Print Friendly, PDF & Email


By: Mark Glennon*


“We will just have to pay up.” That’s the conclusion many are now saying we must accept after the court decision invalidating Illinois pension reform.


No. We shouldn’t, we won’t, and we can’t.


When, since Sherman’s army burned Atlanta and marched to the sea, has anyone done more harm to an American city and state than our leadership has done to Chicago and Illinois? They remain in super-majority control of our legislature. Unless and until they turn around, we will use all legal means available to stop them from taking more from us. Their hand-wringing over the court decision is intolerable. Whether through constitutional amendment, bankruptcy, a change in their leadership, simply not paying some pensions, or something else, they must reduce pension costs radically.


Reform opponents remain brazenly indifferent to the plainest of economic realities — the simple arithmetic of impossible budgets, the flight of people and employers, and a tax base already foundering.


They wallow in the sanctimony of a duty to honor obligations. That duty ends where ability to honor more important ones is undermined. Their opposition to the slightest reforms in any pension imperils even the smallest ones, which is all that will separate many pensioners from destitution.  Total unfunded liabilities grow by tens of millions of dollars each week. Many pensions have less than a third what they need. Their chances of paying even the modestly sized pensions grow ever bleaker. Basic services and safety nets — core obligations of any modern government — go increasingly unmet while pension appetites grow ever larger.


We are appalled by opposition to reform under the mantle of progressivism. The poor and middle class are ravaged most by the profligacy they defend. Their first victims were Chicago public school students. Property tax rates on some homes have reached confiscatory levels and rise with no end in site, especially on those with the least ability to pay. Waukegan, 5.5%. Harvey, 9%. Their homes have been seized. To the richest among us, they say “give us more money, you rapacious capitalists,” blind to the reality that they, the taxpayers we need most, are, in mass, changing residence or simply leaving.


We’re stunned that public unions, whose members are just five percent of the state’s population, captured so much control over a democracy and inflicted such harm. They’ve poisoned the work ethic and waged an exceptionally dishonest campaign against every idea and person that stands in their way. They’ve rigged a pension system so complex and so easily corrupted that sane fiscal management and informed oversight are impossible.


No combination of tax increases or spending cuts will end this crisis without massive pension reform, and that reality has been irrefutable for years. Most Illinoisans simply don’t have more to pay. Half of Chicago is under or near the poverty line. Nothing can be asked of them and nothing should be asked. The cumulative cost of pensions for all our overlapping layers of government, per family with ability to pay, is hundreds of thousands of dollars. They won’t pay it.


More will leave. Others of us will stay and fight. They include many who, like me, are willing to pay more, after underlying problems are fixed.  But we will not pay more into the bottomless hole that this pension system is. We did that already.


We will not “just pay up.”


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





newest oldest most voted
Notify of

The more taxes are raised the more Indiana benefits 🙂
Corruption has a nasty price.

Peter A. Quilici

Ultimately, the pols will be faced with the choice of losing elections or abandoning tax increases. I say they choose the latter. My forecast is another back loaded ramp and more litigation involving doomed pension reforms. This is long term debt, and when push comes to shove, there is little a court can do to force a pol to increase taxes or pay the pensions. The real leverage will come from pensioners when a few of the plans are about a year out from insolvency.

mark glennon

Peter- I think that’s a sound analysis. Regarding your last sentence, there’s a massively important question that nobody seems to have a clear answer about: If Chicago pensions run dry, is the city liable to pay them? Experts I have spoken to don’t know. The city is claiming it is not, and a recent Tribune piece from a reputable person agreed. I have assumed they are, but my brief look at the law gives no clear answer.


Stomp your feet, hold your breath, continue your tantrum…shake your fist at the rule of law because you would rather do that then pay the bill. The fact that pension benifits are constitutionaly protected seems to enrage you. So you scream out…the sky is falling…the sky is falling. Thank goodness you are not a Judge. For years pesion funds and pension funding holidays were used in lieu of tax increases to support the Illinois budget. Taxpayers benifited from this no doubt. Taxpayers must now pay for those hollidays otherwise its THEFT from the pensioners. You dont want to be a thief Mark.

mark glennon

The rule of law has been and will be followed. A non-legal rule will also be applied — ‘pigs get slaughtered’ — especially in Chicago, where they sky has already fallen.

Only way this works is if every tax payer doesn’t pay.

mark glennon

Not advocating illegal tax avoidance here. I was clear on that.


The pensions in their current form were not negotiated in good faith as the taxpayers were left out of the negotiating loop and mislead.
Legislative benefit hikes to underfunded pensions should have been illegal.
The benefits were hiked for political purposes.
The pensions are a flat out scam against the taxpayer.
The scam is supposedly “protected” by the IL State Constitution.
Left unprotected were taxpayers.
That’s one reason it’s a scam.
The pensions are a racket and should be treated as such.
They are a pension racket.

Kathy Berg

BRAVO! Homes and lives are STOLEN from those least able to pay up!