The naked truth on pension reform

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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Dear Mr. Harmon:

"The Emperor's New Clothes." This Hans Christian Andersen tale has, according to Wikipedia, been translated into over a hundred languages. Perhaps you've read it.

I beg to differ on your assessment of Illinois' failure to pass meaningful pension reform [Pension Reform Bills Advance, Viewpoints, March 20]. That result lies entirely with Democrats. Your party controls Illinois — the governorship, the Senate, the House, and the judiciary — and has for years now. Democrats control the largest concentration of Illinois' population in Chicago and Cook County. To besmirch former Governor Edgar, widely seen throughout Illinois as a fair and honest man, is beneath any rational discourse.

Both major Illinois newspapers, not just the Tribune, have cried out for the state's elected officials to do something bold and decisive for the long-term economic health of the residents of the state — to save pensions for those who have earned it. The Sun-Times did so again on March 19 ("Best Chance to Solve Pension Crisis"). It urged lawmakers to pass the Biss bill, named after Democrat Daniel Biss of Evanston and a bipartisan-sponsored piece of thoughtful legislation. The Sun-Times took Democrats to task again March 21 for passing Senate leader Cullerton's weak alternative. In the words of its editors, "A pension reform bill passed the Illinois Senate on Wednesday! Too bad the bill, sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton, won't solve the state's financial troubles, nor is it likely to pass the Illinois House."

Can you tell us why Democrats cannot lead? Why Mr. Quinn, Mr. Cullerton (yourself as assistant majority leader) and Mr. Madigan can't use their influence to solve this $17,000,000 per day problem (that represents the total median household income of approximately 300 Illinois families each day)? Is it, as we all assume, that union membership (which in 2012 is only 14.6% of wage and salary workers in Illinois) is so threatening to the leadership's employment?

Pointing fingers at Republicans and conservative media as the villain is getting old and tired. It follows the tired, uncreative path of national politics today. Voters know better. The child cried out, "But he isn't wearing anything at all."

Brian Lantz

Oak Park

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Posted: April 26th, 2013 3:19 PM

jason-A competitive salary reflective of what the free market will bear should dictate public sector compensation. If you replace the pension benefit (or raise the retirement age or yearly compensation post-retirement), will there be a mass exodus of firemen, teachers, garbagemen, to become cardiologists, technologists, composers? Doubt it. Did the avg teacher forego a lucrative career in chemial engineering to teach 3rd grade? Possible, but unlikely. It's all about options and the lack thereof.

jason from Tinley Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 2:25 PM

As long as "taxpayers" believe that pensions, as well as salaries and other benefits, are no viable means of attracting and keeping qualified policemen, firemen, teachers, and other public workers, we will get what we pay for through the support of cheap labor. That's pretty much their political and economic philosophies in a nutshell.

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: April 19th, 2013 9:32 PM

And the Rep party is not monolithic either, as witnessed by the gay marriage issue. Since most of the state reps and senators run unopposed the public might as well support the Green Party a party that believes in creating jobs that get us a better environment.

Dylan Bellisle from Forest Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 9:58 AM

Can you tell us why Democrats cannot lead? Because the Democratic party in Illinois is not a monolithic party. There is such a diversity in philosophy, beliefs, ideology, etc. Furthermore, there are power struggles between the House, Senate, and Governor.


Posted: April 11th, 2013 9:18 AM

Anton-True, but a more fair comparison would be a 401k plan where you can only withdraw the balance of your fund. How can pensioners expect to withdraw their FINAL salary in perpetuity and not exceed the balance in a relatively short period? It's a house of cards. Either you go to 401k/SS plan or modify the current rules (raise ret age, lower yearly distrbution based on updated actuarial #'s or avg lifetime salary). You'd think pensioners would be happier they're living longer. Apparently not.


Posted: April 11th, 2013 12:12 AM describe the social security system perfectly. Most if not all of the people on SS put in far less than the "fair share" they will take out. Should we scrap SS also? Most every pension system provides that one receives more than the actual $ put in. Should we penalize all of the people who paid their share but were sabotaged by greedy politicians? Maybe we should have workers stuff their money in mattresses. That way they would get only their "fair share" and not burden us.


Posted: April 10th, 2013 10:49 PM

Agreed, but ask yourself this question...will pensioners withdraw more than they have contributed (including state portion and investments). It has been shown time and time again that the average pensioner, based on today's pension rules, consistently takes out more than his fair share. So even with the proper funding in place, withdrawals will exceed deposits. Such a system cannot survive, regardless of economic climate.

John Holan from Orland Park illinios  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 5:06 PM

The retirees and the employees are not the cause of this massive pension debt. We paid into the retirement system for years and at one point our union told us ther was a surplus in the pension fund, I believe it was 10 years ago.The state failed to contribute their share and I believe money was taken out of it to pay for other bills but I;m sure the politicans don;t know nothing about that. They need to put revenue back into the fund, not cut everybodys benefits.

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