Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dysrationalia: How Illinois Legislative Minds Work?

His Eminence The Speaker
Dysrationalia: Or How Illinois Legislative Minds Work?

The email excuses for “my positive vote on SB1” continue to arrive in my mailbox, and I suppose yours as well.   This brings us to today’s pension vocabulary word, dysrationalia, or an attempt to explain how at least 30 Senators and 62 Representatives voted on Madigan’s SB1 on Black Tuesday, December 3, 2013.

Dysrationalia:  noun.  the failure to act rationally despite adequate intelligence.  According to theorists (Stanovich), such non-thinking (but nevertheless thinking) behavior indicates that real thinking becomes too time consuming and resource-intensive and sometimes counter-productive to perform.

Let me explain just what this recent theoretical concept means, and why it fits so well with how our pathetic hand-washing legislators are acting through oyster-eating tears.  (I do not just mix metaphors, I often boast at blending them).
In order to save ourselves from decision based upon irrational influence, we have developed a whole set of heuristics and biases to limit or explain away the decisions we make. 

Important when considering SB1:  Add to that, a nearly 1000 page introductory bill from powerful Speaker Madigan to vote on in less that 24 hours. 

Mental metaphor (and I promise not to mix too many here): 

Man in mahout
Imagine for a moment that your are witnessing a large gray elephant tearing about on a path on the outskirts of an Indian village, trampling a bit of crops and ambling on occasion onto the foot-worn path to the next village.  On top of the elephant resides the driver, a diminutive character in a fabric-adorned mahout.  He yells to the elephant “Mumjab, Mumjab,” as if he is controlling the beast. But in actuality, he is only steering the leviathan from point to point without any real control, just a reigning in after what has been done or even destroyed.

In theory, dysrationalia means that our careful and cognitive mind resides in the upper reaches of the mahout, trying to control or explain our thinking.  Our thinking, it would seem, is the tusked animal below, uncontrollably moving in its own directions based upon little if any real reasoning.  Are you with me?

In fact, those psychologists and theorists who support dysrationalia would warn that what this simple metaphor depicts is exactly how we as a species tends to think.  That is, we make a decision based upon some instinct, some gut-level, or some herding instinct, and then bring forth the more conscientious and deliberative part of our thinking mind to defend our position.

Let’s take for example, Senator Emil Jones defensive position after his vote if YES on SB1.

 As you may already know, earlier this year I supported SB 2404, a reform plan that had been negotiated with the We Are One Labor Coalition and that would have provided an estimated $60 billion in savings.  Unfortunately, that measure failed to gain enough political support to be called for a vote in the Illinois House, despite being passed by the Senate.  If the courts rule against SB 1, this could provide the necessary momentum to find a solution that has union approval.
Senator Emil Jones - Dysrationalia 
This observation is disturbing and unsettling for several reasons.  Impulsive and non-thinking behavior at these levels have real consequences for real people like retirees and workers in public sector unions.  Let’s also add Medicaid recipients too.  It is a dangerous kind of thinking, one that has un-thought impact and repercussions, but is forcefully defended in the end.  This sadly is not how to lead.  This, my friends, is how Madigan depends on their leading.

A constituent of Senator Jones answered:

Senator Jones,

Your yes vote was very disappointing.  Rather than a negative unconstitutional position such as this, it would have been better to seek ways to generate new revenue streams to pay for the services the citizens of Illinois have been enjoyig at the expense of teacher pensions.  The TRS is sustainable if actives continue to contribute and the state pays its share.  TRS investments have a history of doing well.  The state is attempting to pay for the same or better services for more people at higher costs without generating new revenue.  What is wrong is the flawed tax system in Illinois and the ability of large corporations to steal from the citizens,  tax dollars that should be going to pay for state services, and the legislature which grants sweetheart deals to them without any accountability.

Neither SB1 nor SB2404 will solve the problem and will be unconstitutional though constitutionality seems to be unimportant to many legislators who have suggested that we set the constitution aside.  How those who have sworn to uphold that document can even suggest that is daunting to me.  If we do not recognize the sanctity of such a document, how can we survive as a civilation of law.  

I am gravely disappointed in your vote and will convey my feelings to the members of Illinois Retired Teachers Association and all my friends and family.

But remember, that Senator Jones cannot likely be reached intelligently at this point.  According to the theory, his fabricated wall of reason is as strong as reasons to go to war with…say Iraq – just to name a recent example. 

Back to metaphors of dysrationalia. 

There will always be those erratic and beserk elephants without any driver that destructively roam the villages and fields of our political landscape – think Tea Party Representative Jeanne Ives or wannabe watch-wearer Bruce Rauner. 

But one-time good legislators like Senator Emil jones need reminding.  They are victims too, and we must keep our pressure on them before they become pathetic creatures giving away their deliberative and slow thoughtfulness to the Speaker and his ilk in Springfield.

Next pick-up.
Keep in touch with your legislator, even if they have done the wrong thing, like my Representative Monique Davis.  Explain your concern and anger.  Then, work to get rid of them. 

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