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Rahm Declares War on Pensions

Pensions paid to public sector workers are killing President Obama’s hometown, and his former chief of staff is declaring an all-out war to fix this problem before Chicago dies.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel can’t fight this war alone, however. Chicago taxpayers fund both city and state retirement costs, so any changes made to Chicago’s pension system will require approval from the state legislature in Springfield:

“They need to get in gear, pick up the game,” Emanuel said Thursday. “I’ve told the speaker (of the House), I’ve told the Senate president, I’ve told the minority leaders and the governor, I’ll spend as much or as little (political) capital as you think it takes.”

Emanuel stressed the pension issue in a meeting with reporters, a day after delivering a budget address in which he underscored how his city’s pension crisis stands to undermine many of the goals he has set out for his four years in office. The crisis could come to a head when a big portion of the city’s pension debt must be paid in 2015, the year he is up for re-election.

To govern at all, the Democratic party must escape the stranglehold of the public-sector unions, which are among its greatest supporters. This is no small problem, nor is it merely a question of political strategy; it’s at the heart of the crisis in American politics and finance. Emanuel and other Democratic mayors and governors are beginning to realize this, even if their national counterparts are a bit slow on the uptake.

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