The liberals' 'gesture jamboree'
Politics becomes amusing when liberalism becomes theatrical with high-minded gestures. Chicago's government, which is not normally known for elevated thinking, is feeling so morally upright and financially flush that it proposes to rise above the banal business of maximizing the value of its employees' and retirees' pension fund assets.
Although seven funds have cumulative unfunded liabilities of $25 billion, Chicago will sacrifice the growth of those assets to the striking of a political pose so pure it is untainted by practicality.
Emulating New York and California, two deep blue states with mammoth unfunded pension liabilities, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has hectored a $5 billion pension fund into divesting its holdings in companies that manufacture firearms. Now he is urging two large banks to deny financing to such companies “that profit from gun violence.” TD Bank provides a $60 million credit line to Smith & Wesson and Bank of America provides a $25 million line to Sturm, Ruger & Company.
Chicago's current and retired public employees might wish the city had invested more in both companies. Barack Obama, for whom Emanuel was chief of staff, has become a potent gun salesman because of suspicions that he wants to make gun ownership more difficult. Since he was inaugurated four years ago, there have been 65 million requests for background checks of gun purchasers.
Four years ago, the price of Smith & Wesson stock was $2.45. Last week it was $8.76, up 258 percent. Four years ago, the price of Sturm Ruger stock was $6.46. Last week it was $51.09, up 691 percent.
The Wall Street Journal reports that even before “a $1.2 billion balloon payment for pensions comes due” in 2015, “Chicago's pension funds, which are projected to run dry by the end of the decade, are scraping the bottoms of their barrels.”
Nevertheless, liberals are feeling good about themselves — the usual point of liberalism — because New York state's public pension fund and California's fund for teachers have, The New York Times says, “frozen or divested” gun holdings, and in February, Calpers, the fund for other California public employees, might join this gesture jamboree. All this is being compared to the use of divestment to pressure South Africa to dismantle apartheid in the 1980s. Well.
Apartheid was a wicked practice. Guns are legal products in America, legally sold under federal, state and local regulations. Most of the guns sold to Americans are made by Americans. Americans have a right — a constitutional right — to own guns; 47 percent of American households exercise that portion of the Bill of Rights by possessing at least one firearm.
For Rahm Emanuel to say gun makers “profit from gun violence” is as sensible as saying automobile manufacturers “profit from highway carnage” — which, by the way, kills more Americans than guns do. Emanuel, who is more intelligent than he sounds (just as many think Wagner's music is better than it sounds), must know that not one less gun will be made, sold or misused because Chicago is wagging its finger at banks.
Moral grandstanding, however, offers steady work.
George F. Will is a columnist for The Washington Post and Newsweek.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates notebook: Kang settling in to comfort zone
- Subway suspends ties with spokesman after raid at home
- Homestead man wanted on child sex trafficking charges nabbed in Mississippi
- Starkey: Burnett writing incredible final chapter
- Broad-based tax increases off-limits, GOP leaders tell Gov. Wolf
- Uber lowers fares in Pittsburgh
- Policy to suspend employees with felony charges does not apply to Kane
- Marijuana reform advances in Chile
- Penn-Trafford summer camps focus on specific topics
- House explodes in North Braddock
- Mother of Wilkinsburg toddler found dead in ravine charged with her murder