Saturday, November 30, 2013

We the People vs. We the Public Sector Unions

Illinois is providing a real world example of the role of government in favoring certain citizens over the rest of We the People.

New Details on Illinois Pension Plan has the update on the nation's largest unfunded pension liabilities for public sector pension benefits:

"New details emerged Friday about a proposal to overhaul Illinois's public-employee retirement system, hardening opposition from public-sector unions and drawing criticism from some conservatives for not going far enough.

Democratic and Republican leaders agreed earlier in the week on a plan to repair the Illinois pension system—widely regarded as the most troubled among U.S. states, falling nearly $100 billion short of what is needed to meet promised benefits.
Newly released details show the state would save about $160 billion in part by replacing a 3% cost-of-living increase for public-sector retirees with a more complex system tied to years of service and the consumer-price index. The deal also would raise the retirement age for employees 45 years old and younger under a tiered system and would introduce the option of a defined-contribution plan for a slice of employees hired before 2011.
The agreement would require the state to make actuarially sound contributionsthe lack of which has been a driving reason for the deep funding problems—and employees could take the state to court if it falls short on future payments. The deal would also reduce the contribution state workers, teachers and other employees make to the retirement system by 1% of their salaries, according to a summary of the agreement.
Since the financial crisis, states have been cutting retirement benefits for current and former workers and reducing what they offer new hires. Illinois has been deadlocked for more than two years on how to overhaul the state pension system to ensure it remains solvent over the long term. Wednesday's agreement was the first one backed by House and Senate leaders from both parties and Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat.
Still, passage isn't assured as lawmakers gather to vote on the issue Tuesday. Labor unions argue the legislation uses state workers to bail out a pension system the state has shortchanged for years. They plan to sue the state if the legislation passes, arguing benefits are protected by the state constitution.

Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the state's second-largest teacher union, called the proposal a "grotesque taking of the lifetime savings of public employees."
At the same time, the Illinois Policy Institute, which advocates for free-market principles, said the legislation doesn't go far enough to fix the state's problems and would put pension payments ahead of education spending and public safety.
Legislative leaders were working Friday to build support for the latest agreement ahead of next week's vote.

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan. a Democrat, said the plan takes the steps needed to stabilize the pension system and that organized labor hasn't been helpful in working toward that goal."
Summing Up

As always, what's happening in Illinois comes down to elected officials representing the special interests of political supporters as opposed to the best interests of all of We the People.

Most citizens are covered by 401(k) retirement plans today or aren't covered at all, except for Social Security.

But that's not the case for public employees, and especially those public sector employees represented by public sector unions. Paying for those promised benefits isn't considered by either politicians or union officials to be their responsibility.

To them, that's a financial burden the "be seen but not heard" future taxpayers must bear, and with no input or questions asked.

So here's the real deal: The duly elected representatives of all of We the People and their allies, the public sector union officials, have combined over the years to scratch each others' backs at the expense of the rest of We the People in Illinois (and throughout America's cities and states, Chicago and Detroit and San Jose and so on included).

But the union and political bosses didn't bother to submit their overly generous and not-so-openly negotiated bargain to We the People for a ratification vote. They simply granted the right to receive future retirement benefits without asking We the People to agree to provide them.

Of course, it's not just happening in Illinois: the underfunded pension bill is coming due all across America, and the unions are holding hard and fast to their simplistic view that "union membership has its privileges" ---- that taxpayers should just shut up and pay up.

So why not simply let the taxpayers as a whole vote on whether to raise their own taxes or reduce the promised benefits for public sector employees?

Besides, isn't that the American way? No, it isn't, at least not according to too many politicians and union leaders.

Sadly, the Illinois way has been all about government knows best politicians and their union allies deciding what to force the taxpayers to do.

In simple and stark language, they're saying to hell with what the rest of We the People would choose to do with our hard earned money.

Future taxpayers, beware.

At least that's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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