Corporatists on the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club launch major attack on teacher and other public worker pensions

Have you seen the latest "Illinois Is Broke" ad? It's staged in a mockup classroom with a phony teacher’s casual pleading: “I want to talk to you about basic math: Illinois is broke. It’s bad news for our state and, if you’re a teacher, it’s bad news for you too. Your pension fund is in big trouble. There’s not enough money to pay benefits to current retirees, much less you when you retire… By 2045, we’ll need almost 50 cents for every dollar collected in the state… Think that’s gonna happen?... It’s basic math; it’s also the truth.”

Who is the Civic Committee?

It is a group that attempts to maintain and improve its membership’s privileges while creating conflict in the public at large by controlling and buying media and by publishing its own website to mold public opinion. The Civic Committee’s tactics include an attempt to convince the shrinking middle class (and now its teachers) that the reason why “Illinois is broke” is the public pension systems in Illinois.

Its tactics incorporate deflecting attention away from their avaricious profiteering and elitism; keeping public employees divided by attacking one group, such as teachers instead of firemen or policemen; diverting class conflict by turning the middle class and its teachers upon themselves through use of such rhetorical devices as faulty rationalizations; intentional misinformation; selected instances; repetition and slogans; causal oversimplifications; non sequitur; and appeals to fear, ignorance, and bias found on its obverse group’s website (Illinois Is Broke). Its schemes include using its own membership to compile reports and analyses disguised as impartial data (Sidley Austin LLP) and intimidating legislators in downstate meetings to make laws in the interests of the wealthy and powerful few.

What is the Civic Committee’s agenda? Government by the rich and powerful or by a duplicitous “not-for-profit organization whose mission is to stimulate and encourage the growth of the area's economy and its ability to provide for its people” is based upon the impoverishment of others; the Civic Committee’s power is purchased. The “current mission” is the wholesale destruction of the entire middle class and the pension systems in Illinois, in particular, the Teachers’ Retirement System.

Who writes the laws by which the Illinois government operates? The Civic Committee. Who will profit from pension reform (to free up the cash flow and increase its profit margin) in Illinois? The Civic Committee. What retirement pension is the Civic Committee continuously attacking? The Teachers’ Retirement System of Illinois. There are no equal rights when there is inequity of wealth and when promises are made to support and to preserve the fortunes of a few at the expense and victimization of the many.

What is Tyrone Fahner’s and the Civic Committee’s plan for Illinois teachers? They plan to address the state’s budget deficit in the interests of big business by destroying the teachers’ defined-benefit pension plan with severe and radical pension reform and maintain control of the economic and political policies of state and municipal governments; they plan to redistribute money away from the public employees’ defined-benefit pension plans and to their private interests and profits by proposing an unsecured, non-guaranteed financial option called a Tier 3 defined-contribution plan (or 401k) and rendering the present defined-benefit plan unaffordable and obsolete.

What does the Civic Committee not tell you? Forty percent of its membership is from the financial sector. The Civic Committee’s membership does not publicize the fact that its partners and associates shift the burden of their tax breaks and other loopholes to the public and that some of the state’s lost revenue is based upon promises that they will create more jobs; even though, their outsourcing of American jobs is disguised as “free trade” and has eliminated hundreds of thousands of jobs and has eroded the tax base of the State of Illinois; moreover, the Civic Committee members do not publicize the fact that they have hidden vast amounts of their corporate money in offshore bank accounts to avoid taxation and, thus, to increase their excessive profiteering – paid for by the rest of us.

Indeed, corporatists are alive and well in Illinois. The history of our State has been one of excessive greed and shameless hypocrisy, of corruption and oppression, of extortion and domination, of exploitation and deception, of selfishness and subjugation, of poverty and unemployment and inequitable taxation, of protection for the wealthy and their powerful interests, of exorbitant wealth for the few and scarcity of wealth for the many, in other words: government of the Committee, by the Committee, and for the Committee.

Besides cleverly disguising its economic terrorism against public employees, the Civic Committee’s manipulation and exploitation of the citizens of Illinois closely rival the history and spirit of conniving, arrogant capitalism evident in this country. The Illinois Is Broke website claims that state employees are getting a “sweet deal,” one that is better than “95 percent” of workers in the private industry. Apparently, members in this powerful and wealthy club are not in that 95 percent.

When Chairman of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago CEO Miles D. White of Abbott Laboratories retires, he will draw from two defined-benefit pensions worth a combined $20 million. This is for a man whose company’s stock fell 11% last year and who announced the layoff of 1,900 employees in January (1,000 of them in Lake County)—a cut that followed with an additional 3,000 layoffs last September. Nonetheless, Miles White believes in “shared sacrifice”: his total compensation declined 8 percent last year—to $18.4 million (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees).

A few of the many wealthy members of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club to take note of are W. James Farrell, retired CEO of Illinois Tool Works, who will receive an annual pension of $1.4 million; John W. Madigan, retired CEO of the Tribune Company, who will receive an annual pension that is more than $220,000, and Richard L. Thomas, a retired bank executive, who will receive an annual pension that is more than $600,000. (R. Eden Martin makes more than $330,000 in compensation from two companies where he sits on the board—and that's in the addition to the retirement benefits he receives from the law firm, Sidley Austin LLP, where he once worked). Sidley Austin LLP attacked the TRS pension clause last year, claiming that it is “constitutional” to amend Article XIII, section 5 of the Constitution of the State of Illinois. For such a self-proclaimed “champion of accountability and transparency,” the firm's retirement benefit information is not publicly available (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees).

Some of the few wealthy and influential members of the Civic Committee include:

TYRONE C. FAHNER, President, Civic Committee of The Commercial Club of Chicago; GREG Q. BROWN Chairman & Chief Executive Officer - Motorola Solutions; THOMAS A. COLE Chairman, Executive Committee - Sidley Austin LLP; ELLEN COSTELLO, CEO and US Countryhead - BMO Harris Bank; MARY N. DILLON, President and Chief Executive Officer - U.S. Cellular; CHARLES L. EVANS, President and Chief Executive Officer - Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago; HERBERT W. KRUEGER, Chairman - Mayer Brown LLP; PAUL V. LA SCHIAZZA, President - AT&T Illinois; EDWARD M. LIDDY, Retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer - The Allstate Corporation; TIMOTHY P. MALONEY, Illinois President - Bank of America; ANDREW J. MCKENNA, Chairman - Schwarz Supply Source Chairman - McDonald's Corporation; W. JAMES MCNERNEY, JR. Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer - The Boeing Company; JAMES S. METCALF, President and Chief Executive Officer - USG Corporation; DAVID W. NELMS, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer - Discover Financial Services; DONALD S. PERKINS, Retired Chairman - Jewel Companies, Inc.; THOMAS J. PRITZKER Chairman - Hyatt Hotels Corporation; IRENE B. ROSENFELD, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer - Kraft Foods Inc.; GORDON I. SEGAL, Chairman - Crate & Barrel; JAMES A. SKINNER, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer - McDonald's Corporation; RUSS M. STROBEL, Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer - Nicor Inc.; GLENN TILTON, Chairman of the Midwest Region - JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chairman of the Board - United Continental Holdings, Inc.; GREGORY D. WASSON, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer - Walgreen Co.; THOMAS J. WILSON Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer -The Allstate Corporation; ROBERT J. ZIMMER, President - University of Chicago; MICHAEL J. HOGAN, President - University of Illinois; MORTON O. SCHAPIRO, President - Northwestern University; HON. RAHM EMANUEL, Mayor - City of Chicago…

“Does this seem fair to you? If not, please contact your elected officials and tell them [that this state’s resources are intrinsically bound up with the Civic Committee’s corporate interests and that legislators who will not truly represent their constituents and who are subservient to the business interests of the wealthy few will be voted out of office next election]!”

[Editor's Note. Substance requested that we publish this article as a Substance article after Mr. Brown sent it to us as a comment. Here are some more facts. Glen Brown is also a blogger:

He and a colleague, John Dillon, and I created a website called "Pension Education."

He is a teacher, political activist, poet and musician… He taught at Lyons Township High School for 25 of his 35 years as a full-time English, philosophy and creative writing teacher. He also worked at the College of Du Page as a part-time composition instructor for 31 years. He currently teach at Benedictine University as a part-time literature, humanities and composition instructor. He writes that he is passionate about searching for truth and living a life based on reason, logic, critical thinking, compassion, empathy, integrity, social and political justice, responsibility, mutual respect and life-long learning.]


October 7, 2011 at 3:59 PM

By: Ken Previti

Corporate Raiders and other thieves

The sheer frustration of not being able to get the truth out about multinational corporate so-called "education reform" is indeed frustrating. When the names of people and the financial alignnments that support them are seen and understood, the propaganda purposes they serve are evident. Pension raiders are thieves. The redirection of education for children has become big money theft and pillage victimizing children, teachers, schools and America's future.

Glen's remarks are focused and meaningful. Please pass the article on via e-mail, blogs, Twitter and Facebook.

We pass along information to our neighbors if we know there is a dangerous thief in the neighborhood. Please pass this along.

October 12, 2011 at 7:43 AM

By: John Dillon

Civic Committee

The corporatists and financial insiders on the local levels are trying to access the billions of dollars in public union funds like TRS, etc. - something attempted on a national level with George W. Bush's design on social security in the waning years of his disastrous presidency.

And the leaders in this movement in Illinois are, make no mistake about it, long-time players in the political arena. Mr. Fahner was a close friend and political appointee of ex-governor James Thompson and Jim Edgar. This is how politics works in Illinois; it takes leverage and connections.

The economic idiocy of the Civic Committee's and Mr. Fahner's push to move public employees into a defined contribution will not only result in the end of the pension funds, it will require Illinois' increased payments to fill the voids in Tier One. And, in the end, the state of Illinois would still owe the unfunded liability for the billions that it (and James Thompson, etc.) never paid into the funds.

These are examples of the corporately selfish thinking masquerading as new, noble ideas in today's pathetic political arena. These are just one more sample of the types of people who should be left to trade their Porsches, not be given access to the hard-earned dollars of teachers, firefighters, judges, policemen and civil servants.

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