Cook County – An Amazing Quote

A couple of years ago I thought I had heard the most ridiculous quotation when Putin said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

While activities in Cook County, Illinois, have little historical importance compared to the end of the USSR that quote was what leaped to mind when recently, the County Board President Todd Stroger was discussing the county’s huge deficit of $307 million and said:

“Do I think that there could be fat somewhere… there could be up to a million dollars worth of fat, maybe.”

Only the Putin quote rivaled Mr. Stroger’s quote for sheer banality.

Per the Chicago Tribune article titled “How Cook Dug Itself Into a Hole” on October 7, 2007, Cook County has an annual budget of $3B / year and 23,706 “workers” (per the article… I prefer the word active employees). This would imply a well run government with a minuscule amount of waste, if waste was only $1M / year (yes Todd, I am rounding your estimate UP).

I had some direct experience with Cook County government. While this article in the Sun Times discusses City of Chicago workers, the same issues apply to Cook County workers. The article describes how many workers go on disability and then collect paychecks indefinitely, while the city pays for their insurance and they even build up pension credits. While it is certain that some of the disabled workers are legitimate (they have the fire, police and prison guards on payroll) there is also a vast army of patronage workers who “toil” in offices and then claim disability.

When I was working with Cook County in the early 90’s I had the misfortune of seeing Cook County’s disability process; it was a mess. The documentation was quite poor. A common reason for being on disability was “falling off chair”. They had to lock down the stairwells because prior to thinking up the “falling off chair” excuse the biggest prior excuse was that they fell down the stairs.

There was little or no oversight of these claims. People weren’t following up to see if in fact these workers were truly disabled. Processes might have changed in the years since I parted ways with Cook County, but I doubt it, if the City of Chicago issues profiled by the Sun Times are still with us.

Todd – if you want to find millions of dollars in waste – why don’t you demand that workers who claim disability prove that they are totally disabled? If they are not disabled, put them back to work, or take them off the disability roles. And stop accruing pension benefits for them, to boot.

Cross posted at LITGM

3 thoughts on “Cook County – An Amazing Quote”

  1. You could probably fix a lot of problems by severing the connection between public unions and the elections of city and county employees.

    Public employees get to help vote in the people who pay them with money and manpower from the unions. Its like electing your own boss. Naturally, a feedback loop evolves wherein politicians who give the public employees perks receive the most political support. Eventually, you rack a Praetorian guard situation in which no one whom the public employees dislike can reach office.

    Strong public employee unions are a political disaster. I’m glad Texas escaped that trap.

  2. I prefer the word active employees

    Better yet would be payroll. As a proud resident of Cook County I think the use of the term “active” when referring to county employees may be misleading.

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