For all the talk we’ve recently heard about public-sector benefits in Wisconsin and other states, the Illinois government employee-pension system is a complete disaster. Illinois currently has the most underfunded public-pension system of any state in America, as it is funded at a rate of only 45 percent. And since their state and local governments haven’t been putting enough money into the system, the unfunded liability for the system grew by $12 billion last year and currently stands at about $95 billion.
It appears Illinois governor Pat Quinn is taking this news about as seriously as you would expect an elected official who would preside over such a debacle to take it. Quinn has released an execrable animated video, which lays the blame on an orange cartoon serpent dubbed “Squeezy the Pension Python:”
(In case you don’t fully understand the point Quinn is going for, the actor in the video complements the introduction of Squeezy with a motion as if he is choking himself.)
In one way, this video is somewhat refreshing. For all the people who claim politics is too carefully polled and focus-grouped these days, this video is a stern refutation; had Quinn’s office showed it to any focus group, the subjects would have poured bleach into their eyes to avoid having to watch it all the way through.
But it’s the overall message of the video that is so offensive. According to Quinn, schools and public-safety services aren’t being cut because of public-employee unions’ bullying tactics, or because union dues finance the campaigns of obeisant public officials. No — cuts have to be made because a giant, demonic-eyed orange snake is taking over Illinois’ government. (And given Quinn’s 67 percent income-tax hike on Illinois’ citizens last year, those “cuts” made Squeezy’s grasp a little more manageable.)
In fact, Illinois’ finances have turned the state into a fiscal Banana Republic, meaning Quinn will almost certainly be at the federal government’s front door looking for a bailout. So while we may laugh now, Squeezy might be coming after you in your own state when you have to foot the bill for Illinois’ mismanagement. (In fact, Congress could make the current federal government more understandable to the middle class by introducing “Boris, the Fiscal Cliff Tarantula.”)
On Friday, executive vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute Kristina Rasmussen appeared on Fox News and treated Quinn’s video with the derision it so richly deserves.
— Christian Schneider is a columnist with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Editor’s Note: This post has been amended since its initial publication.