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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Quinnie, the Pension Pollyanna

The previous post (A lesson for PSPRS members from Illinois' teachers) documented the perilous state of Illinois' pension system.  However, judging from this website, operated by the Illinois Office of the Governor, one might think the state's pension crisis merits the seriousness of a Sesame Street skit.

In a short video starring Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, the same man who floated the absurd idea of a federal bailout of his state's pensions, the viewer is treated to a lighthearted explanation of the pension crisis and its consequences for Illinois' citizens.  It even includes Squeezy, a cartoon python who squeezes the budgets for public safety, education, and healthcare.

While Governor Quinn's video is somewhat condescending to the citizens of Illinois, the rest of the website does include more serious facts and figures, so its goofball presentation might be forgiven if it was more honest about the sacrifices that will be required to solve the pension crisis and why the fight for reform will be so tough.  So far, all Governor Quinn is telling his citizens to do is "get involved," as if all that has been lacking so far is citizen engagement.  He needs to tell them that only a combination of tax increases, diminished government services, and retiree benefit reductions will solve the problem and that everyone must pay to clean up the mess.  He needs to identify who has traditionally fought against reform and who will fight against it this time around.  Finally, he needs to be frank about the ultimate consequences of putting off true reform: pensions defaults and bankruptcies of cities, counties, school districts, and other government entities.  If he refuses to level with his state's citizens about the stark choices ahead of them , Governor Quinn, not Squeezy the Pension Python, will turn out to be the real cartoon character.

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