Forget the Gun; Take the Pensions
(Please forgive the classical allusion and sudden jump to modern media...)
In The Odyssey, the tired and war-beaten protagonist is told that to find an answer to his present dilemma, he needs capture by hand a shape-shifting god and hold him until all of his various forms have been exhausted. At that point, the god may cower and agree to deliver potential resolutions to his perpetual predicament. Ah, to be Odysseus, or even to live in a world of real gods.
Today, the very lesser gods of the General Assembly convened for a working lunch, but they remained shape-shifters in every sense as effective as our old hero’s god Proteus, whom Odysseus finally overcame. Would it were so for the hundreds of thousands of state employees (millions counting families), who work and wait, never knowing when or what will happen to their financial futures given the arbitrary and capricious forces that swirl in Springfield.
Three very different fellows populated lunch, although all three swear (to the media) to be close party friends. One is an ersatz leader looking for any solution from the other two to make him look potentially as a front-runner. Another, who worries about legal ramifications (after all, he is a lawyer), holds on to the argument that giving choice or consideration will pass constitutional scrutiny, especially with unions signing on. Finally, the last gourmand has little in common with either of the others, hoping the first one’s political self-immolation will provide a four-lane avenue for his daughter’s ascension to the state mansion, and the second’s sleeping with the enemy will provide him with coveted acceptance with the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago.
Imagine the dinner at Louis’ Restaurant on the West Side.
Gov. Quinn – I’m glad you came, Mike. I hope we can straighten everything out. I mean this is terrible… It’s not the way I wanted things to go at all. It should never have happened.
Speaker Madigan – We’ll straighten everything out tonight. I don’t want my people bothered anymore.
Senate Leader Cullerton – They won’t be, Mike. I swear on my children they won’t. But you gotta keep an open mind when we talk. I mean I hope you’re not a hothead like that IRTA guy Elman. You can’t talk with him.
Gov. Quinn – Ah, he’s a good kid. (leans forward and offers handshake) Sorry about the senate vote on SB1, but you know how it is. Getting’ old and grouchy. (Frisks Michael)
Senate Leader Cullerton – Good.
Gov. Quinn - Whaddaya say we combine the two bills together like before. We put SB1 in front and SB2404 in back, tandem like. If one don’t work, we can maybe get the other through?
Senate Leader Cullerton – We’ll maybe they’ll take that. I dunno. Unions might not like being used, ya know? But I can try it…
Gov. Quinn - How 'bout it, Mike?
Gov. Quinn - How 'bout it, Mike?
Speaker Madigan – They deserve it. Sounds good to me. By the way…I have to go to the bathroom. Is that all right? (Madigan heads toward the bathroom while the other two sit and eat quietly)
Chances are the union will not love this new hybrid at all, but after helping in the generation of SB2404, they may find themselves in the awkward position of not backing the “tandem” bill, or hoping that the bill’s passage fails but the secondary does not, or trying to disagree with any changes offered to them by good gangster/bad gangster act called Cullerton and Madigan. Decisions, decisions. Especially when you’ve helped craft half of what might kill you. No pun intended, but when your healthcare is part of what you might give up, and you’ll pay more for lesser coverage anyway – that just might kill you.
Whatever form of proposed legal maneuver to avoid the required payment for stolen moneys from pensioners and refusal to find real revenue answers for the state’s structural deficit problem have yet to appear. You can bet that was not a topic of conversation over the cannoli.
According to WTTW Chicago Tonight, Governor Quinn was satisfied that both leaders of the General Assembly were “good friends” and “the meeting was pleasant.”
Of course, real Mike hasn’t emerged from the bathroom yet...and that might just kill you.