Monthly Archives: July 2013

More on Harmon, Willis at Wood Dale 7-23-13

Harmon: In earlier fix, 1995, Republicans re-amortized pension shortfall, kicking can down the road. (Check this)

Asked why the difference in fiscal health, IMRF vs. other state pensions, Harmon: State mandated paying the full amount for IMRF. So hands-off policy? At its heart, difference seems crucial, was case of fiscal discipline at work?

Asked about Medicaid expansion, Harmon: At first all is paid by fed govt. Later only 90%. H. hopes, expects this to work out.

Asked if undocumented will use ER as before? Yes. (Straightforward, not elaborated. Interesting.)

Recurring motif: Media coverage at fault, giving state its “reputational problem.” It’s “theater” vs. economic reality. Matters “misreported” or unreported, as the aforementioned 2010 reform. (Or not reported as to reflect its importance.) He complains about newspapers, has axe to grind, legitimate beef, what?

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Obama Care explained at the library, 7/29. Julie Hamos and others. Full house in Vets Room

Seven oclock program at library, ObamaCare explained. Arrived 7:20, Julie Hamos, director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family services, at podium __ stylish, smiling, salting her presentation with laugh_provokers. She’s in charge. Later, at the table facing 100 or so at OP Library, she scans the room almost continuously.

7:25, Brian Gorman, her director of outreach and education, rosy_cheeked, plump, is greeted with applause by 100 or so, the Veterans Room capacity. Gets customary laugh, mocking his long title. Audience, corralled by Obama campaign’s Organizing for America, is eager and receptive. Heads nod agreement. He is here to solve problems. It’s a great new world. He’s a Dem campaign organizer, he tells us __ a professional Dem. Talks very fast. Heads up what he calls a marketing campaign. Going to rebrand Illinois insurance market place. Professionals have been hired to do this. To start Sept. and Oct. Plays for for laughs, but less obviously than Hamos.

Subsidies will make health care more affordable, he explains. He’s enthusiastic, wants to create a “culture of coverage.” Says “we have to be aggressive” in signing people up. Addresses us as a potential sales team, this is a sales meeting. Says he has a first_grader in a CPS school, lives in Roscoe Square, but is from OP and spotted “Gary” in the audience, gave a wave. Refers to “Director Hamos.” He’s an organizer looking for organizing help.

Then Linda Preston, sixty_ish, white hair, dressed as if caught in the middle of cleaning her house, in flowered smock. In the audience “Henry” is picking up question cards. Hamos is about to burst with satisfaction. Linda P. has her speech ready. Its a testimonial to health care, testimony against insurance companies. She had kidney cancer, it was caught early by accident __ she was X_rayed for broken ribs after a fender_bender. She gets applause for having survived.

She lost her job, spent her COBRA year looking for insurance, was turned down RUDELY __ she SHOUTED this part __ because of (a) her pre_existing condition and (b) having a Down Syndrome_afflicted son. But she got insurance of some sort, not clear how. She was less clear on this than on insurance company heartlessness, with which she fed the indignation of her listeners. It was a stump speech. She told in scorching terms of a young man “temporarily able_bodied” who refused to pay for other people’s insurance, she said, still angry with him. “Every single life is valuable,” she said, arguing against exclusion from health care.

The meeting’s chairman thanked her, referred to the “other side” (ObamaCare opponents) before launching into questions from the floor. Henry read the first question. It’s addressed to Dr. Saltenberg MD, young fellow, maybe late 20s, whose gave straight answers, with no apparent reference to any other agenda and without the aura of assuredness from Hamos and to a lesser extent Gorman. He works in a clinic for low_income people. Said he hadn’t thought about increased health care work opportunities, which was the question, but did observe, “We have enough health care professionals, but not enough primary_care MD’s and won’t have enough for 10 years.

Oops. A negative word. Hamos jumps in, says we must consider non_MD health care workers, as nurse practitioners, what you find in Walgreen’s and the like. “We must think more creatively,” she said, restoring the briefly compromised aura. To applause.

There would be new requirements for insurance companies, Hamos adds. “They never [before] had to care for sick people.” Laughter. She’s the group’s morale officer.

Question is read about public option. Hamos answers but not to the satisfaction of a 30-ish man man in a tee short in the second row. “That’s my question,” he says. “You didn’t answer it!” There are attempts to quiet him, but he won’t give it up. He presses Hamos. She sats its not there. Raising his voice over objections from the chair and elsewhere in the room, he asks, “Why not?” Hamos stops smiling. Color leaves her face. She looks gray and sober. Rah_rah is gone.

(Public option, by which the government competes with private plans, was dropped from the law but remains a hot item. “Whatever happened to [it],” Ezra Klein asked in Wash. Post in March. Was “top priority” for many Dems, said Klein, but “conservative” Dems threatened to filibuster it. 57% of the public think it’s still there, but it’s “barely discussed.” Sales director Hamos wanted no part of it.)

Brian Gorman took the next question, about the medicare supplement, was impossible to follow. He’s a fast_talker extraordinaire.

At this point, the chair and chief organizer of the meeting gave a “shout out” to “our representative,” Camille Lilly. Unfortunately, Lilly had left already. It was 8 o’clock. The meeting had started at seven. Another shout went out to a young man in the rear, a summer intern for Organizing For America/Oak Park. He waved. Another was sent to a well_known and much_liked Oak Parker, who declined to rise. “He won’t stand,” several said, covering for him.

More questions, more speed_talk from Brian, Hamos continuing to look grim. “I already told you,” she said, about Medicaid coverage for a stay_at_home dependent, repeating that anyone age 19_64 with income under $15G is eligible.

A question was put to the fiery testifier Linda Preston. “How to get young people to sign up” for ObamaCare. They “have to know,” she said. People have to explain it to them, bring about “change in our culture.” Brian jumped in: “Linda is right. The key is to get young people enrolled. We have to persuade them. It’s crucial to the success of the program.” He urged the persuaders (by now he was clearly recruiting helpers) to “get the women in [young men’s] lives to persuade them. The mother and the girl friend are good vehicles. Women are suggestive.” (What if they dont sign either?)

Hamos had an angle. All must get auto insurance, she reminded us. “It’s the culture of coverage. It will be that way with health insurance. We have to make it so. I think, I’m positive, they will buy it. It WILL change. I think . . . But . . .”

Under threat of what penalty they will buy it, she did not say. Nor whether they could wait until they are sick and then sign up, since pre_existing conditions won’t count. In any case it’s voluntary. She and her people have to sell it. Will they succeed? What if they don’t? Will the program succeed?

Meanwhile, a woman in the first row, explaining her question about coverage: “I have coverage but not good coverage.” To which Brian: The plans offered in the exchange are “top of the line, nothing but comprehensive plans.” She wouldn’t give it up, was shouted down.

The 30_hour problem was raised. Its the exemption business owners can claim for part-timers, employees working under 30 hours a week. It was reported in Sunday’s Chi Trib. In fact, the question cited exactly what the Trib lede had, community colleges making part-timers of adjunct profs by cutting their hours to 29, saving the college district big money. It’s a requirement that Jimmy Hoffa Jr. and two other labor bigwigs recently complained about. Brian had the answer: The requirement has been postponed for a year.

Sen. Harmon, Rep. Willis at Wood Dale, 7/23/13, Part One

25 or so citizens at Wood Dale City Hall.

Q: Pension problem known since 2006, recognized since then. Where’s urgency? commitment?

Harmon:
* Crisis dimension rated according to tough standard, assuming pensioners live to 90 etc. Still, using that standard, with contributions as this year (and last), state has 32 years before money runs out.

* 2010 reform raised retirement age to 67, lowered benefits, etc. for 1/1/2011 and later hires.

Highlights Regarding 2010 Pension Stabilization Plan as explained by Sen. Cullerton:

The reforms . . . apply only to those who are employed on or after January 1, 2011. retirement on full pension is adjusted to age 67 with 10 years of service, on reduced pension to age 62 with 10 years of service. Final average salary is calculated over an eight-(not four-) year period. Cost of Living Adjustment is reduced from a 3% annual compounded to not-compounded, meaning that each increase is based only the original pensionable salary. Etc.

More to come on this town hall . . .

Defining failures down

Blithe Spirit

Our senator at the 7/17 town hall meeting:

“We have had some dramatic government failures. I don’t think anyone can argue this,” [Don] Harmon said. “With that said, there is a lot of hysteria surrounding this and a lot of artificiality to that.”

Hysteria about dramatic government failures? What next?

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Close call with jumping dog

Blithe Spirit

Two dizzy females of an age, 7 a.m. OP ave. with shaggy, frisky dog. They fussing with him, I pass briskly, dog leaps at me, bangs (closed) mouth on my hand.

Bumped me, neither bit nor fastened teeth. Women full of apologies, bending over the animal, looking up at me intermittently. What the fuck? I expostulated, turning back several times as I briskly walked away.

Oh the pain of it, psychical not physical. That beast gave me a painful reminder of my mortality. An ode is in order.

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Harmon and Lilly 7/17 at OP Library: Pensions and all that

Sen. Don Harmon and his sidekick Rep. Camille Lilly faced the people in a townhall session 7/17 at the Oak Park library, fielding questions from constituents. Some excerpts:

Pre-Q&A, Harmon: “Decades of underfunding” of pensions have to be made up for. The problem can be solved without taking from “core government services, especially social services.”

Rep. Camille Lilly: The budget process is “really, really, really critical.” This year there were no program cuts. Thanks to a new 60-day deadline for its publication the budget is available via “the new technology of today,” the web site.

During Q&A:

The Oak Park village clerk, Teresa Powell, who did not identify herself, asked about raising property taxes.

Lilly called it a “really, really good” question, said she had raised the matter in legislative committee. As matters stand, she said, “No way is education to be funded equitably across the state.”

Harmon said he is “very sensitive” to the matter of property taxes.

A questioner asked for a “teeny tiny” tax increase to cover pensions, Harmon mentioned the temporary “67%” increase, which he said, “We Democrats [call] two percent,” adding, “We have already cut too much.”

Lilly: The problem began “50 to 60 years ago,” is “really, really testing” the state’s  finances.

A questioner cited an “overall revenue problem, not just regarding pensions,” said he wants the rich to pay more, commended Harmon for writing (March 13 and 20, Wed. Journal) of a “so-called” (his word) “crisis” (quote marks Harmon’s).  He added that “Some are too rich” to need help from the government. Harmon interjected, “Let them run for governor,” to laughs.) The questioner referred further to “super-rich people.”

Harmon offered his proposal for a “fair tax, not flat tax, as we have now.” A previously self-identified retired teacher from the front row innocently corrected Harmon: “It’s graduated.” Harmon objected, citing “political reasons” for his term. “Call it fair,” he said. “Stay with me on this. People get confused” otherwise. There was approving laughter from the audience.

A questioner said Chicago’s Civic Federation raised the pension issue five years ago and otherwise challenged Harmon.

Harmon said, “I share your frustration.” Repeated what Lilly had said, the problem is 50 to 60 years old, adding that he has seen the “desperate look” on faces of those who fear losing their pensions or other government payments.

A questioner cited Illinois‘ bond rating, lowest in the nation, and its unemployment rate, one of the highest. In response we get nothing but “political rhetoric,” he said.

Harmon heard him out up to a point, then called a halt to their conversation (the only time he did this) and called “Next,” clearly wanting to move on. But in a moment of slightly comic relief, Lilly, missing this, picked up with the questioner, entering into a spiel, walking around, pointing for emphasis, in general speaking as if to settle the question with an earnest, forceful however cheery a manner, in the process waxing quite dramatic.

In answer to a question raised raises the North Avenue problem, Chicago side, connected with an undesirable pawn shop’s opening and other matters,
Lilly, with much pointing and waving: The issue is “what I call ‘on the docket'” for action — or at least consideration — it was not clear what.

Even with a fair tax (called “graduated” earlier) there still won’t be enough money, said another questioner. “So how about the proposed tax on stock trades?”

Lilly: “Actually, I saw that proposal, among so many that I didn’t read,” she said laughing.

Harmon: Bill Barclay (Oak Park  socialist, energetic proponent a few years back of a “living wage” for Oak Park and its contractors) testified about this tax. But (gently pouring cold water on the idea, Lilly nodding vigorous agreement) “there’s the fear that this legislation would push the Chicago Mercantile Exchange out of the state.”

Question from Jerry Delaney, Oak Park Democratic committeewoman, to Lilly about “marriage equality” led to Lilly’s: “It’s my heart [she placed her hand over her heart] that it will pass now that it’s really got momentum.  Our great state” will do this, she said.

A man identifying himself as a CPA referred to “our very corrupt state,” said, “If you do anything in Springfield, do something about this.” He took a shot also at “gerrymandering,” saying, “The way it’s set up, candidates know they will win. . . . ” He continues at length in this vein, Harmon and Lilly listening.)

Harmon: “Each of us [as candidate] is vulnerable to be unseated in a primary.” (Lilly, appointed in 2010, ran unopposed in 2012.)

The CPA continued: “To say the pension situation is complicated is a classic delaying tactic. We are spending way more than we are taking in. People leave Illinois . . .  Taxes are huge, hit even homeless people, some of whom I help. You are part of the problem not the solution.”

“Why don’t we tax retirement income?” another questioner asked. To which Lilly: “We are looking at that. It’s on the table of discussion.”

Another cited NPR, Wall Street Journal, and other reports, said he is “embarrassed by Illinois. It’s the worst state . . . ”

Lilly: “I have an opinion. The media doesn’t represent [sic] the facts accurately. The facts don’t state that.  . . . I’m very proud to live in Illinois . . . Look at your history . . .  We must come together . . . I celebrate that. . . . This is a great state to raise your family!”

Harmon conceded “some dramatic government failures. . . . But we are climbing out of the hole.” He rejected the Chicago Tribune’s view, says the Trib “bashed the heart out of us.”

Another congratulated Harmon on his stand against newspapers. (The evening was wearing on. Lilly turned and swigged her orange drink. Harmon was brought two frosted water bottles by Eileen, his administrative helper.) The questioner praised activist Ralph Martiere, who says the state should amortize its pension debt.

Lilly: “I had the opportunity to present that . . . ” again recounting her activities in Springfield.  In the course of this, she defined “responsible” giving a definition that as it were outlines a discussion. Once again we hear of her work as a legislator, dramatically, then nodded vigorously as Harmon explained the matter, saying he know Martiere and has discussed his proposal with him. He gives a detail as to what’s wrong with it. On to the next thing.

Questioner: Look at tax burden issues. Tea Party challenges are coming. He gives advice, does not argue.

Questioner brings up “marriage equality” again. Issue turns to Speaker Madigan

Lilly: It’s “interesting” how legislation comes forth in the house. Draws laughs, pauses, then: “I’ve gone and asked the speaker” to bring a bill forth (pause), “and it was brought up.” It’s a sort of ju-jitsu on the audience, checking laughter, presenting the speaker as not so bad at that. She’s all smiles, keeps her hand going throughout.

Harmon: “The bill’s sponsor did not put it up. I’m confident we will get the votes.”

Another speaker on North Avenue issues: 2009, was big grant for UNO charter school, big spending on celebration. All much widely reported, especially in detailed Sun-Times accounts.

Harmon, carefully: “I have no knowledge of money being wasted.” In face of major news stories, suspension of funding, resignation of top man, etc., he has apparently not felt prompted to inquire. Pleads ignorance, shuts up.

Other issues arose — anti-fracking, dispensing of psychiatric drugs — to which Lilly responded, apologetically: The pension comes first. Later Harmon demonstrated that with a graph thrown up on a screen showing size of pension outlay.

Harmon asked, “Anybody miss a [pension or other] payment?” No one. He had asked earlier how many work for the government in any capacity, apparently expecting and surely getting 25 or so of his audience of about 100.

On the high cost of college education, Harmon: Health care costs “are at the heart of it.” (First time tuition has been connected to health care, as far as I know.)

Lilly, picking up on the cost of college, turned to the funding of public schools: “My first thought is to establish a committee. . . . I believe our education system is in crisis, from kindy-garten [sic] on up. . . .  This. Is. crisis. level.” (Said slowly, every word emphasized.)  “Make sure it’s equitable for all citizens [cost? expenditures? not clear] . . . .  Our great state can do better.” (Said with bang-flourish at the end.)

About the state’s not paying its bills to care-providers, Lilly: “This is, to me, a no-no. We need to pay these vendors — and that’s what they are — on time. It’s unconscionable . . . happening over and over. . . . That’s why I’m here.” She closes, speaking to the aggrieved questioner, “Give us a call.”

Harmon, to questioner with major problem: “You are at scariest part” of the funds shortage problem. “Most don’t understand, we pass money thru” to the people. Presenting government as conduit.

To the matter of health-care costs in general, Lilly: “I attended Medicaid 101 [for legislators: she chuckles at her levity]. . . . When are we going to talk about the cost of health care? I was the first to bring it up [in a committee meeting, where she must be hell on wheels].

“For me, health care is not affordable. We need to talk about that. . . . I think the high cost does impact access! . . . I see every day what it costs [in her job at Loretto Hospital, where she’s a vice president]. . . . Where do we begin?”  (Stunning)

Harmon: “The cost of the uninsured is the main problem with the high cost, [namely in] their use of emergency rooms.   Obamacare is going to dramatically lower costs by just eliminating this alone.”

Lilly: “The healthier you are, the less costly it is. . . . Each state is to have its own health exchange.” (Oh?)

Regarding a single-payer system, Harmon: “There’s been some discussion of it” among legislators.

Tonight in far-off Wood Dale, Harmon and Rep. Kathleen Willis (77th-Addison) in a town hall session.

Oak Leaves also has Harmon’s fudging

I’m not the only one citing Don Harmon’s fudging of language in his 2% jump in income tax from 3% to 5%. It’s 67%, says Matt Baron in the Oak Leaves.

In a finance-centric discussion replete with bar graphs, pie charts and other data points that would make the hearts of math geeks (like me) flutter, Harmon repeatedly referred to the income tax hike as a 2-percent increase. At the same time, he dismissed those (including our Republican friends) who referred to it as a 67-percent increase.

. . . [E]ither he has a tiny hole in his grasp of math or he is reluctant to acknowledge the difference between percent change and percentage point change.

Starting at 3 percent and then going to 5 percent is a 2-percentage-point increase. But its a 66.7-percent change.

I can’t get over how bold he was, to deliver such a talking point to an Oak Park audience, as if from 3% to 6% wouldn’t double the taxation. Does he spend too much time talking to the party faithful?

Slurpees for Oak Park good kids

Don Harmon fudging with language

It happened at the June 28 session at Carleton Hotel, a Business & Civic Council production:

State Sen. Don Harmon’s optimism at the Business and Civic Council’s Carleton Hotel session on June 28 has been noted. More can be said. He protested “sky [is] falling” rhetoric about Illinois’ pension problem and praised the legislature for having “cut government to the bone.”

“We can afford” pension payments, he said. “We never missed a payment; we never will.” Here as throughout, he addressed pensioners’ worries but not fiscal problems facing the state as borrower and spender. “It’s a budget issue,” he said, to further calm pensioners’ worries. Indeed, the budget just passed, a “pretty good” one, “pays the pension fully” for the coming year.

He joked at one point. Legislators “kind of solved the pension problem with the 2010 reform” tightening benefits for new hires. “‘Tain’t funny, McGee,” Fibber’s wife Molly used to say on the radio. . . . .

There’s more more more at this week’s Wednesday Journal, compliments of this blog.

More on Oak Park’s abortionist

Excellent, even-handed reportage here.