it will cause thousands of pension recipients. Case in point: In a recent email correspondence from Representative Cassidy’s handlers, there is absolutely no reason for the amount of $25,000 to be the base for determining the new concept of a simple COLA.   In short, it is absolutely arbitrary.  Maybe it just sounded good at the moment?

Morrison’s — co-sponsored by Wheaton Republican Jeanne Ives — would move all new hires into a 401(k)-style savings program and freeze cost-of-living increases, at least for now.  These are two Tea Party right-wingers that would eliminate all payments to workers that pave roads, teach children, provide health care, care for the indigent, stop fires, provide emergency services, etc.  By simply dropping the pensions, we can eliminate all past debt, right?  Nope – we still owe the pensions $100 billion.  But the Tea Party loves simple without reflection, or legality, or consequence. 

The IEA supports proposals that maintain a traditional pension program, raise revenues by closing what they call corporate tax loopholes and require increased contributions from employees.  That would be SB2404, which is only the start of an attempt to find some balance between payment due for the theft of billions of dollars of guaranteed benefits from public workers and the need to provide services to current Illinois citizens.

 Each plan has strengths and weaknesses, and to be clear, these are not the only ideas worth discussing. But they are worth discussing, and in the process, the other ideas will surely emerge, as may others that no one has ever thought of before. Such is the purpose of our forum — that important ideas will be explained carefully and reviewed critically, that many perspectives will be aired openly and that all who participate will leave with information and ideas they did not have when they began How obsequious, you’ve been invited to a gathering to share in the very opposite of what we promote – “we tend to favor…Nekritz approach…” Maybe additional ideas from ALEC, one of the Reboot’s chief friends, will be offered?

We knew from the outset that public pensions are an important topic, but we did not expect the complicated politics of the issue to attract as much interest as they have. As a result, we’ve had to move to a larger venue and still cap attendance and turn away some people. That process naturally stirs fears some people may be shut out so that their point of view will not be presented. To that concern, I can only say: We are an information company. We have and express opinions sometimes, but our No. 1 objective, our No. 1 interest, is to provide information, particularly information that will help our democracy work better.  WarningThe Daily Herald’s vision of “our” will not necessarily be the same as yours, public sector worker. 

So, if for whatever reason you cannot make next week’s forum, take heart. We’ll be live streaming the program and finding other ways to involve people in the discussion who may not be attending in person. Who knows? Our own views about the legislative approaches under discussion may change. We know for certain that they’ll grow. Whether you are a teacher worried about your future, a citizen worried about your taxes or a school board member worried about your budget, whether you attend in person, watch at or just read about it all later, we hope yours will, too.  You betcha.  Those good people at the Daily Herald and the pipeline they work with called Reboot Illinois could possibly change their minds and agree that public sector workers were ripped off, owed money, agreed to make all their payments while the state did not, maintain a part of a middle class that provides a huge econocmic boost to the economy in Illinois... and there are many other means to correct a systemic state failure to secure revenue.  BUT I DOUBT IT.

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