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By: Mark Glennon*


To sense how badly discourse and reporting on government has degenerated, particularly in Illinois, start with the reasoning in the the Declaration of Independence. To justify separation from Britain, it “submitted facts to a candid world” — objective, simple realities. That list of facts comprised most of the Declaration.


Consider how differently issues are argued today. Spin is everything, and each side’s spin is reported as if it was meaningful. Blame substitutes for solutions. Process and campaign strategies displace analysis and policy. Polls are interpreted as validation. “Fair” coverage means equal coverage for both sides, even if one side’s is vacuous. Facts aren’t seriously asserted, much less supported. Politics, in other words, prevail over assessment of what’s fact, and that’s partly because political reporters double as policy experts.


Nowhere is that more harmful than with Illinois’ state and local fiscal crisis because most political reporters simply aren’t financial reporters. Yet, they shape the public’s understanding of the crisis, focused on the politics of it all, so, much of the public simply never gets the facts.


That’s not to excuse the public from ultimate blame. Journalists write what people will read, or they’ll be gone. Long past are the days when analysis as meaningful as the Federalist Papers captured the public’s attention for the ratification of the Constitution or when simple farmers listened intently for hours to the Lincoln-Douglas debates.


Honor this Independence Day for many reasons, but include that it was a moment when facts illuminated, inspired and won.


*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints. Opinions expressed are his own.


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Don Stillwaddy
The omission of facts can sway opinion wrongly as much as inaccurate reporting. Consider the reporting of teacher contracts in suburban Chicago, such as the Palatine contract of a 3.4 percent raise times 10 years. The taxpayer should be outraged; however, the reporting didn’t mention that these increases don’t include the teachers’ step increases. Therefore, the true raises average more like five percent per year. Therein lies one of the big problems with the pension mess. We all know about the three percent per year raises for retirees. That’s outrageous. However, another big problem is that suburban Chicago teacher salaries are out of line with other workers.… Read more »
The district numbers are right, but for reasons not obvious to the average taxpayer. The “average raise” number quoted by Palatine combines 2 salary schedules: Tier 1 and Tier 2. Tier 1 (the old folks) raises = 2.5% for the first 4 years; 5% for the last 6 years. Tier 2 (new hires after TBD, maybe 2012?) = 2% for the first 4 years; 3.8 % for the final 6 years. So new hires are bearing a heavier load of the cost savings. These would be the same teachers who are getting shafted by Tier 2 pensions. But don’t be surprised if more school districts start going… Read more »
J.A. Herzrent

What should be expected from the disparity between the tiers is a bunch of early retirement incentives to pay older teachers even higher retirement benefits. This reduces payroll costs and moves health costs from the district to the state. It’s short-sighted, of course, but that’s how budget-crunched school board members think.


Without a doubt. Palatine is banking on early retirements to balance that contract out. And keeping the raises low early on might have something to do with Rauner’s proposed property tax freeze with an income tax hike. I’d guess any such freeze would expire by the end of his term. Or more likely they’re pushing off higher expenses and bigger raises for future school board members to deal with.

But with the advent of a new salary schedule with lower salaries for new employees, it seems as thought the union is willfully engaged in a “race to the bottom.”

J.A. Herzrent
Amen to the outrage, pain (fiscal) and frustration. Mark’s observations about facts and spin have been on my mind for much of the day while I should be thinking positive patriotic thoughts and eating potato salad. Often the pertinent facts are difficult to know, but with the numbers and the data there isn’t much room to argue and no real need for additional data. One would think that simply communicating those facts to voters would be sufficient but that is where the journalists and the spinmeisters come into play. There is a lot of debate about guns and air pollution and I can understand voters not wanting… Read more »