By: Mark Glennon*
Don’t expect many laughs in this because less-than-entertaining topics like pensions and budgets dominate in Illinois, but here are some of the notable quotes for the year about our economy and government:
Women can tell, so don’t bother lying: “When it comes to pension promises made, for years Illinois politicians have been like the guy who tells you, ‘I’ll call you in the morning.’ Neither is going to come through on their promise.” – Suzanne Devane, GOP 49th Ward Chicago Committeewoman.
Scary: “The call to action for these floundering entities will be, ‘Screw the bondholders’… just refuse to purchase these bond issues. After all, the yields on Illinois, Chicago, Puerto Rico and New Jersey municipal bonds don’t even reflect the obscene risk they pose to investors.” – Forbes investment team opinion writer. If that sentiment eventually prevails, borrowing costs will skyrocket.
Best Tweet: “I refuse to concede the Bears have blown this game until all the points have been scored.” -@PatQuinnsBrain, as the Bears were about to lose to the Packers 55-14, after Pat Quinn’s long-delayed concession.
Said with a straight face: “This is the fourth year in a row we have balanced the budget.” – Rahm Emanuel regarding Chicago. The SEC would waterboard any CEO of a corporation who said that about budgets like Chicago’s.
Brainfreeze: “Global warming threatens Chicago tourism.” – Title of an article by Holly Agra, member of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, which advises the U.S. Commerce Secretary on the travel and tourism industry, and President of Chicago’s First Lady Cruises.
Oh, please: “Unscripted.” – CNN’s word used in ads for its Rahm docudrama, Chicagoland, which was exposed by the Chicago Tribune.
Best addition to financial terminology: “Illinois math.” – The actuary in the most recent report on the Illinois teachers’ pension, who finally came clean about actuarial shenanigans. They defined it as “The term given to the various schemes in the Illinois Pension Code designed to systematically underfund public employee retirement systems in the state of Illinois.”
An irresponsible campaign statement by Bruce Rauner: “Protect what is done — don’t change history. Don’t modify or reduce anybody’s pension who has retired, or has paid into a system and they’ve accrued benefits.” In fact, either some earned benefits get cut or the $200 billion-plus unfunded state pension liability kills us. Period.
Wisdom and honesty about pensions from an Illinois Democratic officeholder: [Still looking.]
A key Republican who doesn’t understand pensions: Illinois’ underfunded pensions “are projected to recover and achieve a targeted 90% funding sometime around mid-century…due to recent reforms that established benefit changes for newly hired employees.” – Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), who goes on to explain in some detail why she thinks the Tier 2 pension changes for employees hired after 2010 gradually burn off the unfunded pension liability. That’s simply wrong. Pensions are projected to recover only if you believe that taxpayers can pay massively back-loaded funding that’s in the projections. Tier 2 employees are helping only a bit — by getting ripped off to help the unfunded Tier 1 liability.
Away from home too long (and from fact checkers): Illinois is “leading the nation in job creation.” – Michelle Obama.
6′ 8″ tall; nose longer: “In 2006 I ran for the State Senate where I led by example by cutting my own pay and ending free lifetime healthcare for legislators.” – Treasurer-elect Mike Fredrichs in his campaign kick-off video, who in fact voted against the healthcare measure and to raise his own pay twice.
Just plain foolish: “Illinois is making a comeback.” – Pat Quinn’s central campaign theme. He asked voters to believe that which their own eyes said was not true.
It works for Illinois Republicans: “No social agenda.” – Bruce Rauner. (Actually, it was his wife who put it that succinctly, but Rauner followed it.) Like it or not, violate that rule and Republicans lose in statewide general elections. Too bad Dems don’t have to live by the same rule.
Always look for that union label (just don’t expect to find it): “Republican Fund for Progress and Jobs” and “Illinois Freedom PAC.” – Political action committee names used for anti-Rauner effort funded primarily by public unions.
Best smackdown: From Democratic strategist David Ormsby who got fed up with Fred Klonsky, a union activist opposed to pension reform: “Setting aside the phony piousness about the rule of law, it’s about preserving union COLAs in retiree paychecks. That’s what unions do. I get it. But gussying up the union fight as something more noble than what it is – a grubby little fight over money for its members – by whacking opposing lawmakers who don’t take $10,000 IEA, IFT, AFSCME checks as “craven sycophants” of Madigan is unworthy of you, Fred.”
Feel the love coming through that wall: “A legally binding firewall.” – What former Sun-Times political reporter Dave McKinney claims separated his wife’s work, who does political consulting for Democrats, from her partner’s work on the Illinois governor’s race McKinney was covering. Her partner was paid $600,000 from the anti-Rauner Illinois Freedom PAC. McKinney resigned after he co-authored a particularly controversial article criticizing Rauner.
Memo to reporters – conform story to headline: “Reporters are taught to cover the story, not be the story.” – Carol Marin, in a story headlined, “I belong to no candidate. Never have,” her article attempting to save face after co-authoring that controversial story with Dave McKinney.
World class hypocrisy from an Illinoisan: “We are a nation built on the rule of law. We need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make.” – The most lawless president in American history, Barack Obama, after the Ferguson ruling.
From last year, but haunting us throughout this year: “Chicago will continue to rot behind its gleaming veneer.” – Reason Magazine. We think about that line often when we report what’s going well — the influx of young professionals, tourism, tech startups, new skyscrapers — while half the city is in or near poverty.
Not quite the ‘blood, sweat and tears’ speech we need, but close enough: “I ain’t going to be Mr. Popularity for a while.” – Bruce Rauner. So be it. Do what is necessary.
*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints