The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Illinois:
Attack on Public Workers’ Pensions

Jun 10, 2013

Both the Illinois Assembly and the Senate have voted for cuts to retired workers’ benefits. The bills differ in the way they cut pensions and retiree health, but whatever version passes would significantly worsen retirees’ income.

The politicians say that the pension funds for teachers, city and state workers are many tens of billions of dollars short of what’s needed to pay future pensions. Yes, the pension funds are underfunded – because the state legislature didn’t pay 28 billion dollars it was obligated to pay between 1996 and 2011. In effect, it borrowed from the fund to spend the money for other purposes.

While refusing to meet its pension obligations, the state gave big bucks to business. Each year there are 1.5 billion dollars in so-called corporate tax expenditures, that is, tax breaks for business. For example, the Commodities Mercantile Exchange, which runs trading and speculation in Chicago, had an 85 million dollar reduction in its taxes despite making a 951 million dollar profit. And the state allowed Caterpillar, with 900 million dollars in profits, to pay no corporate income tax.

There is no reason why any public workers’ pension or retiree health plan should be cut. Let the state get back from big business all the money it has taken from the pension funds.

But workers can’t pin their hopes on the Democrats to do that. After all, both houses of the Illinois legislature are controlled by Democrats, elected by the efforts of unions and many workers. They were the ones who engineered this attack.