On Monday, I told you about Illinois Is Broke, a website devoted to the cause of cutting state employees’ pensions. It’s produced by the Commercial Club of Chicago, which has a history of anti-union activity going to all the way back to the days robber baron George Pullman.
Now, I’ve learned that Illinois Is Broke is connected to another anti-labor group, Americans For Prosperity. Americans For Prosperity was founded by the Koch brothers, the billionaire industrialists who donated to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign, and lobbied for his bill to strip public-employee unions of collective bargaining rights.
Walker is so closely allied with the brothers that he held a 20-minute conversation with a caller who identified himself as David Koch. It was actually a prank call from a reporter for an alternative newspaper, the Buffalo Beast.
Fix Illinois Pensions Now, a website sponsored by Americans For Prosperity, features a link to a multi-media presentation on Illinois Is Broke. The rhetoric on the two sites is nearly identical, attempting to portray state employees as pampered leeches enjoying benefits unavailable to workers in private industry:
Generous pension benefits that the state cannot afford are at the root of this problem. While the state took a step in the right direction last year by reforming benefits for NEW government workers, CURRENT government workers continue to participate in the state’s traditional and costly plans.
They can retire at age 55 or 60 and receive generous cost-of-living adjustments each year. These lifetime benefits can be worth more than $1 MILLION for a full-career employee who retires at 55 or 60. They are completely out-of-line with the benefits offered to taxpayers working in the private sector.
Yet the 95% of Illinois taxpayers who do not receive such generous benefits will pay higher taxes to pay for the 5% of State residents who do.
Not mentioned: the Illinois Constitution prohibits reducing the benefits of current employees. Although perhaps the Koch brothers are laying the groundwork for a referendum that will do for Springfield what Walker did for Madison.
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