Who can forget Haley Joel Osment in “The Sixth Sense” and the classic scene where he admits to Bruce Willis that “I see dead people.”?
It has become clear that Rhode Island General Treasurer and would-be gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo is afflicted with a similar gift/curse of seeing things the rest of us don’t see. What Gina sees is school teachers and public employees who secretly love her for pushing through a pension reform law which has allowed her to cut retiree COLAs and transfer the savings to hedge fund grifters on Wall Street who then turn around and fill her campaign coffers.
Last year, Raimondo shared a (tall? apocryphal?) tale with the Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt. It became the centerpiece of Hiatt’s glowing review of the Treasurer’s work in Rhode Island. Here’s the story, as apparently fed to Hiatt by Team Raimondo:
At the Democratic convention in Charlotte last week, a delegate from Rhode Island walked up toGina Raimondo and said, “You cost me $300,000.”
Raimondo, the state treasurer who had quarterbacked a major pension reform, steeled herself for abuse. Instead, the delegate, a retired schoolteacher and wife of another retired schoolteacher, thanked Raimondo and gave her a big hug.
“This system was going to blow up,” she said. “Thank God you fixed it.”
Since then, the Treasurer has given interviews talking about hearing similar words of support from what is apparently a “silent majority” of public employees who are actually grateful to her for cutting their benefits. Most recently, these interactions appear to have become almost a daily occurrence, with the Treasurer offering the following comments to WJAR’s Bill Rappleye:
School teachers stop me every day and say, ‘Don’t give in to the pressure. We need our pensions.’ It’s not a joke for these people. It’s not politics for these people. It’s not a joke, it’s their retirement, and they deserve honesty, they deserve integrity, the deserve sound investment decisions.
Here’s the thing with all of this…it sounds too good to be true, so it’s probably not. It conveniently confirms the Treasurer’s narrative without actually providing any real evidence. Yet the Treasurer gets to spout this nonsense with no pushback. I guess we’re all supposed to believe these teachers and other public officials are bucking their unions and their own self-interest, almost taking their lives in their hands by surreptitiously tracking Gina Raimondo down to give her the secret thumbs up for looting the pension system. (And of course, we’re supposed to believe that in laying out a significant critique of her decision to ramp up the pension fund’s hedge fund exposure, Matt Taibbi is being a joker and making a political attack.)
But maybe I’ve got it wrong. After all, one can imagine how it works in the Treasurer’s world.
- A Narragansett history teacher (we’ll call her Roberta S. to protect her identity), leaves work right after the end of the school day, gets in her car, and heads to Providence, taking a circuitous route to make sure she’s not being followed. She arrives at the State House, dons a raincoat, a large hat, and sunglasses and mulls about the parking lot. When she sees the Treasurer emerging from the building, she walks toward her and bumps into her, scurrying off after putting a note in her hand that reads, “Thank you for everything you’ve done on pension reform. I’ll be in danger if they see me talking to you, but you are our salvation.”
- Or a Providence teacher, let’s call him Gil D., takes a day off and infiltrates the yard maintenance crew doing the fall cleanup at the Raimondo home. He is raking a bed in the front yard, when the door opens and Raimondo emerges. He rushes over and says, “I’m actually a teacher in disguise. I had to take these precautions to make sure I wasn’t seen, but thank you for cutting our benefits. Thank you for ramping up the pension’s exposure to hedge funds and giving our COLAs to Wall Street. It’s the approach we needed, no matter what the unions and the critics say. Keep up the good work. I’m going to go back and water the petunias now.”
Yeah. I’m sure that’s how it’s going down. Or not.
I can’t help of the famous Bill Cosby bit, where he describes God talking to Noah, and when God identifies himself, Noah says “Rrrriiiiggggghhhhhhttttttt.”
But don’t take my word for it when it comes to the credibility of these legions of public employees secretly cheering the Treasurer on. Let’s look at Gina Raimondo’s own words. While she’s telling reporters about the support she’s receiving from public employees for gutting their pension system, she’s sending out fundraising pieces talking of the vicious attacks, the terrible public employees who dared to exercise their First Amendment rights by protesting outside her recent fundraising event.
Which world is reality and which is the fantasy? Here’s a hint…there’s actual evidence of the public employees protesting the Treasurer, captured on video and in photographs for everyone to see. The evidence of all the public employees who support Gina Raimondo’s actions? It’s all in her head.