Monday, March 24, 2014

Crain's Modest Proposal - Surrender Unions?

Crain’s Modest Proposal

Crain’s Opinion page had an interesting offer for public sector unions today, March 24th.  

“It’s time to talk.  A negotiated agreement is far preferable to one imposed Wisconsin-style.”

Reminds me of Marlon Brando as Don Corleone making the unions, “an offer they can’t refuse.”  A kind of firm friendliness not usually expected from the business daily.

The title of the editorial is straightforward:  “The Primary’s Lesson for the Public Sector Unions.”  As titled, the opinion cautions the recent result of the March 18th Republican primary sends a notice to Illinois public employee unions that their impact was inconsequential despite spending “nearly $4 million to stop GOP candidate Bruce Rauner.”  The editorial also cites the Chicago Teachers Union’s almost $100,000 in “a failed bid to oust state Rep. Christian Mitchell” as another politically important indicator.

Crain hypothesizes that these recent shortcomings are a foreshadowing of the degenerating impact of unions on our state level.  We have become as vestigial as a shrunken appendix.  Note: They conveniently avoid the Guzzardi win...

The entire editorial is couched in a carefully worded and very self-serving letter of concern, like an intervention or bittersweet break-up.  A combination of “It’s not you; it’s me” observation, delivered across the table with about just as much insincerity. 

Like most such messages, there’s just enough shading to obscure a truckload of truths while promulgating of lot of the opposite.  

According to Crain’s, the unions’ suing to block the final implementation of SB1 is not only foolish but wrong-headed, for the unions as much as for the people of Illinois.  “...unions preferred solution to their badly underfunded pensions - significant tax increases - is woefully short-sighted.”  

Crain’s, like the Tribune and other corporate media in Illinois, hang ownership on the public sector worker organizations for the $32 billion diverted/taken/stolen from promised pension payments over the last half century.  Even Msall of the Civic Federation has serious doubts about the viability of the Constitutional inviolability of the SB1, and he holds desperately onto a very rare and tenuous “police powers” argument in his hopes for legal support on the highest levels.  Much of that some time later.

Without the unions’ willingness to negotiate, according to Crain’s, they have backed the “big tax hike that will send employers and middle class families fleeing across the border.” 

Suddenly concerned with the poor, Crain’s also warns that the impoverished will be the ones saddled with impossible tax burdens, now especially with their houses underwater. 

Very emotive...but not quite accurate.

Certainly other solutions have been offered to legislators, the Tribune, and the media for the insurmountable debt in which Illinois now finds itself.  Unfortunately, the tunnel vision of Crain’s and other corporatists remains blinded to other reliable suggestions: (1)  Move to eliminate the current pension ramp (PA 88-0593) and replace it with an amortized debt repayment schedule to the pension funds,  (2) reform the antiquated, and flawed flat tax policy and replace it with a fair tax which ( will increase the revenues for the state,  (3)  broaden the tax services by adding possible or slight increases in services,  (4)  eliminate the tax loopholes for the many businesses that receive them in Illinois or collect them from the Governor on requests,  (5)  consider other possible revenue sources, like speculation sales taxes or reductions in tax increment financing districts.  

Not likely.  For Crain’s, the culpable for the impoverished in Illinois would be the public sector unions.  

That’s simple.  That’s convenient.  And it changes the narrative a bit.  “It’s you, baby, not me.”

And, in the end, Crain’s promotes its position as witness to a watershed moment:  “But this election proved that the public is losing patience with the unions’ all-or-nothing position...Don’t play with disaster when the outlines of a compromise solution are clear: modest increases in revenue, more realistic cost of living increases on retiree benefits and higher minimum retirement ages.”  

What does Crain’s editorial group expect?  The unions will rescind their suit over the constitutionality of SB1?  They believe that working people will agree to ignore the words “shall not diminish or impair” now that we face the very consequences of those words?  Have some respect for your audience, please.  

Shoddy journalism, and specious arguments...and very less than critical thinking.   

Negotiate now?   Case in point, Crain’s endorsement of Rauner on March 2nd as “an outspoken and energized advocate for the people who pay the freight of in the state...” demonstrates that neither Crain’s nor Rauner want a union to negotiate; rather, to roll over and play dead.  

It is you, baby, not us.

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