Legislators make laws to benefit all of us, but I was surprised and repulsed by the sight of Illinois legislative leaders congratulating themselves after voting for deep cuts in public worker pensions earlier this month. Imagine watching hunters, guns still smoking, as they congratulate each other over their kill. Imagine you’re the endangered creature they just shot!
Of course, some people are pleased by this vote. The wealthy and media pundits claim that the public retirement system is “in crisis” and needs to be fixed. By fixed, they mean slashed. Because governments have avoided contributing to pension programs for years, the system was $100 billion underfunded. So they cut $160 billion? One reporter concluded, “[the bill] is as good as Illinois is going to get — something that virtually every major business group in the state recognizes from the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club to the Illinois Manufacturers Association.” The most honest headline was the title of a Chicago Sun-Times story: “Pension Vote Pleases Wall Street.”
It is ironic when wealthy local politicos like Bruce Rauner — he owns nine homes, made $53 million last year, and plans to buy his way into the governor’s mansion — have the audacity to suggest that public workers are a privileged class. Supposedly, we get too much I’d trade retirement plans with any one of them! However, few reports explore the impact on the one group with the most to lose — state workers, downstate teachers, and the other victims of this law. Imagine a typical retired teacher living on the average pension — $40,000 a year. In her first five years of retirement, she will lose almost $10,000. Will she sell her car? Can she afford to visit her grandchildren this holiday season? Near the end of her life, when inflation strips most of the value from her pension, will she make hard choices between medicine and food?
This retirement security cut reveals deeply troubling political and moral values held by our elites and the politicians who do their bidding. We live in an era of robber barons and ruling class hubris. More…