[ {"id":"ab994bcf-67f6-5493-b814-54089475e6c7","type":"article","starttime":"1550561400","starttime_iso8601":"2019-02-19T01:30:00-06:00","sections":[{"columnists":"opinion/columnists"}],"application":"editorial","title":"How the U.S. might stay in Syria, and leave at the same time","url":"http://qctimes.com/opinion/columnists/article_ab994bcf-67f6-5493-b814-54089475e6c7.html","permalink":"https://qctimes.com/opinion/columnists/how-the-u-s-might-stay-in-syria-and-leave/article_ab994bcf-67f6-5493-b814-54089475e6c7.html","canonical":"https://qctimes.com/opinion/columnists/how-the-u-s-might-stay-in-syria-and-leave/article_ab994bcf-67f6-5493-b814-54089475e6c7.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"David Ignatius","prologue":"Is there a way for the United States and its allies to remain in northeastern Syria, even after President Trump's pledged withdrawal of U.S. military forces there? Officials are struggling to devise such a \"workaround\" strategy, but it could carry more risks than keeping the existing advisory force.","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"12464ac6-e66c-5c1c-8d82-2fe8eb6f4c7b","description":"","byline":"","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":"mugshot","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"406","height":"406","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/24/12464ac6-e66c-5c1c-8d82-2fe8eb6f4c7b/5a74a4176f7b9.image.jpg?resize=406%2C406"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"100","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/24/12464ac6-e66c-5c1c-8d82-2fe8eb6f4c7b/567c762623228.preview-100.jpg"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"300","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/24/12464ac6-e66c-5c1c-8d82-2fe8eb6f4c7b/5a74a4176f7b9.image.jpg?resize=300%2C300"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"1024","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/24/12464ac6-e66c-5c1c-8d82-2fe8eb6f4c7b/5a74a4176f7b9.image.jpg"}}}],"revision":4,"commentID":"ab994bcf-67f6-5493-b814-54089475e6c7","body":"

Is there a way for the United States and its allies to remain in northeastern Syria, even after President Trump's pledged withdrawal of U.S. military forces there? Officials are struggling to devise such a \"workaround\" strategy, but it could carry more risks than keeping the existing advisory force.

The loudest public call for an alternative to withdrawal from Syria is Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The senator said on Friday in Munich that he wants European nations to provide troops for a \"safe zone\" as a way of coaxing Trump to maintain a U.S. presence.

\"I'm hoping that President Trump will be coming to some of you and asking for your help and you will say yes,\" Graham said, promising that the United States would offer \"in return, the capability that we have that is unique,\" and that the United States \"will still be in the fight in Syria.\"

How this plan might operate remains unclear, according to current and former U.S. officials. One official said Friday that Britain, France and Germany had already turned down initial U.S. requests for troops in Syria, but that was before Graham's public plea. Current plans call for U.S. military forces to depart Syria by the end of April, but officials say the timeline is fuzzy.

One possibility, according to U.S. and foreign officials, would be to have paramilitary officers from the CIA take over the training and advising of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Since 2015, those duties have been carried out by U.S. Special Operations forces.

This approach, still in the discussion stage, would allow Trump to claim he is delivering on his pledge to withdraw troops from Syria, without creating a vacuum in the northeast that would be exploited by Turkey, Iran, Russia and the Syrian regime.

This new option, in the language of government lawyers, would mix Title 10 overt military operations and Title 50 covert action. Reduced military activity could continue under Title 10 authority, to provide air cover and logistical support for U.S. and allied troops on the ground, but the SDF's advisers might be CIA officers. The CIA operatives, like existing Special Forces personnel, wouldn't be involved directly in ground combat.

Trump's December withdrawal decision shocked U.S. allies, members of Congress and administration officials -- and led to the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The latest open critic is Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, who told CNN Friday during a trip to Oman that Trump's decision to pull the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria \"would not have been my military advice at that particular time.\"

Votel said the Islamic State \"still has leaders, still has fighters, it still has facilitators, so our continued military pressure is necessary to go after that network.\" He said SDF fighters \"still require our enablement and our assistance with this.\"

A paramilitary advisory force, operating under Title 50, would have some significant disadvantages, reminiscent of other covert actions in past decades. Current U.S. military forces in Syria can deter adversaries because they carry the U.S. flag, literally and figuratively. A paramilitary force wouldn't have that same deterrent capability, or the ability to deconflict operations with other forces in the area, such as Russia and Turkey.

\"Having a visible force on the ground deters all the other actors,\" argues a former U.S. official. \"If we can't talk about that force, or it's wearing a different [CIA] hat, then our ability to deter is limited.\"

European nations will weigh the vulnerability of their troops as they consider any request to provide forces for a buffer zone. They've been reluctant to provide such overt support in the past. But they share U.S. worries about creating a vacuum in northeast Syria and the danger that Kurdish-led forces might be slaughtered if abandoned by the United States.

Given the U.S. and European policy muddle, SDF commanders must weigh whether to make their own accommodation with Russia and the Syrian regime. The United Arab Emirates is said to favor such an approach, and some longtime SDF supporters say a deal with the regime would be safer for the Kurds than depending on a fickle United States and a gun-shy Europe.

Trump supporters, such as Graham, often propose workarounds that try to preserve sensible policy while accommodating the president's whims. That might be doable in Syria, with allied help and some legal and military juggling. But the best course would be for Trump simply to acknowledge that his earlier decision was unwise and reverse it.

"}, {"id":"acea453b-a817-57a9-a7d6-36db374b59a2","type":"article","starttime":"1550561400","starttime_iso8601":"2019-02-19T01:30:00-06:00","sections":[{"columnists":"opinion/columnists"}],"application":"editorial","title":"After Trump, can America ever be great again?","url":"http://qctimes.com/opinion/columnists/article_acea453b-a817-57a9-a7d6-36db374b59a2.html","permalink":"https://qctimes.com/opinion/columnists/after-trump-can-america-ever-be-great-again/article_acea453b-a817-57a9-a7d6-36db374b59a2.html","canonical":"https://qctimes.com/opinion/columnists/after-trump-can-america-ever-be-great-again/article_acea453b-a817-57a9-a7d6-36db374b59a2.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"Richard Cohen","prologue":"There will be no Mount Rushmore for Donald Trump. But, if there's a presidential library, it should contain a Hall of Tweets, a Hall of Lies, a Hall of Insults and, with the \"Marines' Hymn\" softly playing, a Hall of Montezuma, with a section of his border wall. Finally, there should be a Hall of Consequences, the grandest in the place. No president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has mattered as much.","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"b00b38bf-d5f2-524e-8c7a-2b65ac326f7a","description":"","byline":"","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/png","width":"214","height":"214","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/b/00/b00b38bf-d5f2-524e-8c7a-2b65ac326f7a/5c6b0436dfe6f.image.png?resize=214%2C214"},"100": {"type":"image/png","width":"100","height":"100","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/b/00/b00b38bf-d5f2-524e-8c7a-2b65ac326f7a/5c6b0436dfe6f.image.png?resize=100%2C100"},"300": {"type":"image/png","width":"300","height":"300","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/b/00/b00b38bf-d5f2-524e-8c7a-2b65ac326f7a/5c6b0436dfe6f.image.png"},"1024":{"type":"image/png","width":"1024","height":"1024","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/b/00/b00b38bf-d5f2-524e-8c7a-2b65ac326f7a/5c6b0436dfe6f.image.png"}}}],"revision":4,"commentID":"acea453b-a817-57a9-a7d6-36db374b59a2","body":"

There will be no Mount Rushmore for Donald Trump. But, if there's a presidential library, it should contain a Hall of Tweets, a Hall of Lies, a Hall of Insults and, with the \"Marines' Hymn\" softly playing, a Hall of Montezuma, with a section of his border wall. Finally, there should be a Hall of Consequences, the grandest in the place. No president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has mattered as much.

Trump has remade the Republican Party. It is no longer the party of Lincoln or Reagan, but increasingly a snarling, sneering collection of score-settlers, white nationalists, immigrant bashers, homophobes, science-deniers and religious reactionaries who praise a president who has lived a squalid personal life but who promised them a Supreme Court in their own image. Trump's GOP may not endure, but for the foreseeable future it reigns supreme.

Trump's dominance of his party is personified by Mitch McConnell. The Senate majority leader's first love was once the institution and its prerogatives. Just last week, however, he endorsed Trump's emergency decree, which rolled right over Congress, usurping its traditional role in order to fulfill a silly campaign pledge. Trump has personally berated McConnell, but -- unburdened by either pride or principle -- McConnell does what the president wants. He faces re-election next year in a state, Kentucky, whose heart throbs for Trump. Understandably, McConnell fears vilification as a moderate.

In foreign affairs, the Trump presidency has had a huge impact. By fiat, by insult and by a dazzling display of historical ignorance, Trump has diminished the Atlantic alliance which every president since Roosevelt has supported and nourished. The lessons of World War II and of the implosion of the Soviet communist empire -- signal achievements of American involvement and leadership in the affairs of Europe -- are being discarded. At the Munich Security Conference last week, much of Europe stood to applaud German Chancellor Angela Merkel but stayed seated for Vice President Mike Pence. Merkel reproached Trump's foreign policy; Pence defended it. The symbolism was stark: America may not yet be isolationist, but it is isolated.

Under Trump, the judiciary is being transformed. His judges not only are bitterly conservative but have been deemed unqualified by the American Bar Association at an unprecedented rate. He has vitiated Cabinet and other offices dealing with the environment and natural resources, turning over the grandeur of America to despoilers. Only his appointees' ineptness or sense of grandiosity -- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's $25,000 phone booth, for instance -- has slowed the onslaught. Pruitt did manage to get Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement before he resigned.

It's hard to know which of Trump's actions have had the greatest consequence. But maybe the most damaging is how he has soiled the presidency itself. His incessant lying -- The Washington Post counted 8,459 false or misleading statements as of Feb 3 -- has turned the presidency into a gong show. He sits at the desk of presidents who took the truth seriously, who may have lied on occasion but never routinely. Trump, though, spouts lies like a drunken parrot, with, approximately, similar plumage. He has diminished the importance of truth, making it indistinguishable from lies -- just more noise.

Trump's attacks on the press are vividly demagogic. He has weakened its ability to be believed, to uncover scandal, to hold accountable the otherwise unaccountable. He applies the prefix \"fake\" to any news he does not like. He does not simply disagree. He de-establishes and then concocts his own version. He has weakened the FBI, denigrated the CIA, praised Russia's Vladimir Putin and shrugged at the murder of a Post columnist by the Saudis. He is a president out of Orwell, a creature out of Kafka, a nightmare out of the Electoral College.

Will America recover from the Trump era? Not soon, maybe never. The wounds to the environment may never heal. Inept judges serve for life. Our erstwhile European allies will move on, finding their own way, which, we must pray, will not be the old way. The planet will cook and despots will thrive. Bad days are coming.

But maybe the most terrible consequence of all is the growing realization that Trump mined a vein of meanness in the American electorate. We are not the country we once were. As we see politicians act like cowards and a malevolent presidency grow at the expense of Congress, our once-unbounded faith in our own goodness is shaken. These are the consequences of Trump's presidency. He has not made America greater. Instead, he may have put greatness out of reach.

"}, {"id":"c68d10eb-ab18-504c-bc4a-bbf6f48b85dc","type":"article","starttime":"1550561400","starttime_iso8601":"2019-02-19T01:30:00-06:00","sections":[{"letters":"opinion/letters"}],"application":"editorial","title":"Letter: The real \"pro-life\" agenda","url":"http://qctimes.com/opinion/letters/article_c68d10eb-ab18-504c-bc4a-bbf6f48b85dc.html","permalink":"https://qctimes.com/opinion/letters/letter-the-real-pro-life-agenda/article_c68d10eb-ab18-504c-bc4a-bbf6f48b85dc.html","canonical":"https://qctimes.com/opinion/letters/letter-the-real-pro-life-agenda/article_c68d10eb-ab18-504c-bc4a-bbf6f48b85dc.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":0,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"prologue":"Members of the so-called pro-life movement claim to be working on behalf of babies and their mothers. But actions and policies speak louder than words. Scratch beneath the surface of any pro-life organization and you\u2019ll find that they actively work against the interests of women and children. They\u2019re against most forms of birth control, except the notoriously unreliable \"rhythm method.\" They lobby against effective comprehensive sex education in the schools and instead promote abstinence-only programs that have proven to be worse than useless. In this way they promote the unplanned pregnancies that lead to the abortions they claim to revile.","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"revision":3,"commentID":"c68d10eb-ab18-504c-bc4a-bbf6f48b85dc","body":"

Members of the so-called pro-life movement claim to be working on behalf of babies and their mothers. But actions and policies speak louder than words.

Scratch beneath the surface of any pro-life organization and you\u2019ll find that they actively work against the interests of women and children.

They\u2019re against most forms of birth control, except the notoriously unreliable \"rhythm method.\" They lobby against effective comprehensive sex education in the schools and instead promote abstinence-only programs that have proven to be worse than useless. In this way they promote the unplanned pregnancies that lead to the abortions they claim to revile.

They and their penny-pinching conservative allies are opposed to subsidized prenatal care, subsidized infant formula and diapers, universal paid parental leave and accessible high-quality child care.

They basically oppose any policy that would support pregnant women and new mothers.

The real motive behind the pro-life movement is, and has always been, an effort to control female sexual behavior, female reproduction and women\u2019s participation in the workforce. Pregnancy (along with sexually transmitted disease) is seen as a just and desirable punishment for unapproved sexual activity.

Mike Diamond

Rock Island

"}, {"id":"7ae38aee-4845-56d3-af76-d5d85af6f139","type":"article","starttime":"1550561400","starttime_iso8601":"2019-02-19T01:30:00-06:00","sections":[{"letters":"opinion/letters"}],"application":"editorial","title":"Letter: Keep politics out of courts","url":"http://qctimes.com/opinion/letters/article_7ae38aee-4845-56d3-af76-d5d85af6f139.html","permalink":"https://qctimes.com/opinion/letters/letter-keep-politics-out-of-courts/article_7ae38aee-4845-56d3-af76-d5d85af6f139.html","canonical":"https://qctimes.com/opinion/letters/letter-keep-politics-out-of-courts/article_7ae38aee-4845-56d3-af76-d5d85af6f139.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":0,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"prologue":"Every Iowa voter, regardless of political persuasion, should be fully alarmed by the efforts of Gov. Reynolds and the Iowa Republican legislators to alter the way Iowa judges are chosen. For many years, the Iowa judicial system has been the envy of almost every state in the union as a result of how Iowa judges are selected.","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"revision":3,"commentID":"7ae38aee-4845-56d3-af76-d5d85af6f139","body":"

Every Iowa voter, regardless of political persuasion, should be fully alarmed by the efforts of Gov. Reynolds and the Iowa Republican legislators to alter the way Iowa judges are chosen. For many years, the Iowa judicial system has been the envy of almost every state in the union as a result of how Iowa judges are selected.

Iowa judicial candidates must be licensed attorneys and are chosen through a merit system. A nonpartisan commission, currently made up of 102 Republicans, 44 Democrats and 8 non-party members, nominates the candidates. The governor makes the final choice.

This creates a fair, independent court system that follows the letter of the law. Gov. Reynolds supports infusing an even greater political influence into the judicial system by shifting the power of candidate selection from their peers to partisan legislative leaders, opening up Iowa\u2019s court system to political lobbying and partisan influence.

Whether or not this gives one party an unconstitutional advantage now, the party pendulum will eventually swing the other way. How will you feel about this endeavor then?

Every voter should log on to iowacourts.gov and Iowajnc.gov to educate themselves about this process so the ramifications of this power grab are understood.

Changes to the Iowa Constitution should be careful, deliberate and bipartisan -- and left to the voters to decide. We should keep politics and lobbying out of our judicial system.

Sarah Wilson

Tipton

"}, {"id":"2af87c29-2d68-545b-be35-b914d3c15e24","type":"article","starttime":"1550561400","starttime_iso8601":"2019-02-19T01:30:00-06:00","sections":[{"letters":"opinion/letters"}],"application":"editorial","title":"Letter: The minimum wage in perspective","url":"http://qctimes.com/opinion/letters/article_2af87c29-2d68-545b-be35-b914d3c15e24.html","permalink":"https://qctimes.com/opinion/letters/letter-the-minimum-wage-in-perspective/article_2af87c29-2d68-545b-be35-b914d3c15e24.html","canonical":"https://qctimes.com/opinion/letters/letter-the-minimum-wage-in-perspective/article_2af87c29-2d68-545b-be35-b914d3c15e24.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":0,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"prologue":"People should think in this context about raising Illinois minimum wage. Do you believe that you could get married, start a family and provide the basics -- food shelter, clothing, transportation, etc., on $30,000 a year before taxes? Because that's how much you will make at $15 an hour. DeWayne R. Lamp","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"revision":3,"commentID":"2af87c29-2d68-545b-be35-b914d3c15e24","body":"

People should think in this context about raising Illinois minimum wage.

Do you believe that you could get married, start a family and provide the basics -- food shelter, clothing, transportation, etc., on $30,000 a year before taxes?

Because that's how much you will make at $15 an hour.

DeWayne R. Lamp

Moline

"}, {"id":"e9dfe5fa-da9c-59e6-b970-c12ae6d9b82f","type":"article","starttime":"1550475000","starttime_iso8601":"2019-02-18T01:30:00-06:00","sections":[{"columnists":"opinion/columnists"}],"application":"editorial","title":"The best solution: Match reliable state revenues with realistic expenditures","url":"http://qctimes.com/opinion/columnists/article_e9dfe5fa-da9c-59e6-b970-c12ae6d9b82f.html","permalink":"https://qctimes.com/opinion/columnists/the-best-solution-match-reliable-state-revenues-with-realistic-expenditures/article_e9dfe5fa-da9c-59e6-b970-c12ae6d9b82f.html","canonical":"https://qctimes.com/opinion/columnists/the-best-solution-match-reliable-state-revenues-with-realistic-expenditures/article_e9dfe5fa-da9c-59e6-b970-c12ae6d9b82f.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"Rich Miller","prologue":"Gov. J.B. Pritzker\u2019s administration has confirmed that its new public pension plan will slash $800 million from the state\u2019s scheduled pension payment next fiscal year, which begins July 1. That reduction is a direct result of Pritzker\u2019s proposal unveiled last week by Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes, which would extend the state\u2019s pension payment \"ramp\" by seven years, from 2045 to 2052.","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"a29c2755-7883-5b77-9de0-2dd05f5032c0","description":"","byline":"","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"229","height":"300","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/29/a29c2755-7883-5b77-9de0-2dd05f5032c0/5c1d74415ef88.image.jpg?resize=229%2C300"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"131","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/29/a29c2755-7883-5b77-9de0-2dd05f5032c0/5c1d74415ef88.image.jpg?resize=100%2C131"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"393","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/29/a29c2755-7883-5b77-9de0-2dd05f5032c0/5c1d74415ef88.image.jpg"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"1341","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/29/a29c2755-7883-5b77-9de0-2dd05f5032c0/5c1d74415ef88.image.jpg"}}}],"revision":5,"commentID":"e9dfe5fa-da9c-59e6-b970-c12ae6d9b82f","body":"

Gov. J.B. Pritzker\u2019s administration has confirmed that its new public pension plan will slash $800 million from the state\u2019s scheduled pension payment next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

That reduction is a direct result of Pritzker\u2019s proposal unveiled last week by Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes, which would extend the state\u2019s pension payment \"ramp\" by seven years, from 2045 to 2052.

But the administration won\u2019t yet say how much more money will be \"saved\" during the coming fiscal years by extending the payment ramp, except to suggest that the near-term cost reductions might be somewhere around $800 million a year.

More importantly, the administration also will not say how many more billions this scheme will wind up costing taxpayers in the long term.

Hynes recently complained on WTTW\u2019s \"Chicago Tonight\" program that the people who devised the original pension payment ramp never dreamed that annual state pension payments would eventually be consuming 20 percent of state revenues.

And, indeed, way back in 1994 the state projected the pension payments this fiscal year would be $4.66 billion. Instead, the governor\u2019s budget office puts that figure at $7.1 billion, rising to almost $8.2 billion next fiscal year and then to $9 billion by Fiscal Year 2022.

Stretching out the payment funding schedule would reduce short-term costs. But one person\u2019s pension funding schedule restructuring is another person\u2019s pension \"holiday,\" as skimping and skipping the payments were called back in the days before all heck broke loose.

Remember, a dollar saved today by not putting it into the pension fund results in multiple investment dollars lost that will have to be put in by taxpayers years down the road. This is the biggest reason why the state\u2019s pension payments are so high right now. Payments were deferred and, therefore, investments were not made and then debt piled up to mountainous levels and taxpayers are currently being forced to make up the difference.

Almost all the revenue from the 2011 income tax hike had to go to the pension funds because the state had gotten itself so far in over its collective head that it couldn\u2019t make the full annual payment. When the tax hike was allowed to partially roll back in 2015, the state kept making pension payments, but that exploded its unpaid bill backlog and forced cuts to the rest of government.

Pritzker has said over and over again that he opposes any sort of constitutional change to allow for reduced pension benefits going forward. The only remaining option is to pay the piper. The temptation appears intense right now to once again try to shift those payments into the future.

The Pritzker folks say transferring state assets into the pension funds could negate the long-term negative fiscal impact of extending the payment ramp. That would be true if those assets are significant and if the General Assembly agrees to do it.

Pritzker recently announced a task force designed to look into the use of state assets to prop up the pension funds. It will look into selling off state-owned real estate, including the Thompson Center in Chicago.

The most discussed state asset sale is the tollway. Neither Hynes nor the administration would confirm the widespread speculation that the tollway will be put on the auction block.

A tollway sale could generate tens of billions of dollars, but Pritzker will likely have to use every bit of leverage he has to convince legislators to pass it. Former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley\u2019s parking meter privatization scheme has been so universally derided that all government asset sales, even logical ones, are now automatically viewed with the deepest of suspicions. Any sale or lease would likely have to come with far more restrictions than Daley\u2019s parking meter deal, which has sprouted meters all over the city while forcing prices ever higher.

And a 2016 transportation revenue \"lockbox\" amendment to the Illinois Constitution may make the sale impossible anyway.

I am now covering my seventh governor. And what I\u2019ve discovered about the \"future\" over all those years is that it always arrives. Freeing up a little budgetary breathing room today can have severe consequences down the road. I\u2019ve seen it happen time and time again.

The best, most responsible solution is to match reliable state revenues with realistic projected expenditures. It\u2019s never easy to do that, but it\u2019s how other states avoid the fiscal trouble Illinois is constantly faced with.

"}, {"id":"614f39d2-b942-58da-96db-aae548ef3261","type":"article","starttime":"1550475000","starttime_iso8601":"2019-02-18T01:30:00-06:00","sections":[{"columnists":"opinion/columnists"}],"application":"editorial","title":"The real national emergency: the triviality of our politics","url":"http://qctimes.com/opinion/columnists/article_614f39d2-b942-58da-96db-aae548ef3261.html","permalink":"https://qctimes.com/opinion/columnists/the-real-national-emergency-the-triviality-of-our-politics/article_614f39d2-b942-58da-96db-aae548ef3261.html","canonical":"https://qctimes.com/opinion/columnists/the-real-national-emergency-the-triviality-of-our-politics/article_614f39d2-b942-58da-96db-aae548ef3261.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"E.J. Dionne","prologue":"When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi learned that President Trump would declare a national emergency to shift around money to finance his border wall, her denunciation was predictable. But her way of expressing outrage was not. The issue she used to make her point was important on many levels. Observing the \"unease\" even among many Republicans over Trump's abuse of his power, she noted that \"if the president can declare an emergency on something that he has created as an emergency -- an illusion that he wants to convey -- just think of what a president with different values can present to the American people.\"","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"0f208d9d-5df0-57c5-b2d0-a6fd3b683019","description":"E.J. Dionne","byline":"Joe Engel","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"694","height":"590","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/f2/0f208d9d-5df0-57c5-b2d0-a6fd3b683019/5beb49dd9ca38.image.jpg?resize=694%2C590"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"85","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/f2/0f208d9d-5df0-57c5-b2d0-a6fd3b683019/5beb49dd9ca38.image.jpg?resize=100%2C85"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"255","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/f2/0f208d9d-5df0-57c5-b2d0-a6fd3b683019/5beb49dd9ca38.image.jpg?resize=300%2C255"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"871","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/qctimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/f2/0f208d9d-5df0-57c5-b2d0-a6fd3b683019/5beb49dd9ca38.image.jpg"}}}],"revision":5,"commentID":"614f39d2-b942-58da-96db-aae548ef3261","body":"

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi learned that President Trump would declare a national emergency to shift around money to finance his border wall, her denunciation was predictable. But her way of expressing outrage was not. The issue she used to make her point was important on many levels.

Observing the \"unease\" even among many Republicans over Trump's abuse of his power, she noted that \"if the president can declare an emergency on something that he has created as an emergency -- an illusion that he wants to convey -- just think of what a president with different values can present to the American people.\"

And then she recalled the slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018, when 14 students and three staff members were gunned down. \"You want to talk about a national emergency?\" Pelosi asked. \"Let's talk about today, the one-year anniversary of another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America. That's a national emergency. Why don't you declare that emergency, Mr. President? I wish you would.\"

Our nation's deadly permissiveness toward firearms was very much on Pelosi's mind because the House Judiciary Committee had voted 21-to-14 the night before to send a bill requiring background checks for all gun sales and most gun transactions to the House floor.

It was the first serious vote on a gun-reform measure since 2013, when the Senate fell six votes short of the 60 needed to advance a background-checks bill proposed by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa. It was also the most significant gun-sanity measure to move though the House Judiciary Committee since 1993.

Yet as important as this step was, it received scant media notice. The drowning out of news that mattered tells us a great deal about our political moment. It also underscores the challenge confronting those speaking for the vast majority of Americans who want action in the face of what Pelosi was right to call a national emergency on gun violence.

In counting the many costs of the Trump era, we focus too rarely on the president's success in pushing divisive trivialities and self-interested contrivances to the center of national concern. He manufactures crises, and then uses his manufactured crises to create new ones.

There is no crisis at our nation's border. To the extent that there are border problems, his wall would do little or nothing to set things right. And Congress' decision not to finance Trump's monstrous waste of money in no way justifies his seizing of national emergency powers. His vast overreach really\u00a0does create a crisis, which dominates the news and shoves aside all other concerns. But it is all part of the Triviality Feedback Loop that is the Trump presidency.

In the meantime, problems that should engage our energy are forced to the back of the queue of public attention. The normal constitutional approaches to governing -- bills passed through committees, compromises reached in conferences involving both parties and both houses of Congress -- are no longer respected.

And no matter how much journalists investigate and expose Trump's misconduct (we should be grateful for this), his I'm-The-Only-One-Who-Matters approach to politics fits well with the needs of modern media, both social and traditional. Clicks and page views and ratings encourage everyone to dwell on individuals more than on issues.

This aggravates a profound pre-existing cynicism about the possibilities of political action. And defeatism is especially damaging when it comes to guns.

For decades, as one massacre cascaded into another, the gun lobby beat back even the most modest efforts to control access to firearms. The sense of doom about any progress is so deep that it obscures overwhelming evidence that the politics of guns has changed. Even the most moderate Democrats made opposition to the gun lobby a key component of their campaigns in 2018 -- and in district after district, they prevailed.

These victories led directly to last week's Judiciary Committee vote. Organizing worked. Elections mattered. Public sentiment prevailed. Democracy made a difference.

This is why what happened in the House last week on guns deserved far more coverage than it got, and why Pelosi was right to use Trump's phony emergency to highlight a real one. The only cure for political cynicism is to show that the steady and painstaking work of grassroots action can bear fruit. And the only alternative to a politics of spectacle is for elective officials and the media to lift up problems that actually need solving.

"}, {"id":"27ce827b-bca9-50f2-ac0d-58a95657fe67","type":"article","starttime":"1550475000","starttime_iso8601":"2019-02-18T01:30:00-06:00","sections":[{"letters":"opinion/letters"}],"application":"editorial","title":"Letter: Consider reuse of courthouse","url":"http://qctimes.com/opinion/letters/article_27ce827b-bca9-50f2-ac0d-58a95657fe67.html","permalink":"https://qctimes.com/opinion/letters/letter-consider-reuse-of-courthouse/article_27ce827b-bca9-50f2-ac0d-58a95657fe67.html","canonical":"https://qctimes.com/opinion/letters/letter-consider-reuse-of-courthouse/article_27ce827b-bca9-50f2-ac0d-58a95657fe67.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":0,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"prologue":"Landmarks Illinois thanks the Rock Island City Council for passing a resolution in support of the privatization and redevelopment of the historic Rock Island County Courthouse. Like the city council, we\u00a0recognize that the redevelopment of the courthouse presents an opportunity to increase the tax base and alleviate local tax burdens.","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"revision":3,"commentID":"27ce827b-bca9-50f2-ac0d-58a95657fe67","body":"

Landmarks Illinois thanks the Rock Island City Council for passing a resolution in support of the privatization and redevelopment of the historic Rock Island County Courthouse. Like the city council, we\u00a0recognize that the redevelopment of the courthouse presents an opportunity to increase the tax base and alleviate local tax burdens.

Landmarks Illinois joins the city in offering its resources, including an engineering assessment of the building or an adaptive reuse study.

Several developers have expressed interest in redeveloping the courthouse. We urge the county and Public Building Commission to consider the market\u2019s interest in reusing the courthouse.

Instead of the county using public funds to tear down the building, developers can\u00a0leverage federal and state historic tax credits for courthouse reuse, adding to the tax base and creating jobs. The State Historic Tax Credit has worked since 2012 to spark over $400 million in private reinvestment in five pilot communities, and is newly available\u00a0in Rock Island as of January 1, 2019.

We continue to advocate for a public and transparent conversation concerning options for the historic courthouse. We believe that the taxpayers of Rock Island County deserve to have their representatives consider any private offers to invest in Rock Island\u2019s history and future.

Bonnie McDonald, President & CEO, Landmarks Illinois

Frank Butterfield, Director, Springfield Office, Landmarks Illinois

"} ]