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Rhetoric vs. reality on pensions

Senate President John Cullerton

Senate President John Cullerton

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Updated: July 27, 2013 6:25AM



There’s an old saying that goes, “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.”

Last Thursday, a column by R. Eden Martin relied more on rhetoric than reality. In it, Mr. Martin argued that the unions protect the status quo while everyone else fights for “major reform.” While Mr. Martin is entitled to his opinion, his assertions are patently false.

Here are the facts: The We Are One union coalition worked with Senate President John Cullerton this year to negotiate an agreement for pension reform. In and of itself, that’s “major,” considering House Speaker Michael Madigan was not willing to do the same.

The bill will likely save the state $26 billion immediately in health care costs. That’s major. Including health care savings, the bill will likely save more than any other plan, $134 billion over 30 years. That’s major.

The bill asks workers who contributed from every paycheck, who don’t receive Social Security, and who did absolutely nothing wrong, to give more. And we agreed to that in service of a solution. That’s major.

And, most importantly, the bill was built on a constitutional framework, so it would not get stuck in the courts and drag the state through costly litigation delaying the solution by years.

As we said in Springfield last week, the pension reform Madigan claims in his plan — which Mr. Martin advocates — would almost certainly be ruled unconstitutional by a court, so its “savings” are as fictional as Squeezy the Python.

If Mr. Martin wants to talk about the “status quo,” let’s talk about how our real piece of reform received bipartisan support and would save the state billions, but never got called for a vote in the House.

We can’t solve this problem alone, and we shouldn’t have to. What’s more — we don’t have to.

Perhaps members of Mr. Martin’s Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago would like to help teachers and nurses get out from losing their nest eggs to politicians’ misdeeds by making a sacrifice as well. There are corporate tax loopholes in Illinois that deprive the state of billions in needed revenue. Closing some of those might just shake up the status quo as much as the unions have.

Dan Montgomery

president, Illinois Federation of Teachers

Who is blind on Israel?

A recent op-ed by a Truman College faculty member chided Israel for “blindness” in pursuing “Peace” [“Israeli ‘blindness’ on peace can’t last,” June 20]. Because the Palestinian leadership refuses to recognize Israel, who does Israel negotiate with? Does she negotiate with Hamas, a terrorist organization, or with the “fractured” Fatah Party, whose President Mahmud Abbas got a Ph.D. from Al-Azzar University in Cairo with a dissertation in Holocaust denial?

Zephaniah Stein, Edgewater

‘Career’ programs hard as 4-year college

To the gentleman from Everest College [“Options for college hopefuls,” June 25]: Unfortunately, many of the “career” programs you speak of have their own issues. They are overcrowded and difficult to get into. Also,they have flooded the market in some fields to the point of saturation. I am going to school to be a radiologist technician. If I am one of the 32 who got into the program (out of over 250). I will have made it due to three perfect semesters. Then I have to wait from March until the fall semester to do the additional 2½-year program. After that, only around 20 percent of graduates will find work. It doesn’t seem any different than a four-year degree to me.

Dave Stroth, Tinley Park

Rev. Jackson wrong on U.S. Constitution

Jesse Jackson’s latest article on race relationship is unacceptable [“On race, Supreme Court is out of touch,” June 25]. He refers to the Supreme Court as being out of touch with the 14th Amendment. Jackson adamantly states that the 14th Amendment protects blacks, Hispanics, gays, lesbians and woman. He ignores white people, men in particular. If Jackson believes the founding fathers meant to discriminate against white men in order to elevate all other groups around them, Jackson is violating the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution. All people should be judged by their individual character and ability, not by their race.

Larry Casey, Forest Glen

All senators should embrace immigration reform

We’re all better for the contributions immigrant families bring to our communities. But these days the system is broken and families are suffering because of it, denied opportunities. To fully contribute and reach their American Dream, 11 million immigrants must have a viable path to citizenship. Many in the Senate have been putting aside partisan politics to work to pass a bill to make this better. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has been out front on this from the start, but as an Illinois voter, I want to see both my senators taking a leading role.

Noah Dobin-Berstein, River West



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