“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.