Illinois public pensions: Damn the ‘political sensitivity’ torpedoes, full speed ahead

I’m sure R. Eden Martin, the president of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, is a lovely man. And I hear that many people think his group is doing yeomen’s work on the Illinois pension debacle. But the two articles he wrote — posted today — one in the Chicago Tribune – and one in the Wall Street Journal — are frustrating for those of us who understand politics and budgets.

The title of the article posted in the Trib is: “Pensions: All our problem.”

Okay, maybe that wasn’t Mr. Martin’s original title. Anyway, I hope it wasn’t. Because if that’s where he starts in his analysis of the scam that is the state pension system — he’s making the same mistake reformers have made for years.

The state pension system is a complete joke — and rank and file taxpayers (that is, non recipients of such insider excess) — have no fault and no responsibility for the system’s fix. In fact, the only fair reform is to allow the thing to go into bankruptcy. Then, the actuaries need to be brought out of the subterranean bunker and be made to perform honest mathematical calculations in the light of day so there can be some citizen oversight.

State pension expert Bill Zettler has already revealed many of the details of the dishonest mess that is the state pension systems. If school teachers and other state employees are too lazy to exercise their responsibility over their own “pension,” that’s their problem, not the rest of us. Their irresponsibility has caused them to be sold an insolvent bill of goods. Again, that’s not my fault — or the fault of all the other Illinois taxpayers.

There is a lot more that needs to be written about Mr. Martin’s essays — but I’ll close this first installment by reprinting what Mr. Zettler wrote. I’m tempted to use a larger font as that might help some folks grasp the content.

Here is the section — with a little editorializing and emphasis added:

“If you listen to union representatives and their lackeys in the media [and forgive me Bill Zettler, but let me add some would-be “reformers”] you will hear this constant refrain: Illinois pension problems are the direct result of the taxpayers not paying their fair share over the last 15 years. This is patently false.

The problem with Illinois public pensions is the result of the “Four Rules of “Too”:

1. Public employee salaries are “Too” high.

2. Public employee contributions are “Too” low.

3. Public employee pensions are “Too” high.

4. Public employee retirement is “Too” early.”

Bill Zettler told one forum this summer that even if the General Assembly had kept up with payments to the system the fund would still be wildly out of balance.

Facts can be stubborn things — and anyone who wants to understand more about the political math (dishonest, non-math) that has gone into the funding calculations should read Bill Zettler’s work. The unions, the teachers, the administrators, and the other pension beneficiaries haven’t done due diligence.

As we approach issues like this one it doesn’t do anyone any good if Republicans, conservatives, and others who know how to do math, use namby pamby therapeutic language that involves sensitivity to others’ feelings. Give me a break!

A solution is a solution or it’s not. Mathematics doesn’t allow for compromise. A thing balances or it doesn’t – and there’s no such thing as moderate, middle of the road or compromise math.

Is there anyone with any common sense out there that doesn’t realize taxpayers are tapped out? Thus – there’s only one path: total honesty and a reckoning with reality.

The lines must meet, the thing must be sustainable and in balance. Everything else is immature malarkey. To paraphrase Admiral David Farragut, damn the “political sensitivity” torpedoes, common sense must go full speed ahead.