I Was Wrong

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Elect2Care

Last week my post called people who back Donald Trump nasty names. I promised myself long before I wouldn’t do that, but I did and I apologize. I’m certain Trump voters include people I love and will continue to love.

But perhaps you’ll hear me out in these next few paragraphs.

People who choose public service as a career, like politicians, teachers, police and firefighters wake up every morning with a commitment to do something important and meaningful for other people. They are hard jobs that help others and don’t provide great wealth, but they have chosen these jobs because something inside of them compels them to this kind of calling.

Typically, those who run for President of the United States typically have spent decades in public service. We may not agree with their efforts, but they prove their commitment every day by trying to achieve something valuable for a child…

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Serious Trump Supporter?—Then Own It All

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Elect2Care

A New York Times headline today says, “Some Donald Trump Voters Warn of Revolution if Hillary Clinton Wins.” You can find it here: http://nyti.ms/2dO9GIY.

Threats of riots, violence—the typical Trump rally activity but conducted nationwide—is apparently what that means. So, along with being really poor losers, can you at least have the courage to admit you’re one or all of the following:

  • racist
  • misogynist
  • bigot
  • intolerant
  • un-American

The last one might be tough to swallow, but in every election there’s a winner and a loser and that’s the American way. We choose and if we lose, we compromise. Unless you’re one of the new GOP crew, those with the tolerance of a gnat who think only white men belong not only in power but our only country’s only citizens. White women are, of course, acceptable for reasons Trump has said aloud and I find too disgusting to repeat.

Trying to make Hillary’s…

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Leave Wells Fargo Bank…now!

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For years, Wells Fargo Bank has knowingly ripped off its customershakedown-1340048_1280s. The NY Times has done an awesome job of covering the crime. Those who have paid for their wrongdoing and those who haven’t are demonstrations of Democracy At Work—ha! It’s
time to end the insanity. If you’ve got an account at Wells Fargo, pull it. Who cares if it’s $100. It adds up if we all do it, consumers stop putting up with the absurdity and our messages are heard. That’s how this whole democracy thing got started.

On October 12 Michael Corkery provided this great timeline:

ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL

For years, Wells Fargo set up sham accounts without customers’ consent.

NY Times article on Wells Fargo insanity.

But things really don’t change unless consumers change. Get mad. Do something. What the Financial and Banking industries are getting away with are beyond criminal. The least we can do is stop working with them.

Why we CANNOT re-elect the same governor and mayor in IL

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CPS Teachers Asked to Take 7% Pay Cut—Bound to attract the Finest

First, here’s a 2016 Chicago Public School Library:

 The unused library at Paderewski Elementary. CPS has 160 librarians for 661 schools, according to the Chicago Teachers Union.

The unused library at Paderewski Elementary. CPS has 160 librarians for 661 schools, according to the Chicago Teachers Union. DNAinfo/Chloe Riley

CHICAGO — Leaders of a national organization of librarians are bemoaning cuts in Chicago schools that they say “makes it impossible for CPS to achieve its mission of preparing all students for success.”There are 218 librarians in 178 CPS schools, meaning 36 percent of schools have dedicated librarians,” according to Emily Bittner, CPS spokeswoman….I mean, really, why would reading or access to reading material be a priority to a HUGE public school system? (Question added by me.)

 

On top of that

For many who don’t understand the history of the great Chicago Public School teacher rip-off, here’s an excellent article written by Will Caskey. It is a six-minute read, worth every second. PLEASE take six minutes and process how insignificant our children’s education’s are to the powers-that-be in Chicago politics and understand why they MUST be voted into oblivion.

The Truth About the CPS Pension Fight

To understand why the Chicago Teachers Union is threatening to strike — and why Mayor Rahm Emanuel is lecturing them — you need to go back three decades in time.

But let’s start with the 2015–16 school year. Chicago Public Schools were definitely broke. They issued a budget with a mystery $500 million dollar hole. They borrowed and borrowed, to the point that CPS now is maxed out on the public debt market and is forced to issue private debt at exorbitant rates. CPS publicly mused that they might not make their pension deposits. They threatened to cut teacher pay and even to randomly fire teachers.

It was grim. But then Illinois state government came through for CPS, sort of. The Legislature passed a law allowing the school district to raise property taxes by $250 million for pension payments. They also said CPS could keep receiving $70 million in state funds even though fewer students are attending, and that CPS might get another $200 million if the Legislature passes a pension reform bill that meets Gov. Bruce Rauner’s approval.

This level of state funding leaves CPS functional — almost. In order to fill the remaining $200 million hole in the budget though, Mayor Emanuel wants to cut something called the pension pickup.

Basically, The pension pickup is a mechanism by which CPS pays for the employee side of pension contributions, to the tune of 7% of teachers’ salaries. It’s as if your employer started making your entire 401(k) contribution instead of merely matching a percentage of yours. It’s a pretty good deal.

Mayor Emanuel says that eliminating the pension pick-up will make Chicago Teachers Union “part of the solution.” CTU is so infuriated that they are threatening to strike.

And this is where we have to back into history.

Once upon a time, CPS ran out of money, and the Republican governor of Illinois and mayor of Chicago couldn’t agree on how to fix it, and CTU was really mad about it.

Sound familiar? It was in 1979. CPS ran out of money. Then-Gov. Jim Thompson and then-Mayor Jane Byrne blamed each other for the crisis and rejected each other’s plans to fix it.

Then CPS LITERALLY ran out of money and stopped issuing paychecks.

When the dust settled, CPS was placed into financial receivership by a State-created board. Teachers were understandably enraged that there was now no guarantee that they would receive their next paychecks. They also understandably wanted back pay for the time during which they all turned into interns.

To placate angry teachers, it was decided that CPS would make teachers’ pension contributions — in effect, granting teachers a 7% pay hike while buying CPS some extra time to figure out how to fill up the resulting hole in the pension system. Thus, the pension pickup was born.

This was a new twist on a familiar strategy: Chicago and Illinois governments have a long history of awarding future pension benefits instead of pay raises in the present, on the logic that actual pay raises mean spending money right now, while pension increases put off spending money to the indeterminate future.

That was, in technical terms, a truly terrible idea.

Because 7% of $14,459 (a starting teacher’s salary in 1980) didn’t sound like all that much to make up. But over the years, that teacher received annual raises — and probably a few more increases as well, for earning a master’s degree or taking on coaching duties. So by the time that teacher hit retirement, in 2014, the base pay was about $71,000. From then on, the teacher receives 3% annual cost of living adjustments based on salary at retirement.

So here’s the math problem that CPS apparently couldn’t-or wouldn’t-understand in 1979. The pension pick-up for that starting teacher was worth about $1,000 a year, give or take. But by retirement, the value of the pick-up had grown to $5,000 annually. And the 3% cost of living increase (COLA) means that, in 20 years, (through the magic of compounding) the pension pickup will end up costing the pension systems an additional $9,000 — per year, per retiree.

If you want to math it out, that’s $180,000 over an average retirement. It’s a pretty sweet compensation for a paycheck scare during the Carter Administration.

So it makes sense for Mayor Emanuel to ask teachers to start picking up that 7% again. Right?

Well, the problem is that we’re now asking today’s starting teachers to take a 7% pay cut — and keep in mind, the value of that 7% will increase year-by-year over the course of that teacher’s career. A teacher with a bachelor’s degree will lose about $150,000 over his/her career when you factor in contractual raises over thirty years. Teachers with advanced degrees will lose even more.

So Mayor Emanuel is asking today’s novice teachers to accept a pay cut that will accumulate to more than the cost of a bachelor’s degree at a top private school. That’s a gut punch to 20-somethings who are already worried about when, if ever, they will pay off their college loans.

Ah, but Mayor Emanuel says everyone else is chipping in for this, so teachers should as well:

“Chicago taxpayers have stepped up to be part of the solution. The State of Illinois, for the first time, has stepped up to be part of the solution. The [CPS] central bureaucracy, in the sense of the fat, has stepped up to be part of the solution. And I think the teachers should be part of the solution in not only stabilizing their finances, but strengthening our classrooms.”

HAVE Chicago taxpayers stepped up? Official numbers will come out with the Cook County Clerk’s office next year, but a decent estimate of the $250 million property tax increase comes to an additional $284 a year from the average residential property in Chicago. For kicks, let’s assume that the value of that average property will double in that time. So by 2046, the average homeowner will be kicking in an additional $575 a year. That’s about ONE-SIXTH of the amount that a novice teacher will lose THIS YEAR.

It’s true that the original pickup decision was a panicked, thoughtless attempt to triage an insolvent school district. And some people may believe that teachers should simply be paid less.

But there is no rational reason to say that CPS teachers taking a massive pay cut that will add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of their careers makes them part of a fair and equitable solution to the CPS budget disaster.

The solution with minimal impact is pretty simple: raise property taxes more. The Chicago City Council can raise taxes and transfer the funds to CPS; in fact, they already did so for additional school construction funds last year. Raising taxes by another $284 per year for everyone is not pleasant, but it is far less severe than a 7% pay cut for teachers. Seven percent of the median household income in Chicago is $3,300, over five times the size of that total potential property tax increase.

Of course, property taxes have been a third rail in Chicago. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley spent his entire tenure assuring everyone that property taxes would never ever go up. So an entire generation of Chicagoans grew up thinking a property tax increase is an unthinkable, apocalyptic event. This is patently false: even after the City Council’s historic property tax increase last year, Chicago’s effective property tax rate is still below the median in Cook County.

Many people will read this and conclude that Chicago cannot handle another property tax increase. And Chicago politicians are going to listen: Property owners disproportionately vote in municipal elections and Democratic primaries, so they have a lot more influence, even if it isn’t based on facts.

But eliminating the pension pickup won’t make CPS teachers part of the solution.

It will make them pay for prolonging the problem.

Are College Campuses Relevant If They’re Censured?

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In Meghan Daum’s recent Los Angeles Times column, she discusses the brouhaha over the University of Chicago’s announcement last week that it would not support “trigger warnings,” signals that a sensitive topic is about to be addressed.

Apparently the American college campus, though probably more progressive and demographically inclusive than at any time in history, is really a bulwark of sexism, transphobia, post-colonial bigotry and just about any other social injustice you can think of.

university-105709_1280And that’s frightening. After all, isn’t the very essence of higher learning the pursuit of
open-minded, civil debate? Isn’t it the role of professors at these institutions to help mold our high-school brains into learning how to look at issues objectively, showing us the value of being willing to at least listen to different ideas if not provide the tools that allow us to discuss dissension rationally?

The idea that trigger warnings ever existed is more troubling to many of us, and Meghan’s column nails the issues. It’s worth the read: When it comes to campus groupthink, trigger warnings aren’t the half of it.

 

 

George Bush Was Right!?!

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When our 43rd president spoke at the interfaith memorial service in Dallas on July 12, he expressed a powerful truth:

Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions.

I abide by a similar notion—life would be far more pleasant if families, friends and colleagues chose to define and talk about us based on our best moments instead of those we undoubtedly wish never occurred.

graffiti-1472472_1920Over a lifetime, painful and embarrassing experiences stack up for everyone. How people acknowledge or disavow that reality is always interesting. I’m acutely aware of mine and would suffocate under the weight of humiliation if they were my sole focus. Thankfully, they are scattered among weeks, months and years bursting with everyday events and remarkable occasions that are infinitely more worthy of remembering.

Hence my hard time with those who choose to keep everyone’s most unpleasant incidents top of mind, not only singling them out as the default material for conversation but holding on to them as the irreversible benchmarks to forever measure character or assess intentions.

We do not elevate ourselves by knocking others down. Millions of us in full knowledge of our imperfections offer up many times more positive and colorful anecdotes with which to be judged.

I find it overwhelming that George Bush shared these remarks at this difficult juncture in our country’s history. I’m not one if his fans, but I’ll never forget his observation earlier this week. Neither am I naÏve, still I relish those words, and I’ll never be able to think about him again without recalling them.

There were many profound moments during that sad service. President Obama reminded us:

As we get older, we learn we don’t always have control of things, not even a president does. But we do have control over how we respond to the world. We do have control over how we treat one another.

Two US presidents from rival parties came together in Dallas despite the deep political schisms wrenching our country apart. Even with their many differences, together they appealed to the greater good. The recognition that we are all imperfect is a powerful first step in helping us do better at home and in the world, if we make the conscious decision to choose respect.

Is that too much to ask?

Rabid Dogs, Fences, Aliens & Christians

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Or, If I Tweet it, is it true?

I haven’t posted here since July because I’ve found it difficult to be anywhere on line. I’m only minimally connected, yet I know GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson referenced Syrian refugees as rabid dogs, a couple other contenders suggest prioritizing Christians, another gleefully touts building a fence around Mexico to stop the influx of illegal “aliens.” The amount of crazy here soars beyond troubling into a whole new universe.

Terrorism and a looming US presidential election have collided to create a 21st century black hole where fact-checking has been sucked dry, taking humanity as collateral damage. What remains is no shortage of bigotry. In fact, racism and profiling exist in abundance, as if the sanctity of human suffering is only the luxury of a particular people of a certain faith.

Any suggestion of compassion for basic human rights not to mention common sense are quickly and loudly denounced because those of us with even a modicum of empathy are what?…too tolerant?

It is frighteningly predictable the House voted the other day to require stringent vetting of any Syrian or Iraqi refugees despite all factual evidence disproving theories that they are the terrorists. Here’s hoping the House shares this screening expertise with the Vatican, NRA, IRS and our Banking and Securities sectors.

Equally troubling are that the misguided senses of entitlement reach into our own homes where politicians want the power to impose their beliefs over what may be in a woman’s uterus while bellowing about government being too big, thereby not in the business of providing aid to mothers and their newborns. And, you should see the carnage of this kind of hypocrisy in urban public school systems.

How can those who pretend to care so much for the United States feel no responsibility not only for the freedoms we are all assured but for the essence and tenets of the Christianity they tout as a litmus test when their words and actions oppose every value that religion represents?

Aren’t we better than this? In the 1950s when McCarthy was saving the world by outing Communists and “homosexuals,” at least you had to find the news to find the insanity. How is it with the ubiquitous access to information and even facts(!) today’s candidates don’t recall our own terrorist Hall of Fame—Oklahoma’s Timothy McVeigh, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, the Columbine High School Massacre duo of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and the Ku Klux Klan, to name a few. They’re inconvenient reminders, not irrelevant freaks of nature, and it would serve our politicians well to acknowledge the inflammatory vitriol they screech into microphones and disseminate in forty character Tweets fuel equally the angry, displaced and, yes, even Christians of the nation they profess to love.

It is terrifying to be riddled with endless commentary over unthinkable atrocities like the most recent Mali and Paris terrorist attacks on the heels of yet another school shooting in the United States, while hundreds of thousands of war-torn refugees suffer shakedowns and now stringent screening to find refuge.

But I’m not going to be intimidated anymore by the insinuation perpetuated by those who don’t have a clue that the promise of sanctuary is but a fairy tale unless we take their lead. Our humanity is not represented by the irrational exuberance of a one percent, a gender or the randomness of birthplace.

So there. I am heading into the Thanksgiving week grateful for my friends and family and all those I know who are smarter and more compassionate than the trending social media would lead us to believe. It’s time to focus on what’s important, not the loudest carnival barker in a tent.