Arctic cold has descended upon Illinois. And in Springfield, the state capital, arctic cold has descended upon the mood of politics.
Our new governor is Bruce Rauner. Whatever else may be said about him, he has civic virtue. A successful business man, Rauner decided in his declining years to try to save Illinois from itself. He has denied himself the usual governor’s salary and benefits, and he works at no charge to the taxpayers.
But Rauner heads towards a brick wall in the person of Michael Madigan. Madigan is the big bossman of the Illinois legislature. Governors come and go, but Madigan, like Methuselah, defies time. “I am Madigan, hence and forevermore,” is his mantra.
Rauner, a Republican, wants to cut spending and not raise taxes. Madigan, a Democrat, wants to raise taxes, lately codeworded as “revenue improvement.” One amazing thing being bruited about is taxing groceries. Currently if you buy food in Illinois, that is “low-taxed” at 1 percent, at least here in Champaign. A few items, like dish detergent, are “high-taxed” at 9 percent. It says this on my grocery receipt: “Low Tax 1%” and “High Tax 9.0%”. Quietly being discussed is “high taxing” all groceries. This would deliver more money to employees of the state, to safeguard their pensions. The state employee pensions currently have enormous “unfunded liabilities.”
The state employees belong to public sector unions. These public sector unions give “campaign contributions” to perennial politicians such as Michael Madigan. Then Madigan finds himself thinking, “Why not high-tax the groceries? Then that money could keep paying the pensions.”
Brrr! Sure is cold here in Illinois! The people buying food might shiver to find Michael Madigan taking a “high-tax” from their pockets and putting it into the pockets of the public sector union people. A lot of those shivering grocery shoppers are having a hard enough time already. “The economy is good, or about to be,” they keep reading in the newspaper. “Huh?” they say, scratching their heads. “Prosperity soon? When? They’ve been saying that for years.” In Illinois the prosperity or hopes of it belongs mostly to the members of the public sector unions. Bankers also prosper, as do politicians (except for Governor Rauner who forgoes a salary.)
Who else prospers in Illinois? Here in Champaign, a university town, a sheepskin psychosis bubble is underway. Apartments are being constructed like there’s no tomorrow. The local newspaper recently reported record highs in apartment construction, surpassing even the apartment-building boom of 2007. The young people and their parents have “sheepskin psychosis.” Those under its sway have an unshakeable belief that a college degree equals success in later life. So the young people borrow tens-of-thousands of dollars to invest in sheepskin. The federal government guarantees such student loans so the bankers have nothing to worry about. As for the young people, once they have obtained the coveted sheepskin, something contrary to the sheepskin faith has been happening to them. Instead of “success” they end up doing jobs for which no sheepskin is necessary! And on top of that, they have got tens-of-thousands of dollars debt for which – surprise surprise – they can’t erase through bankruptcy. The net effect for university towns however is “happy days”, with barrels of sheepskin psychosis money flooding the town. So who else prospers? The university towns. (Background: Sheepskin Psychosis Bubble, Ersjdamoo’s Blog, February 11, 2015.)
Who prospers? State government employees, bankers, university administrators, and football coaches who, in Champaign anyway, fail to deliver a winning season. So what happens? After failing to deliver, the football coaches get a fat raise in pay! They get paid about $1 million per year to give us losing teams! (Ersjdamoo can deliver a losing team for only $50,000, which would be a substantial savings during this cold weather in Illinois.)
Brrr… Sure is cold (unless you are rigged-into the system here in Illinois). Governor Bruce Rauner, in a budget address given yesterday in Springfield, dared to utter a squeak about “reform” and “living within our means.” Powerful sectors of the rigged-in Illinoisans (as contrasted with the many Illinoisans not rigged-in) are churning out negativities about Governor Bruce Rauner. They want theirs, by gum, and to blazes with anyone else. So won’t you please give a helping hand to Illinois? Do it today, before you forget. Send contributions to the Save Illinois fund. The football coach will thank you.