It pains to watch the virulent attacks on public employees like myself. Primary targets are the pension systems that support police, firefighters, nurses and teachers in their retirement. In Illinois, this debate now endangers my own family. Please consider the following:
- Public sector employees are not covered by Social Security. Nor are we covered by employer 401K programs. The individuals who choose to serve our communities rely on public pensions for retirement security.
- I have never missed a payment on my pension plan. 9.4 percent of my salary is removed from my paycheck by the Illinois Teacher Retirement System. I have no matching dollars to boost my retirement savings. I have no discretion in the investment of my retirement savings. I follow the law and expect my state to do the same.
- The Illinois crisis, like those in other states, has resulted from the fiscal mismanagement of public dollars. Over the past 20 years, the Illinois legislature has not honored its pension obligations. Those obligations total less per person than a private employer must contribute to Social Security on an annual basis. Rather, the Illinois legislature spent those dollars to create a disgraceful example of political stagnation.
My pension rights are guaranteed by the Illinois Constitution. However, that Constitution is overseen by a body that has proven to be self-serving and deceitful. Legislation is pending in our state capital to drastically cut public employee pension programs. Those same individuals sworn to uphold and enforce our Constitution now maneuver to escape their financial responsibility by stripping public employees of their retirement security.
I ask you to contact your own elected leaders on behalf of the men and women who work to make stronger communities. Our political debate has swung too far; attacking committed citizens as economic drains is foolish, hateful and just plain wrong.
If you are a citizen of Illinois, please use the following link to contact your state legislators and express your opposition to Senate Bill 512 now moving through committee.
We must ask how dismantling private sector pension plans over the past two decades has served our nation. Yes, corporations buckled under the strain of their promises to employees. And yes, fiscal irresponsibility endangers public budgets at all levels of government. But what is the real cost of retirement insecurity for our citizenry?
I appreciate your recognition that teachers matter. I know you realize that first responders are critical. And I hope that you believe, as I do, that garbage men deserve to have promises they have paid for kept by their elected leaders. Public employees build the communities that we call home; honor their work by adding your voice to the debate.
Please stand up for that single teacher you remember most. Attacking the individual who paid their way is silly. Instead we must demand that bad managers accept the responsibility of their commitments.
Thank you for reading to this point. I hope that you seize this opportunity to create a world you are proud to pass on to your children. I truly appreciate your reflection, your personal support and your engagement with other thinking adults, Neil