Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Illinois and Pogo ... An Example of a State in Denial Whose Citizens are Practicing Learned Helplessness and Whose Politicians are the Only Ones Being Blamed for Something That Is the Responsibility of All of We the People in Illinois


Illinois is in deep doo-doo financially. {In fact, it's an example of what's going on throughout America and the rest of the world today.}

That it's a mess fiscally is not even debatable. See the posting immediately below from yesterday and/or Report to present magnitude of fiscal woes.

But what to do?  That's the question du jour, so let's tackle it now.

First, hard times call for hard choices. In Illinois (and as a nation and world, too), we are living in hard times and will be for many years to come. Our very standard of living is in jeopardy. And a very real part of the problem is that the public sector is too big for its britches.

Illinois prisons are both overcrowded and unaffordable, but the state legislators and unions representing prison workers are fighting consolidation and proposed cost savings. Nothing is easy. See State Prisons Die Hard which is subtitled 'Illinois Governor's Jail-Closing Plan Is Opposed by Lawmakers, Corrections Workers.' Even my old home town's volunteer ambulance service is being overregulated out of existence by government and has had to close due to government's heavy hand of intervention and intrusion.

Deciding to live within our means or not isn't a choice for Chicago teachers union officials, other school districts, cities and towns, Illinois prison workers unions or overly zealous local ambulance regulators.

We the People must make the hard choices. We must take charge. It's a case of real MOM versus borrowed and confiscated OPM.

Federal and state subsidies to local communities come from borrowing money from China or raising taxes. We simply have to accept reality and live within our means, painful as it may be for several years ahead.

THE ONLY REMEDY IS "POGOESQUE" ... "We have met the enemy and he is us."

So let's talk specifically about the state of denial and learned helplessness as being practiced by far too many of We the People in Illinois today.

The story relates in large part, albeit by no means exclusively, to the lack of enough money to pay promised public sector retirement benefits.

People are asking themselves and others this question: Who's to blame?

Of course, assessing blame, properly or not, won't raise even one thin dime toward solving the funding issue. Nevertheless, evidently it does make some of the state's We the People feel better by blaming their elected representatives for the shortfall.

At least our "public servants" are proving themselves to be good for something. We blame them for our shortcomings and keep electing them so they can make lousy future decisions which in turn will give us even more reasons to blame them for our shortcomings.

In the meantime, nothing of substance changes. The circle of unaccountability remains unbroken.

Now please consider the following five questions:

(1) Is it the fault of all of We the People of Illinois that the state has an unfunded liability of $85 billion relating to its public sector retirement obligations? (2) In other words, isn't it wrong to blame only the politicians and/or the public employees for the shortfall? (3) And more accurately, isn't it the taxpayers who will get stuck with the final bill, no matter who we blame? (4) And if so, aren't these taxpayers the same citizens who elected the politicians in the first place? (5) And aren't the public sector workers taxpayers, citizens and voters as well?

In my view, the correct answer to all five questions is YES.

But in the end, what difference does it make who we choose to blame or whether we blame anybody other than ourselves? Isn't this just another case of learned helplessness at work? Aren't We the People of Illinois all to blame? And shouldn't the focus now be on what to do about the problems as opposed to who to blame for them?

Poll: don't blame public workers for pension woes has the story:

"A new poll by the Chicago Tribune/ WGN-TV had some interesting results.

Let’s deal with pensions first. Pension funding, or the lack thereof, is the critical issue that all lawmakers and candidates agree must be addressed immediately, as long as they don’t have to take any positions that might upset anyone.

After noting that Illinois has the largest pension debt in the country, the poll asked who is most to blame for that debt. Was it public workers, state politicians, both, neither, or don’t know? 

Statewide, the poll found 51 percent of Illinoisans think most of the blame falls with politicians. 

Only 2 percent put most of the blame on public workers. . . . California, not Illinois, leads the nation in unfunded pension debt at $100 billion.

But Illinois still has an $85 billion unfunded liability, more than twice as much as New Jersey, which is No. 3.

An undercurrent of the pension funding debate has been that exorbitant public pensions and the cost of maintaining them is the reason for the pension debt.

The poll results would seem to contradict that. Most people put the blame for the pension mess on politicians who didn’t put enough money into public pension plans to properly fund them, not on public workers who collect those benefits. Sticking it to workers might not be the best avenue to win support for pension reform.

Still, the poll found about 32 percent of people thought both politicians and public workers share the blame. In other words, maybe politicians didn’t put enough money into the plans, but maybe the plans also have some benefits that are too expensive to maintain."

Summing Up 

Here's my take.

We the People elect our "public servants" and then blame them when they act in an irresponsible manner. So far, so good.

But we don't hold them accountable, even though we blame them, and that's bad.

To blame those we elect for doing what we'd prefer they not do without subsequently "sticking it to them" (as in the reference to workers above) is just plain wrong. Blaming someone else for our problems somehow may make us feel better for a very short period of time, but it doesn't change anything.

In Illinois, as elsewhere and including our federal government, we allow our elected officials to act like idiots with unlimited amounts of unaccountable OPM and then criticize them for doing just that.

But even worse, we keep electing them or elect others who act just like them as their replacements.

My view on politics as currently practiced in America and around the world is painfully simple. If anybody running for office told voters the truth, he couldn't receive his party's nomination, let alone win the general election. In other words, anybody worthy of governing isn't running for office, and anybody winning office isn't worthy of governing. And that includes the presidency.

So in Illinois, who will speak up and tell the truth about the pensions, including what to do about the missing $85 billion? Not the politicians. That's for sure.

And who's to blame for that? We the People. That's for sure, too.

If we elect "leaders" who then "stick it to us," we must have the guts to "un-elect" them at the earliest available opportunity. To do otherwise is to practice learned helplessness.

And that won't get the promised pensions paid or the taxpayers of Illinois out of the hole the "public servants" and the public sector unions have dug for them. We the People must take charge.

And it's exactly the same for politics at all levels, incuding the U.S. presidency.

At least that's my vote.

Thanks. Bob.

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