Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Quick, Back to the Confabulator Machine: Tribune Editorial Board

“Quick, Back to the Confabulator Machine!”:  The Tribune Editorial Board’s Response to Cullerton’s Pension Comments

Confabulator:  (noun)  One who fills in gaps in one's own memory with fabrications that one believes to be facts. 
Toxic Confabulator: (noun) One who fills in gaps in other people’s memories with fabrications that one wants them to believe are facts.   Synonym. Tribune Editorial Board.

Imagine the bustling in the editorial board room of the Chicago Tribune the other day after Senate Majority Leader John Cullerton explained on WGN radio that the pension issues facing Illinois weren’t really a crisis; instead, more like an attempt by corporate business leaders to secure money in order to roll back the taxes they have been grudgingly paying.

Yikes!  Senator, can you possibly conceive the havoc in the oak paneled shrine of the editorial board in the Tribune Tower when you inconveniently uttered these nearly accurate insights?  This after they had earlier invited you last year to their sylvan cloistered tower to tell them what they had wanted to hear about pension reform?

In fact, Senator, the anger in their October 21st response is almost palpable.  You have unwittingly (?) conjured many of the arguments from the Civic Federation, the Civic Committee, and the Illinois Policy Institute that Mr. Dold and his group at the Trib have used for years to excoriate public workers and brutalize pensions in general – even if citing those groups does rather make your earlier point. 

But, enough of that!  Back to the confabulator machine, Board!

“Cullerton and other of this state’s leaders have spent many years not fixing the pension debacle they created.  They promised too much to employees, then didn’t set aside enough money to pay the very benefits they had promised.”

Nice spin, confabulators.  Instead of explaining that any growth over the years was matched by increases in the public sector workers’ contributions, the confabulators like to use that old Illinois Policy Institute axiom that any pension is a promise of too much.  They’ll ignore the truth that teachers, for example, paid nearly 10% of their earnings into contributions.  For the Tribune, the IPI, and others; pensions are peevish promises, and promises are expected to be honored. In itself that makes pension simply “too much.” 

“…then didn’t set aside enough money to pay the very benefits…” 

In actuality, the money promised (remember that word?) was given in services and perks to the Illinois citizens to keep tax rates artificially low (at the behest of the Civic Committee and others).  In other words, it was a corporate/state theft of the money that was honestly put into the system by those in the public sector.  Another confabulated rotation.

“…not set aside…” actually means that public sector retirement systems had to make up those differences without the ability to invest those workers; contributions for the future retirees as planned. 

You’ll also read the Trib’s pejorative phrase “feeding the pension funds” as you review their confabulations too.  They like that phrase, as do their corporate friends.  While this repetitive catchphrase makes it sound once again like pensions themselves are a problem.  Not so. 

In actuality, feeding the pension funds (the normal costs) is minimal; it’s feeding the debt that will never go away that is costing the state great pain.  That makes the issue a debt problem in longer, more systemic terms; but the confabulators will never try to explain that.  It’s easier and more suitable to toxic confabulators to throw the word “crisis” into every conversation.  To have a Senate Majority Leader say it is NOT a “crisis” makes a board, a business leader, or someone trying to confabulate very uncomfortable indeed.  Those in power do not like uncomfortable.

So instead, the Board taunts Cullerton: he’s afraid of unions and much too respectful of the Illinois Constitution because he won’t endorse the kind of draconian and contemptuous plan put forth by bold Speaker Madigan earlier.   Madigan’s plan (with the precious endorsement of the Civic Federation) will save almost three times what Cullerton’s moderate (and equally unconstitutional) suggestion would net. 

Truth:  For decades in Illinois, public worker’s pensions have been burglarized by the General Assembly and corporations in our state, and now when seeking justice, that same General Assembly and those same corporations would impose a hefty fine on those workers “for being burglarized in the first place.” 

Spin that, Mr. Dold.

Monday, October 21, 2013

For Cullerton: Well, Maybe It's Not a Crisis for You, Senator.

Cullerton Says “Pension No Crisis”:  Well, Maybe for You, Senator

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader John Cullerton stated the very obvious to hundreds of thousands public workers and their families in Illinois.  “People really misunderstand the nature of this whole problem.  Quite frankly, I don’t think you can use the word ‘crisis’ to describe it at a state level”  (,0,4245590.story ).

Really, Senator?  You need to look at the problem from another point of view.

The recent political brawling and financial feuding in the country’s capitol left bond rating companies and businesses warning that the United States of America was in serious danger of becoming untrustworthy, a deadbeat, and unreliable to its debtors.

Talking heads on all the national stations warned that such behaviors at the federal level made it unnerving and perhaps impossible to trust in monetary dealings with the federal government or the United States, given especially the likelihood of default on credit.  It was a common theme.  “We’ve often heard that uncertainty is bad for business; well uncertainty about whether the federal government will be open is the worst kind” (

According to Bloomberg, default would likely devastate markets from Brazil to Zurich.  Missing payments to foreign owned debt could “blow Lehman out of the water (in a comparison to the bank’s insolvency having an egregious impact on a good economy)” (

 China was a bit more strident about it, suggesting strongly that American currency had seen its last days as a commodity of trust.  In fact, Chinese press harangued for a new world with a de-Americanization of monetary influence  (,0,1990632.story).

The world of business, Senator, does not like anxiety and uncertainty.  By the way, they also abhor taxes and would cherish “pushing the pension changes for the benefit lower taxes…” as you sagely pointed out in the Tribune this morning.

Uncertainty begets anxiety, which begets caution, which begets inaction and distrust, Senator.  This is BUSINESS’ warning to you.  This is Fahner’s PAC We Mean Business’ everlasting mantra.

Uncertainty, anxiety, and distrust, Senator. Imagine for a short moment, Senator, that you happen to be a pensioner in Illinois, retired some decade or two or three.  Perhaps you are experiencing the sudden responsibility to care for the elders in your family, parents whose care may cost nearly all of your savings or monthly pension stipends.  Maybe, God forbid, you’re a pensioner who has become ill and is fighting on all fronts medically to prepare yourself for a fight which you know will test all of your savings and future earnings.  Maybe you were a retiree who marched out into the small business market several years ago and suffered an unexpected financial meltdown and the tumid spread of loss of credit.  Or someone with bills, or plans, or hopes of retirement, Senator?

In Illinois, nothing but uncertainty, anxiety and distrust.  For hundreds of thousands of people working and retired.

You say it’s not a crisis, Senator, and I quite honestly would agree.  It is a debt and revenue problem, one caused by the diversion of required contributions by the General Assembly for other perks and programs.  But that’s not the direction you or your colleagues in the General Assembly will take.  Now, business wants that tax roll back, and you at least see how it is on the backs of those that paid in.  Thanks for that.

But your feeling sorry or being honest does not clean your hands, Senator.  As Newman said in Cool Hand Luke, “That don’t make it right, Boss.”

Thanks for being honest, Senator Cullerton, but that don’t make it right.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Arrivederci, ALEC? Representative Senger's Movin' on Up.

Representative Darlene Senger

Arrivederci, ALEC?
(Representative Senger’s Movin’ on Up.)

Some members of ALEC in Illinois’ General Assembly will be busy this fall and spring to make some headway politically and personally in Illinois, especially those in the House. 

ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is a corporate bill industry.  An organization heavily funded by the Koch brothers, it is a strategic bill-making plant providing expensive getaways for state legislators to meet in luxury or exotic haunts to generate model bills with the assistance of corporate benefactors or legal advisors.  ALEC itself proudly boasts it emphasis on restoring the balance; “An Initiative to Restore Federalism in America.” 

According to one constituent who called retiring Representative Renee Kosel’s  (R-37) office regarding her close ties to ALEC, we “wouldn’t understand the tremendous benefits that are gained through her (and others?) connections to ALEC.”  Representative Kosel is proud of her chairmanship in the state with ALEC and uses her website openly to emphasize her loyalty. 

Personally, I probably would not understand those ‘tremendous benefits.”  Banning the opportunity for a living wage, crippling collective bargaining rights, privatizing the school systems, undermining voting rights, and promoting privatization of our prison systems would just be a few of ALEC’s major “goal of restoring the founding fathers’ intent for the states.”  These kinds of activities are much too complicated for any constituent like me to comprehend ( . 

Retiring Representative Kosel
ALEC member Representative Tom Cross (R-97)  is moving up this year too, making a run for the Treasurer in Illinois.  Part of Tom Cross’ campaign is to point out that he was early to spot the problem with pensions (note: he doesn’t say he spotted the debt caused by his and others’ theft of funds diverted from pensions).  But Representative Cross has done his work according to those who would describe the unfunded liability (call it DEBT) a crisis, so he has the commensurate backing of power-brokers like Ty Fahner, Sam Skinner, Ron Gidwitz and others. 

Taking Representative Cross’ position as House leader on the Republican side will be ALEC member Representative Jim Durkin.  Durkin is listed as a member by AlecExposed due to his promises to participate in this fall’s annual meeting in Chicago.   Reviewing Durkin’s legislative website, he does not boast his fellowship or connections with ALEC, unlike his team member Representative Patti Bellock or gubernatorial candidate Senator Kirk Dillard.   He does like his picture posted with other ALEC loyalist Senator Christine Radagno.  Like Representative Kosel, they prominently place their strong affiliation with all things Koch on their websites.

This brings us to ALEC member Representative Darlene Senger (R-41), member of the Pension Task Force about to deliver its verdict for “pension reform” during the Veto Session or shortly thereafter.  True, Representative Senger is just one of twelve (Republican) congresspersons in Illinois who work with and for ALEC, but she is about to move on up in attempting to secure a seat at the federal level. 

Representative Senger, unlike many of her fellows, is more understated about her membership in the “initiative to shift power back to the states and away from the federal government.”  Her website is not exactly an avowal of her association with ALEC or her serving for so many years on the influential International Relations Task Force

Needless to say, serving on this committee will certainly prepare her for the more global aspects of politics on the federal level, just as her earlier vocation in selling investment instruments has helped her to propose the turning of the pension system into a 401K program for “the betterment of its members.” 

And what has the International Relations Task Force promoted in its attempts to provide “Limited Government, Free Markets, and Federalism”? 

 - An attempt to prevent Australia and other countries from imposing “plain packaging” rules on cigarettes in an attempt to reduce consumption by their public due to the disastrous health consequences.   LSMFT!

 - To deny federal mandates (like the Affordable Care Act) in any of the states due to the affirmation of the Tenth Amendment Rights, making such mandates a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution.  If we can’t shut it down…

 - To exchange the international monitoring and prevention of “blood diamonds” being harvested from places like Africa with private companies and/or local governments.  Wal-Mart security in charge…

 - The banning of any unilateral trade sanctions against other governments as our prosperity is tied to participation in a global economy.  Maybe the Somalis just need private schools?

 - The averting of any defense limitations in spending or more in sequestration as for the harm such reductions in defense spending would have on our economic prosperity.  Make war, not love, people.

 - Attempt to provide enhancements in monetary or reduced taxation for “small business” expansion into foreign markets.  Pandemic strip malls for all. 

 - Returning federal parks and eco-reserves to the people and governments of the particular states in which they are located.  Wolf pelt jackets or pants, sir?


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Putting the Squeezy on 'em

Let's Make a Deal?

Putting the Squeezy on ‘em
(Quinn takes tips from Tyrone)

You’ve seen the latest headlines declaring that Governor Quinn has announced no more corporate handouts until the legislature gives him an acceptable pension reform.

This is an interesting turn of events, for it appears likely that the Governor is taking advice from his Civic Committee friends on how to apply stern pressure while standing on the sidelines.

You might remember that Ty Fahner, President of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago , once admitted that he and/or some of his fellow power-brokers had arranged phone calls to Moody’s and possibly other grading companies to lower the bond ratings even more.  (  
This was back in the summer.   Of course, after his announcement, Fahner was quick to deny that he meant what he said but was actually describing something that probably didn’t happen…and so on.  It was like listening to Jon Lovitz as the “Liar” on SNL.  Afterwards, there was no follow-up investigation by the State’s Attorney’s Office and even less from the Chicago print media. 

Now according to the Tribune, Governor Quinn is tying any corporate breaks to a required pension deal.  “There will be no more incentives for businesses until lawmakers send him a measure to overhaul the state’s employee retirement system” (,0,3921685.story).  

Last week, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) announced they would be moving over 100 jobs out of their current headquarters in Decatur to “more global locations,” unless they were provided with $24 million in tax breaks over the next 20 years.  This “might” keep them in Illinois. 

Although the Tribune editorial board was quick to provide the usual exhortation that ADM’s offer was a good deal for Quinn and the state, the Governor said this was hardly the time.  “’ We need ADM and all of our big businesses to band together, put pressure on the legislature, the House and the Senate, Democratic and Republican, to get a vote on pension reform, ‘ Quinn said. “That helps everybody.  That helps every business.  That helps every taxpayer.’” 

Hang-on.  You’ve just buckled into an ethical roller coaster. 

Let’s see.  The General Assembly and various Governors over the last five decades have played “let’s rob Peter to pay Paul” when it came to the theft of pension funds from workers to pay for various services without having to tax citizenry. 

Now, Governor Squeezy wants to flip the text: Let’s extort (insert corporate name) to force Paul to rob PeterAGAIN.  And, if you – in this case, ADM, are successful, well, Governor Squeezy will give you some of that money.   

So, in a very real sense, any pension reform that comes to the Governor to sign is available for his use in providing tax credits to companies like CME, or Sears, or Navistar, or Ford, or ADM…shall I go on?  Zurich Bank is waiting their turn to ask.  Office Max would like a deal too.

The corporate tax breaks in the (possibly) near future will be supplied by the money from the reduction in cost of living allowances to the hundreds of thousands of current and future public workers?  Is this the reform the Governor and the Pension Committee want?  Is this the “new reality?”

Indeed, Governor Squeezy, that might help every business, but as for the taxpayer?  Remember that that $24 million to possibly prevent the possible move to a better location (possibly Chicago) is money earned by hard-working people who expect services, not corporate welfare. 

And, as a pensioner, I might add the morally slippery downhill of your argument is despicable.