Coming Attractions: The Committee of Ten’s Procrustean Illogic
Procrustean: Adj. from the noun Procrustes, a mythological and lawless bandit who terrorized the countryside surrounding Athens, Greece, until he was defeated by the hero Theseus. Procrustes had two very different beds, one very short and one very long. Captured travelers were forced to lie upon a bed. Those too short to fit were stretched to death, and those too tall had their legs and feet cut off.
The word Procrustean has therefore come to describe a person’s imposing a conformity or reason without any real concern for individuality or factuality.
You will recall that Governor Quinn empaneled a group of ten legislators in July to hammer out a hybrid plan for pension reform by the end of, well, the end of July, now August, and soon September. In hopes of increasing their sense of urgency, Quinn has withheld their pay until a solution is presented.
Lately, various members of the Committee of Ten appointed by Governor Quinn have been floating teasers of a pending agreement on the “pension problem” in Illinois.
Committee Chairperson Kwame Raoul remarked that there has been significant movement “from where we were at the onset of this thing, which was absolute stalemate” (http://www.sj-r.com/editorials/x369946608/Our-Opinion-Public-deserves-more-information-from-pension-committee).
Senator Bill Brady has described the working group as being in possession of “all the answers” needed to craft an appropriate legislative response. Remember that six of the ten committee members need to sign off on the compromise in order to send it to the leadership of both houses of the General Assembly for consideration.
Very soon now, we will likely witness committee members schmoozing on radio and parading on TV with the compromise proposal intended to pass both House and Senate in the fall veto session.
The task of finding an answer to the state’s debt problem without seeking revenue solutions – instead taking from promised benefits of future, current, and past workers – will assure a litany of upcoming Procrustean explanations – as well as a court challenge.
Leading the way will be Representative Elaine Nekritz, the pension point person for Speaker Madigan. You’ll remember that Nekritz (with now-Senator Dan Biss) fashioned SB1, the proposed House Bill that would have severely impacted the COLA’s, contribution levels, and eventual earnings. The Senate said NO to SB1.
Representative Nekritz alluded to the committee’s notable positive movement the other day on WBBM news radio when she considered, “We are all coming together in good faith, and negotiating, and these negotiations are very delicate. But this is the first time that all four caucuses have been at the table, agreeing on anything with regard to the pension situation” (http://www.benefitspro.com/2013/08/21/progress-in-illinois-pension-reform-talks).
The four caucuses represent the Democratic Senators, the Republican Senators, the Democratic Representatives, and the Republican Representatives – not those coalitions of workers who will be affected.
Good faith does not necessarily include the coalitions of people to be impacted. They’ve had their say.
And of course we can count on the Procrustean refrain that the committee has cobbled this compromise in order to “save” our chance to have any pension at all.
It is a theme you can find in much of their illogic. Senator Brady suggested the other day that they would “craft a proposal that would be meaningful, constructive and would protect the interests of the people who’ve paid into the pensions and the taxpayers.”
Remember, they’re making your bed. Now you only have to lie down in it.