What we've seen so far of the pension bill expected to be offered lawmakers tomorrow looks like the surest bet to stopping the out-of-control pension debt that has grown to monstrous proportions in recent years.
The anticipated bill lives up to the prediction we've been making for a year now: Nobody is going to be happy with it.
Nobody should be.
• The pension crisis developed because of years of irresponsible decisions that put politics before sound policy. Chief among them was a 1989 law – passed by a Democratic legislature and signed by a Republican governor – that guaranteed all members of the state's five retirement systems 3 percent raises, compounded annually, for life after retirement. (The compounding means a $30,000 annual pension becomes $40,300 in 10 years; $54,200 in 20. Without compounding, it's $39,000 and $48,000, respectively.)
Yes. What an outrage. I'm sorry, they're still making less than the Chicago Bulls' waterboy, so you really can't pay me to get too upset.
• Current employees and retirees did everything they were told all along, faithfully contributing their significant and required paycheck deductions in exchange for benefits promised them by law. No need to explain why they should not be pleased with any of this. Still, they need to face the reality that failure to change the system also could very well mean their retirement systems might be broke by the time they need to rely on retirement income.
SACRIFICE, YOU FUCKERS! Otherwise screwups that had nothing to do with you will end up hurting you anyway, which is ... exactly what will happen if the bill does pass anyway. You just need to "face reality," which by the way is not something we would ask of the CEO of Sears.
• Taxpayers in Illinois have good reason to be unhappy with this bill. Unless they happen to be members of the pension systems affected, chances are public employees still will receive more generous retirement benefits than most private-sector employees ever will get. Plus, they saw their income tax rate rise by 67 percent in 2011, with much of the money going directly into the failing pension systems.
That money should have been used to start wars and bribe corporations, as Jesus and George Washington intended. And here again we have the argument that someone else being screwed less than you is an argument to screw THEM more, not for both of you to be less screwed.
Why should someone else get benefits you didn't get? Because you didn't fucking plow snow for 25 years, Chipster! You didn't crawl through sewers. If you wanted those sweet, sweet pension dollars, YOU should have made better choices maybe.
Approving this bill, should it live up to what is promised in outlines released last week, gives Illinois a shot at putting a dent of more than $1 billion in the more than $5 billion hole that will be created next fiscal year by the temporary tax reduction. We must operate in the political reality in which we live, not in either right or left dreams of ideological purity.
BOTH SIDES DO IT!
Time and again we've seen lawmakers find convenient excuses to push this decision down the road. Conservatives conveniently can vote against any bill that does not outright eliminate pensions in favor of 401(k)-style savings programs. They know, of course, that their super-majority Democratic colleagues never will support such a bill.
The most labor-friendly Democrats can oppose any bill that proposes any savings whatsoever on the grounds that pension benefits are contractually guaranteed and the Illinois constitution forbids reducing them. End of story.
Conservatives can be total assholes. Democrats can be ... largely correct. These two things are equally biased and offensive. Facts are silly.
Yes, we need to see the pension bill, with actual numbers in full, but the broad strokes have been aired for weeks and there are significant improvements here to what was initially outlined by the earlier pension conference committee.
We haven't even seen this thing really, but let's settle for it. HUZZAH!