1.12.15

one, two, three...

NYTimes has it:
The richest man in Illinois does not often give speeches. But on a warm spring day two years ago, Kenneth C. Griffin, the billionaire founder of one of the world’s largest hedge funds, rose before a black-tie dinner of the Economic Club of Chicago to deliver an urgent plea to the city’s elite.

They had stood silently, Mr. Griffin told them, as politicians spent too much and drove businesses and jobs from the state. They had refused to help those who would take on the reigning powers in the Illinois Capitol. “It is time for us to do something,” he implored.

Their response came quickly. In the months since, Mr. Griffin and a small group of rich supporters — not just from Chicago, but also from New York City and Los Angeles, southern Florida and Texas — have poured tens of millions of dollars into the state, a concentration of political money without precedent in Illinois history.

Their wealth has forcefully shifted the state’s balance of power. Last year, the families helped elect as governor Bruce Rauner, a Griffin friend and former private equity executive from the Chicago suburbs, who estimates his own fortune at more than $500 million. Now they are rallying behind Mr. Rauner’s agenda: to cut spending and overhaul the state’s pension system, impose term limits and weaken public employee unions.

Now NYTimes readers:

Matt Kampf Albany
It's about time to grab the pitchforks and torches if you're not part if the ├╝ber wealthy class in this country. How many more times do we have to read stories in this vein before we, as a body politic, wake up to the fact that we are silently witnessing the dawn of a new Guilded Era?
The problem this time around though, is that business and government are colluding in the steps, with precious few politicians willing to stand up to the monied interests blatantly rugging the process.

BJK Fargo
I was an Illinois state worker - not a member of a union - who retired 2 years ago. I played by the rules, contributing 7% of my income for many years to the state government so that I could get a pension. I played by all the rules. I trusted the government to invest my money, knowing that by working for the State of Illinois **I would not be entitled to any social security.** The pension is what tens of thousands like me have to live on in retirement. The state reneged on their billions of dollars in matching contributions for years and years. THAT is what put the pension system in debt. Not those of us who were not allowed to renege. We did our part. It's now the top of the 9th inning, and now the state wants to change the rules of the game. This one's on the politicians, not the workers.


Matthew Carnicelli is a trusted commenter Brooklyn, New York
First off, we need 100% public financing all elections - and we need it now.
Secondly, the people of Illinois need to understand that some "change" is not welcome change. The Rauners of the world want to make every worker, blue or white collar, a de facto serf, just like they are in many emerging markets. That's their idea of restoring "competitiveness".
What we instead need to do is lose the middlemen in the system, who are merely siphoning-off American wealth, while providing little-to-no value - like the health insurance industry - and then, in collaboration with our natural allies in Europe and Japan, construct a new trading system that would harshly penalize any company seeking to exploit low wage emerging market workers.
Make no mistake: this race to the bottom that the Rauners and Griffins support is a race toward oligarchy and tyranny, not to mention second- or third-world status. It is not a race towards either authentic liberty or democracy.


Socrates Downtown Verona, NJ
"Governor Bruce Rauner....a former private equity executive from the Chicago suburbs...estimates his own fortune at more than $500 million"

"Mr. Rauner had told a candidate forum he was “adamantly, adamantly against raising” the minimum wage."

That is just plain sociopathy.

But wait...there's more sociopathy !

"Where merely affluent Americans are more likely to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, the ultrawealthy overwhelmingly leaned right"

"Where the general public overwhelmingly supports a high minimum wage, the one percent are broadly opposed."

"Those canvassed in the 'Survey of Economically Successful Americans and the Common Good' were granted anonymity to discuss their views candidly".....presumably to hide their sociopathy and shame.

This is pure Greed Over People.

These are the same sociopaths who brought you 350:1 CEO:worker pay ratios and eliminated pensions, raises, employee benefits, outsourced the nation's jobs and who refuse to provide America with single-payer healthcare.

If the rich can't buy the federal government, then gosh darnit, they'll just have to buy it one municipality and state at a time.

This is modern feudalism and it is the Republican Party platform, with minimal and token resistance from the left.

Time for another American Revolution.


Nick Metrowsky is a trusted commenter Longmont, Colorado
This is a telling story of how the United State of America rapid slide into oligarchy. Politicians effectively being appointed by the wealthy for their bidding. And, appointing wealthy politicians to consolidate the wealth.

Many say politics are local, and now we see that politicians from the White House down to one's councilman are all being elected and controller by an ever more entrenched oligarchy.

Their goals? No taxes, no regulation, no safety net, no wage hours laws, no worker safety, no environmental safety, low wages, no unions; a complete return to the early days of the industrial revolution.

For an idea, just read Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" to get an idea of pre worker rights America. Or, even Charles Dickens would be useful here; like "Oliver Twist", "David Copperfield" or "A Christmas Carol".

In the end, if this trend continues, America will be a nation of two classes, one of vast wealth and one of constant struggle.

The US Supreme Court with its 2010 Citizen United Decision hastened this decline by allowance of a flood of wealth into political campaigns. By the middle part of this century, this nation, if this trend continues, will be that of hopelessness. And the "American Dream" will be unachievable for most.

Finally, what is described in this article, though unethical, immoral, disgraceful, detestable, demeaning, disreputable, etc.; it is perfectly legal.


David Henry Walden
They want only to cut their own taxes at everyone else's expense. The mystery is why people vote against their interests.


jim chicago
The article describes appalling governance in Illinois, but comments here are also quite emotional and flaccid. During the federal tenure
of the Cheney Bush administration, about ten trillion in debt was added to
fund the US military activities in Iraq and elsewhere. In Illinois, hundreds of
factories relocated production to China and 3rd-world destinations to minimize costs and maximize profit- without regard to destruction of local economies and thus State revenues. Most State retirement plans were of
sound fiscal design and were properly funded by the employees, but Illinos'
State legislature chose not to supplement those funds as committed by
contractual agreement with the Social Security Administration to provide
"equal or better" retirement benefits than offered by federal law. Illinois'
state university system was defunded massively as pressure mounted with
dwindling tax income streams to cover expenditures of all kinds. (See the
U of I town hall meeting Monday 4pm e.s.t. about this fiscal crisis: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/uic-meetings-and-conferences ) Without
a growing economy, not only Illinois but most of the industrial
states suffered during that dark decade of Republican-lead, Democratic-supported insanity- and now we citizens must pay the price.
Illinois is proof that the world has gone global- international banks and
businesses are agnostic to individual well-being. Just ask Pope Francis, or
Piketty, or Sanders. It's a rich man's game.


WR Midtown
One take-away from this article is that, the super wealthy are what we always believed - just plain greedy miserable bad people, whose only pleasure in life seems to come from repressing freedom with their ill-gotten gains. Fortunately, very very few Americans actually trust the rich.

C. Morris Idaho
Never thought I would say this, but American voters seem not to care.
Apathy, indifference, and ignorance are the winners on election day.
The fruits of 35 years of dumbing down are coming in.


David Keller Petaluma CA
The perversion of democracy continues.

Power to the Money!

Stealing our government, buying politicians, creating a steep uphill battle for workers who actually produce the wealth of corporations, creating a permanent ruling class, keeping millions of people from voting. Enough!

It's no wonder that Bernie, Paul Krugman, Robert Reich and millions of other people recognize the imbalance, the immorality, the un-American trends in US politics, and enjoy strong support for that.

When our government is so far out of balance and out of touch with the people, it will fall. No, that's not some Commie theory - it's embedded in the ancient writings of the I Ching.


Not So Simple Chicago
Public employees across the board in Illinois are prospering in a way that is not happening in the private sector. In 2012, teachers went on strike at Lake Forest High School with salaries at that time averaging $112,000 per year, according to the Illinois Review. And just this month, the Chicago Sun Times revealed that $86,000 was the median pay for all Chicago city workers in 2014.
At the same time, private employment in manufacturing in Illinois has been devastated. Take the town of Galesburg. According to the September 16, 2014 Atlantic Monthly article, in the early 1970's the Maytag factories employed nearly 5,000 workers. Today, that site of "over 40 football fields .... is now mostly rubble and weeds". Trade globalization has contributed to this, and the federal government has allowed company mergers which have reduced competition and employment.
And, there are other costs. The Illinois Policy Institute reports that "Illinois’ workers’ compensation system crushes blue-collar industries, forcing them to leave the state to stay in business".
The democrats have been in charge of the state budget for many years, and that budget is today in shambles. As a middle class worker residing in Chicago and struggling to pay bills each month, I strongly support efforts made by Governor Rauner to reduce costs, and to improve the state's competitive advantage for private business.


Marla Geneva, IL
Governor Rauner won the 2014 election with 1,781,052 votes (50.8%) to then Governor Quinn with 1,6091,512 votes (45.9%). It is not a landslide and not really a mandate.

Illinois is in bad shape, in large part because the level of income tax (at one point as low as 2%) was never enough to pay for the goods and services people wanted. It was Gov. Richard Olgivie who introduced a state income tax during his term from 1969-1973. He was not re-elected. State officials saw the unpopularity of the income tax and avoided increasing it. The money that should have gone to pay the pensions was deferred.

It does seem that nearly 35 years after St. Ronald of Reagan took office and introduced trickle down economics, that all levels of government are starved of the revenue needed to provide services to their citizens.

I would dearly love to see the New York Times do a story of how Sam Zell bought the Chicago Tribune in the deal that bankrupted the paper from day one of his ownership.


Mo Chicago
So interesting that very few of the commenters on this article live in Illinois. We do need change here, but not the change that Mr. Rauner wants to bring, which is designed to drive down wages and guarantee more money to the very few at the top. Both republicans and democrats have brought Illinois to this point of fiscal disaster (we have had republican governors for 17 of the last 30 years); to blame all of the state's problems on unions is just plain wrong.


Joe Bob the III MN
Is it too crass to suggest we need better voters? Candidates like Rauner are not ciphers. In the course of the campaign it's easy to figure out what people stand for.

If in the course of eight weeks a politician goes from winning a majority of the vote to a 36% approval rating, I see two possibilities: 1) People didn't know what they were voting for in the first place. 2) People who oppose Rauner's policies didn't bother to vote in the election.


David San Francisco, Calif.
Ken Griffin has bribed enough politicians to ensure he pays a lower tax rate than anyone in the middle class pays through carried interest treatment on his $100 million a month compensation.

Griffin thinks providing a minimum pension to senior citizens who have paid taxes for Social Security over decades is excessive, while Griffin spent over $200 million for an apartment in New York and $80 million on a single painting.

The 158 families that have provided half the money to fund presidential campaigns have Republican appointees to the Supreme Court to thank for legalizing bribery.

As with any bribe, these families will ensure their economic interests are met.

The richest 80 people in the world own as much as the bottom 3.5 billion people.

It is just astounding to me that Republicans could find 5 Supreme Court jurists so unethical and corrupt to equate free speech with unlimited money in politics.

Jesus Christ said it is easier for a camel to fit through the head of a needle than for a rich man to gain entry to the Kingdom of Heaven.

People like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have undoubtedly done enough good in the world to ride a camel through the head of a pin.

But for those rich people who spend their money living in excess and buying politicians to steal money from seniors, they will find their accommodations very different when they pass from this world.

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