The list of public pension fund abusers in Illinois is long, but, if anyone wants an introduction then all they need to do is start at the Chicago Tribune Watchdog area of their website. Stories regarding Tim Baldermann of Chicago Heights and Roy McCampbell of Bellwood are just a small sampling of a nasty secret regarding public pensions that Illinois taxpayers are ultimately responsible for. Pension-padding, double and triple-dipping and good old fashioned conflicts of interest abound and it appears to be occurring in nearly every government entity, township and/or municipality. Simply put, the State of Illinois is infested with pension abusers and is protected by the Illinois Legislature. As I have said before, the majority of our politicians don't give a hoot about the people, they are in this game for other reasons. Public service used to be honorable endeavor, but our elected officials have diminished that ideal to worthlessness.
As everyone is aware, Illinois is drowning in debt primarily due to its public pensions. Satisfying our under-funded pension fund obligations now means that other vital services and essential funding have fallen by the wayside. Our, less than honorable, State Legislature and "in-the-bag" governor have made it a point to not address pension abuses and would rather attempt to cover-up their complicity by raising taxes and fees at every opportunity. The problem, however, is that those tax and fee increases do nothing in terms of making those pension funds solvent. Hell, they don't even pay the interest.
And even though there are many honest state workers paying into one of the five public pension funds, they themselves are being lumped into the same pile as those abusing the system. Sadly, not only are they sharing the blame, they will also get screwed when it is their turn to retire. Never the less, given the widespread nature of the abuse, the time has come to fully investigate the entire pension system and validity of the benefits being paid out.
In order to spare the honest workers, I would begin with a federal oversight panel immediately suspending all public pensions that involve payment from multiple funds. All recipients that are known to be double-dipping, triple-dipping or more, must be investigated first as to the validity of their pension benefits. And that means the entire trail of contributions, including those late career bumps and/or pension boosting position manipulations (title changes, bonuses, newly created positions, etc.). After those individuals have had their pensions scrutinized their accounts need to be combined and converted into a new single fund account. Any and all redundant benefits, like multiple health insurances (as we found out about with the Metra Board Treasurer) need to be trimmed down to one plan. The law needs to be amended so that health insurance must include a fair contribution amount to offset spiraling health care costs.
Any legislators that refuse to go along with changing the law for a comprehensive, and retroactive, pension reform policy needs to be targeted for defeat. Double and triple-dipping is not a benefit that should be protected by law and anyone saying that the law can't be changed, hasn't been paying attention to Wisconsin or other state's actions.
It is essential that a government workers pension account must be limited to one lifetime account (like Social Security is for non government workers). I would also hope that there are some savvy lawyers out there that can get this issue raised and into the courts as a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the Illinois Taxpayer as soon as possible.
Is there a friend of the court out there?
Illinois Taxpayers have been duped by legislators, who have passed legislation to protect this sort of thing, and if anything were to smell unconstitutional, well, that would be it. I believe that Illinoisans have been unfairly taxed without fair representation. Matter of fact, what the Illinois Legislature has done over the decades, sounds down right criminal to me.
So is anyone ready for a fight on multiple fronts? The targeting of uncooperative elected officials and/or judges at the ballot box is just one remedy. I am also sure that law schools, which have now been freed-up from defending those on our vacant death row, have the time to defend the taxpayers of Illinois. Last, but not least, Illinoisans need the Federal Authorities to begin looking into the pension abuse issues.
As smart as our politicians think they are, I am sure that they haven't thought of everything. I would almost bet that RICO violations could be found by a sharp federal prosecutor. Pension investments, after all involve interstate business transactions. Besides, wasn't that part of the Joe Cari plea deal that implicated Stuart Levine, Antoin "Tony" Rezko and former governor Rod Blagojevich with the TSR Pension Fund Scheme?
Although I still don't fully understand the terms of that plea deal, given Joe Cari's prior business associations with Stuart Levine and Steve Loren which predate the TSR indictment, hopefully that will come out in its entirety during the retrial of Rod Blagojevich.
Even though Federal Prosecutors have indicted several people associated with the Rod Blagojevich Administration, the sad reality is that it hasn't done one thing to slow down the political corruption that is so common in Illinois. Corruption is a multi-headed monster and our public pension funds is but one place rife with it.
It is, however, the single most important area where we need to stop snarky politicians from double and triple-dipping a system, which has so much impact on the Illinois State Budget. Public pensions are the greatest burden on the backs of Illinois Taxpayers right now.
And that is something that has to stop right now!