Tom Cross, the House Republican leader in the Illinois legislature, filed a bill Wednesday to probe a "charitable interpretation" of state law that granted at least eight Chicago labor officials eligibility for both city pensions and union pensions covering the same work periods. A Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV investigation discovered that some of these union officials await millions of dollars more in retirement due to double and even triple dipping on pensions.
The investigation confirmed that at least seven union officials are accruing retirement benefits in multiple pensions and one retired official is already collecting payments from two pensions, even though the law contains stipulations that "aim" to prevent such practices.
According to the report, one Chicago labor leader is anticipating retirement benefits of nearly $500,000 a year, while another expects to gain $438,000 from three separate pensions — a city laborers fund, union district council fund, and national union fund — all covering the same work period. In total, the 59-year-old union leader, Liberato "Al" Naimoli, is set to reap a whopping $9 million if he lives to his expected lifespan. President of Cement Workers Local 76, Naimoli is raking in almost $160,000 a year from his city pension. After retiring in 2010, he is also now eligible for a pension worth about $60,000 a year from the Laborers’ Pension Fund, and another $220,000 a year from a national union pension fund.
The announcement on Wednesday that the City Council of Pennsylvania’s capital city, Harrisburg, voted to file for bankruptcy was the latest in a long series of federal mandates, bad luck, and poor planning that has plagued the city since the early 1970s. The Harrisburg Resource Recovery Facility, less elegantly referred to as “the incinerator that burns money,” was built in 1972. The estimated cost to build it was $15 million and was sold to the city based on projections that it could burn enough trash to generate sufficient steam to be sold to cover its costs and debt service. But unexpected repairs required additional financings so that by the time the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discovered it was emitting unacceptably high levels of dioxins and shut it down, the city owed $94 million for the facility.
The current Mayor of Harrisburg, Linda Thompson, was on the City Council at the time and remembers that outside consultants had recommended retrofitting the incinerator:
They sold us [on] the fact that this incinerator, once it’s retrofitted, would make enough money to pay the old debt and the new debt…. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
A thousand years from now, when scholars and archeologists in some future civilization want to know what America was like, they could do no better than dig up a stash of Montgomery Ward catalogs, from 1900 to when it was discontinued in 2001. First, they will find depicted thousands of products available to the general public at very moderate prices. They will find that most of these products were made in the U.S.A. They will find a nation with a very high standard of living, continually improving its technology in all fields of endeavor.
The beauty of the catalog is that it will provide the future researcher with a pictorial view of a society and all of the objects it used in its daily life during a specific year of its existence. And behind all these objects were thousands of factories that manufactured all the products Montgomery Ward was selling. The future investigators will not realize from the pictures that the catalogs from 1930 to 1945 depicted a nation during a great economic depression. The only thing that indicates something about the general condition of the economy is the number of pages of each year’s catalog. For example, the 1906 catalog has 1148 pages, while the 1933 catalog has only 494 pages. You can easily trace the condition of the U.S. economy by simply making a graph of the number of pages in each year’s catalog.
The catalogs also show us the continued improvement in the products being offered. One can see the evolution of the washing machine and refrigerator, the cooking stove, and home heater, radios and phonographs, television sets. It shows capitalism at work, constantly making life easier and better. And the process never ends even though the economy goes through its ups and downs.
Now that the Senate has officially and resoundingly defeated President Obama’s jobs bill (The American Jobs Act), the question remains: just how do real jobs grow? Matt Welch, writing in the November issue of Reason magazine, reminds his readers of what doesn’t work: government promotion of ideology. The Solyndra debacle is the most recent but not the only example. In May 2010 the President gushed over the positive impact Solyndra was having in growing jobs in the “green” sector:
Pennsylvania’s Messiah College provoked some fierce controversy when it invited leftist professor Frances Fox Piven to speak during its annual American Democracy Lecture. During Piven’s appearance on Tuesday night, she was greeted cordially by students and faculty alike, but the overwhelming opposition to her message was made clear by pointed questions and well-placed boos.
The college, which is a Christian higher education facility located in Grantham, Pennsylvania, described Piven as a “Distringuished professor of political science and sociology at the graduate school and University Center of the City University of New York.” Piven is well-known for her radicalism and continued push for a nationwide embrace of extreme leftism.
Piven is famous for her 1960s Cloward-Piven Strategy, named after Piven and her husband Richard Andrew Cloward, of “deliberate economic sabotage.” The Cloward-Piven Strategy sought to “hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse.”
Oh happy day! A check from the government! No, not a welfare check or a “stimulus” check, but a refund check to your editor from the U.S. Department of the Treasury — for tax year 2007. Seems the IRS — a division of the Treasury — with which this scribbler has had a running feud, has surrendered. After years of dunning me with claims that I owe thousands in back taxes and penalties, the good folks at the IRS have shown mercy; they have agreed with me that I overpaid my taxes. And they have generously deigned to return several thousand dollars of my meager salary that they had previously confiscated — with interest, no less!
What’s not to love about a government so kind, and munificent? Of course, in order to obtain the refund (of my own money), yours truly was forced to spend a couple hundred hours of indentured servitude researching, copying, and documenting records and receipts. Not to mention hundreds of dollars in accounting fees. Even worse though is the incredible invasion of privacy one faces for the decision to itemize deductions and business expenses, in the hope of retaining a fraction more of one’s hard-earned income. But after all, Big Brother must know of, and approve of, every penny earned and spent by the taxpayer — to keep us all honest, and keep us all paying our “fair share,” so that the government can keep doing all the wonderful things it does for us, right? That’s the “American way,” yes?
A Maryland commission will be offering a recommendation to increase the state’s gas taxes, raise vehicle registration fees, and employ a catalog of new tax hikes to augment roughly $870 million a year in new transportation revenue. Members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding settled on a 15-cents-a-gallon tax hike over three consecutive years, which if approved, would inflate the current 23.5-cents-a-gallon tax to 38.5 cents. Maryland officials plead that the state needs $12 billion to fulfill its transportation needs, and they are predicting a $1 billion shortfall in fiscal 2013.
The commission will make their recommendation to the Democrat-led General Assembly and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) next month. "I think this is a really balanced and reasonable approach," said Gus Bauman, the commission’s chairman. "It gives the governor and the General Assembly something to start debating."
Mr. Bauman said the assembly will make a formal endorsement of the plan at its next meeting in late October. "We all knew this day was going to come, and we’re going to have to make tough decisions," said Bauman, referencing the group’s onerous charge to rescue the state’s exhausted Transportation Trust Fund.
After losing several dramatic battles this year, Wisconsin Democrats and “Big Labor” announced this week that they are getting ready for the next fight: attempting to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker. The two-month petition drive will start on November 15.
Outraged over Walker’s successful campaign to rein in government-sector unions and balance the state budget, big-government activists have been on the warpath for months. And Democrats, whose political campaigns rely heavily on labor-group contributions, do not plan to give up easily.
"It has become clearer than ever that the people of Wisconsin — the traditions and institutions of our great state — cannot endure any more of Scott Walker's abuses," claimed Wisconsin Democratic Party boss Mike Tate in a statement, noting that there was only a month left to “organize, train and fund an army of volunteers.” He also blasted Gov. Walker’s efforts to curtail public servants’ collective-bargaining privileges.
Announcing the decision on MSNBC's The Ed Show, Tate acknowledged that the campaign would be “tough” — especially because Gov. Walker could raise up to $70 million for the battle. But the Democratic Party and its union allies appear confident.
With the announcement that Greece was going to get another bailout in November and that France and Germany were close to a permanent solution to Greece’s financial problems, stock markets around the world leaped for joy, gaining three percent inside the first 15 minutes on Monday morning.
Reality began to settle in, however, when it became apparent that details of the master plan to save the Eurozone were missing or, as the U.K. Telegraph expressed it, “full of rhetoric but devoid of detail.” And the additional bailout of Greece in the amount of $11 billion will barely be enough to keep that country afloat for another month. The “troika” of internationalists (the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank — the EU, the IMF, and the ECB) who have been pressuring Greece to increase its austerity measures in order to “qualify” for the money noted that Greece simply won’t be able to meet its 2011 objectives: Its targets are “no longer within reach” due to “slippages” in the Greek economy, but things ought to be just fine by 2012.
Observers of the Eurozone’s rolling crises have concluded that Greece is insolvent and that default on its nearly $500 billion of sovereign debt is just a matter of time. Inevitable parallels are being drawn to Argentina’s default in December of 2001 on most of its $132 billion sovereign debt, and the question being asked of Greece is, Why delay the inevitable? Why not just admit the reality, declare your solvency, and get on with life? Just like Argentina?
President Obama’s so-called jobs bill may prove to be dead on arrival, prompting Democrats to consider making drastic changes — cutting the bill into its pieces to drive up the chances of piecemeal passages. The proposal was introduced once it became clear that even Democrats are reconsidering their support for the bill, which has thus far failed to attract needed bipartisan support.
The jobs bill is virtually a resurrection of Obama’s $800-billion-plus 2009 stimulus measure as well as a Social Security payroll tax cut that was enacted last year. What separates it from the stimulus, however, is that the jobs bill is said to be financed by a 5.6-percent surcharge on income that exceeds one million dollars.
The legislation, however, has been a hard sell for Democrats, as House Republicans are unlikely to pass it (threatening not to even bring it to the floor for a vote) and those in the Senate can filibuster at will. Obama has launched a campaign-like crusade to stimulate support for the bill. Last week he insisted,
This is not the time for the usual games or political gridlock in Washington. Any senator out there who’s thinking about voting against this jobs bill needs to explain why they would oppose something that we know would improve our economic situation.