Thursday, September 22, 2011

Perfumed From an Unseen Censer

File under: "With friends like these."

Cross-reference under: "There is a Club..."

From, God help us, the "Wall Street Journal":

The Five Million Dollar Man
How government unions rip off the taxpayer.

The Chicago Tribune reports that an investigation it conducted with WGN-TV found "23 retired union officials from Chicago stand to collect about $56 million from two ailing city pension funds."

That's an average of $2.4 million each, and some will rake in even more. Dennis Gannon, a former president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, stands to collect some $5 million. In line for $4 million apiece are Liberato "Al" Naimoli, president of the Cement Workers Union Local 76, and James McNally, vice president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150.

"Since the 1950s," the Trib explains, "city workers who take leaves of absence to work full time for unions have been able to remain in city pension funds if they choose. The time they spend at their union jobs counts toward their city pensions."

Union jobs, however, are far more lucrative than city jobs. Gannon's city salary was $56,000 a year; his union salary, $200,000. But he retired from his city job in 2004--at age 50, and 13 years after beginning a leave of absence. Between then and 2010, when he retired from the union, he collected both the $200,000 union salary and a $150,000 city pension.

How did the city end up paying him a pension nearly three times his salary? That's where things get interesting.

Thanks, Mr. Gannon!

For a minute there I was worried that the fuel tanks full of endlessly recycled "union thug", "Chicago-way corruption" and "Tony Rezko" nonsense that have powered the Right's relentlessly venomous rhetoric for the last couple of years were juuuust about down to fumes.

And just maybe that the brutal, hostage-taking anti-labor, anti-middle class, anti-American agenda the GOP rolled out over the last 12-months might actually be sufficient to, y’know, get enough people to stop voting to cut their own economic throats to turn back that dark tide.

But you, sir, have now managed to almost singlehandedly top those tanks right off.

And with jet fuel no less!

And now, thanks to you, for the next God-knows-how-many-months, the refutation to every reasonable Liberal argument about every issue from wage inequality to the GOP-created deficit to tax fairness is going to boil down to two words:
"Dennis. Gannon."

Oh, they're gonna to make you famous, pal.

Famous beyond your capacity to imagine, because this story has all the elements of a Frank Luntz/Karl Rove wet-dream: hog-trough-greedy Chicago union bosses and back-room Chicago political deals, all set against the backdrop of President's home town and campaign HQ, in a city that has been crying poormouth, slashes services and laying people off by the thousands.

Hey, did I mention this all happened in Chicago?

Where da brudder of da last Mare is da current White House Chief-of-Staff?
And dis Mare is da previous White House House Chief-of-Staff?

Extra-scrutiny? You're soaking in it!

From (Oh dear Lord) John Kass:
The mayor of Chicago in 1991 was Richard M. Daley. He'd rule for years. He not only had labor peace, he could send out union muscle to elect his candidates, from judges to governors and even then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who has since received a promotion. In his new job, no longer the union beneficiary but the antagonist, Emanuel realizes that all the money is gone.

But during those decades of labor peace, Daley was boss and his brothers prospered, becoming wealthy in banking, insurance and zoning law.

The speaker of the Illinois House was Michael Madigan. He's still speaker. He's been speaker for most, if not all, of your lifetime, as he's built up his own fortune reducing taxes for downtown real estate barons. He wants organized labor to help his daughter become governor someday.

The governor who signed the bill was Big Jim Thompson on his last day in office. A Republican, Thompson has always gotten along splendidly with Democrats. So who says there's no bipartisan Combine?
This story has more legs than an army of Rockettes, more angles than a tesseract, ergo it has more staying power than Ron Jeremy at the top of his game.

Shit, all that's really missing is a dead hooker and a vial of coke.

Or an inconveniently stained blue dress.

As a matter of background and strictly FYI, the people I know who work at the city are mostly of the non-clout-protected variety, and they are positively punch-drunk these days.

Like dogs that have been beaten with no rhyme or reason for years.

They are mostly still plugging away below decks, doing their job in windowless cubicles, trying to hang onto some ghost of the call to public service that originally put their feet on the path they now walk. But after years of continuous and arbitrary layoffs, reorganizations, mandatory, weeks-long unpaid furloughs, months of "Fuck you, I don't care if your kid is in daycare"-style implicitly mandatory unpaid overtime, they're just barely hanging in there.

And by all accounts, the Emanuel Administration has done little in the way of changing the day-to-day management style of the Hall beyond adopting the Daley Method ("You're One Microscopic Cog in His Catastrophic Plan"):
"...investing his own band of perky Janissaries – 12-year-old interns fresh from the Harris School and loyal only to Hizzonner -- with imperial authority and cycling them through the system every year or so, his department heads conflicting mandates and then pitting them against each other, ...picking aldermen like Bozo the Clown picking out a pair of floppy shoes and a bright, red nose… Da Mare’s entire Administration has been a brilliant study in preemptively obliterating anything that even vaguely resembles a power-base outside of the 5th floor of City Hall."
and cranking the asshole factor up to 11.

Most of the people I know who toil in the vineyards of public service work hard at their jobs -- jobs they believe in that serve causes larger than themselves.

Jobs that are made harder than they need to be every single fucking day by the relentless shrieks of contempt from every Fox News goon and Hate Radio gasbag in America.

Jobs that are made harder still under the burden of the knowledge that, however hard they work they may be kicked to the curb at any time for no particular reason at all, while members of the Clout Club still enjoy absolute protection from on high by the Prince of Darkness.

And now this. This...utterly indefensible shitwagon full of Union Goon Caricature confirmation, hand-delivered to the anti-union crew with a fucking bow around it, and which is running like a rash all over the Conservative blogs and media outlets.

And, frankly, deservedly so.

Expect to hear your name in tonight’s GOP debate, Mr. Gannon. And if not tonight then virtually every day thereafter.

They're going to picnic off you until next November, so enjoy your 30 pieces of silver, and your sweet new gig as a (God help you) hedge fund manager.

Because this one will cost the Good Guys dearly.

As for the rest of us, struggling every day just to slog one inch further through the ugly, reeking, chest-deep ordure of realpolitik towards a slightly better tomorrow, take this as one more timely and cautionary tale from Your Man in Chicago about how deeply political culture here remains in the thrall of clout and dirty money:

There is still a Club.

You are still not in it.


Cirze said...

The new(?) American way?

The world holds its breath.

And hopes that the real Americans get off their asses and start to organize for true change (against corruption and the "clout club" self-serving "leaders").

Anonymous said...

Royko would be proud.

My "I Promise Not To Give Your Money To Rupert Murdoch" Fundraiser.

I am given to understand that the Lincoln Lads are trying to raise one million dollars to create content that would "mess wit...