or to the Calculus of Social Interests.”
In 2010, a majority of Colorado Legislators ignored their oaths to uphold the Colorado and U.S. Constitutions, breached the state’s Colorado PERA pension contractual obligations, and placed our state on a low moral plane.
I recently came across an excellent post from the blog of Illinois writer Glen Brown. The post brings an important moral perspective to the Colorado General Assembly’s pension contract breach in the legislation SB 10-001. Glen Brown is following and writing about the ongoing Illinois pension reform debate. Below, I have provided some of his work and my reactions.
Glen Brown’s thoughts:
“All citizens have rights that must be protected. When legislators swear an oath to uphold the state and federal constitutions, then citizens of Illinois and the United States have also acquired the right to expect that they will uphold that pledge. This is also a matter of important moral concern for all citizens of a state, for all legal claims will be validated by a moral framework since the concept of justice is grounded in ethics. If citizens’ legal rights are abused, then their dignity and humanity will also be violated.”
(In 2010, a majority of Colorado state legislators and the Colorado PERA Board of Trustees acted with immorality. These legislators and pension officials decided to attempt the theft of contracted Colorado PERA pension benefits from a small group of Coloradans in order to further reduce Colorado taxpayer obligations. Accordingly, the Colorado legislators violated their oaths to uphold the Colorado and U.S. constitutions.)
In 2010, the Colorado General Assembly Placed Our State on a Low Moral Plane . . . Diminishing Our State.
“What is at stake right now is not a potential adjudication of conflicting claims that public employees will have against policymakers who want changes to public employees’ earned compensation and rights, but to respect the public employees’ contractual and constitutional promises because they are legitimate rights and moral concerns not only for public employees, but for every citizen in Illinois: for any unwarranted acts of cheating a person’s guaranteed rights and earned compensation will violate interests in morality and ethics and the basic principles of both the State and United States Constitutions that protect every one of us.”
“For that reason, it is imperative that policymakers and stakeholders examine their own ethical and moral principles and their conduct in view of the fact that they will have to justify their decisions to the citizens of Illinois. Certainly, moral responsibility and legal obligation to fund the public pension systems should not be ignored.”
Members of the Colorado Legislature Have Taken an Oath to Defend the Colorado and U.S. Constitutions. In 2010, the Colorado Legislature Decided to Force this Responsibility Onto Colorado PERA Retirees.
“It is a moral concern and legal duty to address the state’s revenue and pension debt problems through restructuring and to tax the wealthy among us more fairly, so the state can provide services for its citizens and fund the public pension systems of Illinois instead of incriminating public employees and forcing them to defend the State and United States Constitutions. It is the State of Illinois that has the ‘primary responsibility for financing the system of public education’ (Article X, Section 1 of the Illinois Constitution). The public employees’ pension is an integral part of ‘the system of public education’ in Illinois.”
Calling Colorado’s 2010 Breach of Contract “Pension Reform” is a Misnomer.
“Like all other citizens, public employees’ legal rights are derived from past political constitutions, legislative enactments, and case law. All citizens of Illinois have a fundamental right to oppose a General Assembly that imposes a violation of their constitutional rights and earned benefits… ‘Any statute which [is] imposed upon [public employees]… in order to redistribute resources and thus benefit some persons at the expense of others [extends] beyond the implicit boundaries of legislative authority. Such laws…violate natural rights of property and contract, rights lying at the very core of the private domain’ (Laurence H. Tribe, American Constitutional Law). Current pension reform is without legal and moral justification; furthermore, to call it ‘pension reform’ when it is ‘breaking a contract’ (Diane Ravitch) is a fabrication.”
The Colorado General Assembly’s Theft of Earned Pension Benefits is Intolerable in a Country Where Freedom Prevails.
“Public employees are promised certain retirement compensation. It is earned; it is not a gratuity. They expect and plan their lives based upon these promises. ‘The very idea that [the state can] hold [public employees' lives], or the means of [their] living, or any material right essential to the enjoyment of life, at the mere will of another ‘has been thought’ intolerable in any country where freedom prevails” (John Locke, Two Treatises of Government).
“As citizens, we are advocates of a unification of the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution, which protects all of us from any violations of human rights and contracts, as much as we would wish others to be motivated by a way of life that is also governed by a complete moral system of thinking. There are no good reasons for legislators’ attack on public employees’ rights and earned compensation and their attempt to equate their lives to an exchange rate in dollar amounts. The General Assembly cannot justify pension reform in accordance with fundamental, constitutional principles of reason and morality.”
“State ‘governments must respect vested rights in property and contract…’ (Tribe). We should be able to assume most legislators in Illinois understand this concept of justice and that lawfulness demands that people keep their ‘covenants’ with one another. Regarding current pension reform, no justice is accomplished when subordinating or diminishing public employees’ rights and earned benefits because of past legislators’ negligence, irresponsibility, and corruption.”
“The keeping of promises is the General Assembly’s legal duty. It is something the United States Constitution requires them to do whether they want to or not. Unfortunately, many legislators are willing to act without moral or ethical principles, even though ‘claims of rights [are] prima facie or presumptively valid-standing claims’ (Beauchamp).”
“‘Any law which changes the intention and legal effect of the original parties, giving to one a greater and to the other a less interest or benefit in the contract, impairs its obligation’ (115 A. 484, 486). State statutes which do so are prohibited by Article 1, Section 10 of the United States Constitution.”
“Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override… It does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by the many. Therefore, in a just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled; the rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests” (John Rawls, A Theory of Justice).
“There is no justice in granting financial benefits for the wealthy among us and attempting to place the burden of financing public pensions upon schools and taxpayers by Illinois policymakers; there is no equality in granting tax breaks for wealthy corporations and, at the same time, legislating cuts to public employees’ constitutionally-promised compensation. It is ethically wrong to perpetuate unfair distributions of debts in Illinois, especially when Illinois legislators give ‘undeserved weight to highly-organized wealthy interest groups, [those groups] tending to ‘drain politics of its moral and intellectual content’” (Tribe).
In 2010, a Majority of Colorado Legislators Demonstrated That They Have No Respect for Individual Rights or the Rule of Law in Colorado.
“It can be inferred that if policymakers do not take individual rights and contracts seriously, but prefer to challenge them in a court of law, then we can assume legislators of the Illinois General Assembly will not take any of their other laws seriously either. To ‘let the courts decide’ (Speaker of the House Michael Madigan) is a travesty of justice, a costly effrontery and negligence of a legislator’s oath of office.”