The pension deal that former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley worked out for himself is quite the cause célèbre here. Tribune columnist John Kass comments:
While many taxpayers are worried about bleak retirement futures, Mayor Richard Daley is cashing in on a quiet and outrageous political maneuver from years ago that allows him to collect a fantastic public pension of more than $180,000 a year.
And as your lips tingle, consider this.
As he left office last year, Daley was smooched repeatedly by official Chicago and many in the news media as the city’s benevolent father figure. It was an orgy of public love as the self-avowed champion of taxpayers reminded us that the cost of government was too high for the people to bear.
What we didn’t know then was that Daley was running from the barnyard with meat in his teeth.
He did that pension deal on the sneak, just a couple of years into his mayoralty. Though he’d been out of the Legislature for a decade, he was allowed to quietly re-enter the legislative pension plan for a single month. This cynical maneuver boosted his pension by about $50,000 a year and allowed him to avoid paying $400,000 into the plan, Tribune/WGN-TV investigators found.
If you think people are merely angry, you’re wrong. They’re seething. The cops and the teachers, the firefighters and the city workers, and the taxpayers who bankroll it all — they consider him a hypocrite.
“People are raw with anger, that’s all they’ve been talking about is the Tribune story,” said a lobbyist who’s been working at City Hall for decades. “They’re just raw with it. It’s like the parking meter deal. $180,000 a year pension after all the money the Daleys made? For life? That’s overkill.”
No, it’s looting. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: if I were king the Illinois legislature would not have the power to vote pensions for any elected or appointed Illinois public employee and the Congress would not have the power to vote pensions for any elected or appointed federal employee. The mayor of Chicago’s salary would be capped at three standard deviations above the median Chicago wage and all other Chicago public employees would receive less than the mayor by statute; the governor of Illinois’s salary would be capped at three standard deviations above the median income in the state and wages for all state public employees would be receive less than that by state; the president of the U. S.’s salary would be capped at three standard deviations above the median U. S. wage, etc.
Without his family connections and the political clout that went along with them and not being a graduate of a top law school Richie Daley would have been lucky to have topped out at $50,000 a year as a lawyer. That he should receive $180,000 per year, year in and year out, in a city where the median family income is $38,000 is unconsionable. It’s unsupportable. It is offensive.
Note that I have no objection to the mayor making $1 million a year or more. But it should be by bringing the city along with him in growing wealthy rather than by looting it.
While I’m on the subject, how do people think that Illinois will escape its fiscal mess? Since passing the tax hike last year, the number of people employed in Illinois has dropped sharply. Total incomes are still rising but not as fast as taxes are, cf. here and here. Are more taxes really the answer? Or is the only solution a change in the way the state does business?