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“Let’s Sort This Out”: Aaron Schock Or Abraham Lincoln? A Handy Guide

Anyone who’s followed the brief career of disgraced congressman Aaron Schock is well aware of the countless, almost eerie similarities between he and fellow Illinoisian Abraham Lincoln. It came as no surprise, therefore, when Schock, who may soon face criminal charges, compared himself to our 16th president during his farewell speech this week. Far from a pathetic attempt at saving face by a profoundly delusional narcissist, Schock’s speech was a soaring, 21st-century version of the Gettysburg Address, but with more grammatical errors.

“Abraham Lincoln held this seat in Congress for one term,” Schock said in remarks that will be transcribed and filed in the Library of Congress where they’ll remain for the life of our republic. “But few faced as many defeats in his personal and public life as he did [nor will we ever know if he, too, would have had his offices decorated like the hit PBS program Downton Abbey because, sadly, his life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet before television could be invented].”

It is not hard to imagine the sound of his colleagues’ audible gasps echoing through that mostly empty chamber like so many newly freed slaves, audibly gasping in a mostly empty chamber.

Yes, Schock and the Great Emancipator are nearly indistinguishable, so I’ve put together this handy chart to help tell these two great Americans apart.

Schock: First name starts with “A”

Lincoln: First name starts with “A”

Schock: First member of Congress born in the 1980s

Lincoln: Dead

Schock: Started a garage-organization business called Garage Tek

Lincoln: Abolished slavery

Schock: Ran a successful write-in campaign for a seat on his local school board

Lincoln: Lost the 1858 Illinois senate race after some debates with Stephen Douglas

Schock: Spent more than $100,000 in public funds on office decorations

Lincoln: Helped establish a national currency

Schock: Criticized for lavish lifestyle

Lincoln: Abolished slavery

Schock: Appeared shirtless on the cover of Men’s Health in 2011

Lincoln: Appeared gaunt and wizened while successfully executing the American Civil War

Schock: Notable quote: “Haters gonna hate.”

Lincoln: Notable quote: “That this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” though, in fairness, he also could have said “haters gonna hate” at some point. Who knows? It’s not impossible.

Schock: Overcharged the government for mileage reimbursements

Lincoln: Suspended habeas corpus, expanded executive powers, and once signed the execution orders for 39 Sioux insurgents

Schock: Publicly supported waterboarding and other torture techniques

Lincoln: Did not do that

Schock: Voted against expanding hate crimes laws to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability

Lincoln: Abolished slavery

Schock: Asshat

Lincoln: Top hat

I hope this comparison chart has been helpful. If you’re still confused, remember this rule of thumb: Lincoln was probably the greatest president in American history, while Schock looks like a high school girls’ basketball coach who’s always trying to give the players back massages.

 

By: Joe Randazzo, The Daily Beast, March 28, 2015

March 29, 2015 Posted by | Aaron Schock, Abraham Lincoln, Illinois | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Defending Unions Against The Haters”: Right-To-Work Laws Are Intended To Limit Union Growth

Joining a union is the best investment a worker can make.

Unions need defending, maybe more than ever, because of the attacks they face. The passage of a right-to-work law in Wisconsin and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposal for union-free zones show how distorted the lens is when the focus turns to organized labor.

Right-to-work laws are intended to limit union growth, but advocates never cite political motives or antipathy for working people. Instead, their calls for reducing labor market protections are based on the claim that unions restrain personal liberty and restrict economic development.

Nothing is further from the truth.

The “labor hater,” as Martin Luther King Jr. once called the corporate and political conservatives who mobilize against organized labor, argues that if you reduce unionization, economic prosperity will be unleashed. Yes, but for whom? Restricting union growth has always been bad for workers’ economic and political freedom. The cumulative weight of decades of social science has unquestionably demonstrated that union-bargained contracts provide workers with higher incomes, more and better benefits, and a stronger “voice” in the workplace.

Implementing a statewide right-to-work law in Illinois would be punitive for working men and women. According to a 2013 University of Illinois study that I co-authored, workers would suffer an income loss of 5.7 percent to 7.3 percent. Additionally, fewer workers would have health and retirement benefits, and with workers earning less, poverty would likely rise by 1 percent.

As King warned in the 1960s, after mostly Southern states moved to adopt right-to-work, the losses would be particularly harsh on people of color. Per-hour work incomes are at least $2.49 lower in right-to-work states for African-American, Latino, and Asian workers, compared with their wages in collective bargaining states. With lower earnings, annual state income tax revenues in Illinois would shrink by $1.5 billion.

To be fair, Rauner has not called for a statewide law. So what would the effects of a more limited local jurisdiction approach be on Illinois workers?

The premise of the local zones is that unionization suppresses job growth. But like so many claims for opposing policies that protect workers, the criticism doesn’t hold up.

A look at recent data for the Chicago area suggests that union membership levels have no direct correlation to higher unemployment. The opposite’s true, in fact. Around Chicago in 2013, the county with the fewest union members had the six-county area’s highest unemployment rate.

When you look more broadly, you find that the average unemployment rate for all eastern Illinois counties bordering right-to-work Indiana was 5.7 percent, compared with 7.6 percent for those Indiana counties just across the border. And while right-to-work prophets predict a paradise of unparalleled job creation, in 2014, Illinois added 103,000 jobs (fourth highest in the nation), compared with Indiana’s 89,000.

Union defenders should never suggest that collective bargaining is either the primary or sole driver of job creation; nor should right-to-work supporters argue that limiting union dues is a sure-fire way to put people to work.

What is assured is that the loss of income that would result from a reduction of union members will exacerbate existing income disparities. If just half of Illinois’ counties transitioned into “union free zones,” total employee compensation would drop an estimated $1.2 billion.

It’s also possible that with or without right-to-work, employment could spike in Illinois. For example, the state could take up large-scale hydraulic fracturing. But no matter the reasons that jobs appear, what is important is how the workers are valued.

 

By:Robert Bruno, Professor of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; The National Memo, March 20, 2015

March 23, 2015 Posted by | Illinois, Right To Work Laws, Unions | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Different Set Of Rules”: Tax Dodger Running For Governor In Illinois

If you are not in the Chicago media market, you might not know much about Bruce Rauner, the Mitt Romney-like candidate for governor in Illinois, who is running ahead in the polls against Democratic Governor Pat Quinn.

If Rauner wins, Illinois will have a lot more in common with its neighbor, Wisconsin. Politically, Rauner resembles union-basher and school privatizer Scott Walker. Only Rauner is much, much richer.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun Times, Rauner talked about his career at GTCR, the Chicago-based private equity firm he founded.

“I made a ton of money, made a lot of money,” he told Sun Times reporter Natasha Korecki.

When Korecki asked Rauner, a billionaire who owns nine homes and made $53 million last year, if he is part of the 1 percent, he corrected her: “Oh, I’m probably .01 percent.”

Last Sunday, the Sun-Times broke the news that Rauner has made himself even richer by avoiding taxes and hiding a lot of his wealth in the Cayman Islands.

Rauner has not released his current tax returns, so the full value of his offshore accounts is not verifiable, but the Sun Times was able to document five offshore holdings by Rauner in the Caymans.

A detailed analysis by the Chicago Tribune shows that Rauner used many other complicated tax strategies “out of reach for those of more modest means” to cut his tax bill to less than half the rate paid by other earners in the top bracket:

Thanks to one business-tax strategy, Rauner paid no Social Security or Medicare taxes at all in 2010 or 2011, the Trib reports.

Meanwhile, Rauner is campaigning against “government union bosses,” and teachers unions in particular, and is targeting public employee pensions, with a plan to freeze the Illinois pension plan and convert it into a 401(k)-style retirement account, in order, he claims, to save the state billions.

He says he got into the race because he wants to “reform” public education, and is a big charter school advocate.

“I am adamantly, adamantly against raising the minimum wage,” Rauner said in a campaign event captured on video in January.

He has since backed off that position, and says he supports a minimum-wage increase.

Rauner’s campaign has also had to respond to stories about his phone call to Obama’s education secretary Arne Duncan, pulling strings to get his daughter into prestigious Walter Payton College Prep High School, after the school rejected her.

The Sun-Times reported in January that Rauner made a $250,000 contribution to Payton after his daughter was admitted.

Rauner’s story shows what’s behind all that union-bashing and belt-tightening for the poor and middle class–rightwing billionaires like Rauner push these policies, even as they play by an entirely different set of rules, dodging taxes, pulling strings, and get special treatment most people could never afford.

If he is elected, Rauner, like Walker, might support legislation to loosen the rules to help other wealthy investors and corporations avoid taxes by parking their assets abroad–leaving even less revenue for the public sector he and his rightwing billionaire friends love to bash.

 

By: Ruth Conniff, Editor-in-Chief of The Progressive Magazine; Published at The Center for Media and Democracy, August 6, 2014

August 8, 2014 Posted by | Illinois, Tax Evasion, Taxes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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