Illinois has the worst funded pension system for its public employees in the nation. It has the fourth-worst unemployment rate, and until recently it was the second worst. According to the Illinois Policy Institute, Illinois the projection is for Illinois to have the worst job growth in the country in 2014. In other words, fiftieth out of 50 states.
Illinois also has one of the slowest population growth rates in the country as people continue to leave this state. Illinois has one of the greatest debts of all states – usually in the $7 to $10 billion range – and about one year behind paying its bills. Illinois has the fastest growing property tax rate in the country and the second highest property taxes in the country. Three years ago, Illinois residents and businesses received the biggest income tax increase in the state’s history. Look for that “temporary” tax increase to become permanent with additional income tax increases a certainty if a certain party wins reelection in November.
All of the above is true. It is not partisan. It’s not me, being a conservative, railing against liberals and the Democrats. It’s not me spinning. I’m not playing with the numbers. It’s fact. It’s the truth. Yet, at worst, Illinois Democrats – led by Gov. Pat Quinn – stand a 50/50 chance of remaining power in just about all levels of Illinois government.
Currently, the Democrats have super majorities in both houses of the Illinois legislature. In the Senate, Democrats outnumber Republicans better than 2-to-1. There are 40 Democrats in the Senate compared to 19 Republicans. The House is a little better with 71 Democrats to 47 Republicans. There is little chance Republicans will be able to take over either legislative chamber, especially with the district-wide gerrymandering the Democrats did in 2011.
Just about every problem facing Illinois can be tied to the Democrats. Union sweetheart deals that the state cannot afford? House Speaker Michael Madigan engineered those. Unfunded state employee pensions for several years contributing to the pension crisis? Co-engineered by Madigan and then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Workers’ comp laws that send businesses packing to other states? Engineered by Madigan and his Democratic party. Higher taxes? Joint effort between Madigan, Quinn and Democratic Senate leaders Emil Jones and John Cullerton. An unfriendly tax environment for businesses? Democrats engineered that too. Again, fact. No spinning, no historical revision, no partisanship by me. Facts.
One might ask: “How can this be? How can a state so messed up largely by one party and that guilty party not suffer for it? In fact, that party has been rewarded for its destruction. How can that be?”
There are lots of reasons. One, is that I have heard from several liberals that I’ve come across over the years basically say, “I don’t care how corrupt they are or how messed up things are, as long as they have that D behind their name, I vote for them.” Now, one can say that holds true for Republicans too. Republicans will vote for Republicans only because they have an R after their name. There is truth to that, but not to the extent that it is for Democrats. Second, I would bet that many of those who left the state have been Republican. Third, there is the media; especially in Chicago, of which metropolitan Chicago accounts for about 70 percent of the state’s population and electorate. The Chicago media is an extension of the Democratic Party. Never underestimate the power of a corrupt media.
2002 is a great example of Republican disdain affecting the vote. Illinois had Republican governors for 25 years by then: Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar and George Ryan. Ryan, however, was embroiled in scandal and Illinois voters (including Republicans) made Republicans pay. In 2002, Democrats won every state-wide office. Many Republicans stayed home in 2002 because they were angry at the Republican Party, largely because of George Ryan, even though George Ryan was not on the ballot. Unfortunately, for Attorney General Jim Ryan, who was the Republican nominee for governor in 2002, he paid for the sins of the not-related George Ryan.
Life did not change in 2006. Even though scandal was swirling around Gov. Blagojevich, he won reelection and all statewide offices once again went Democratic. And then we come to 2010. Blago had been impeached and on trial for some of his crimes. Even though Quinn was his Lt. Governor and stuck by Blago’s side until the former governor was indicted in December 2008, and a state economy and financial condition that had been in freefall even before the national economy stumbled, the Democrats were largely rewarded. Quinn squeaked by, though the Republicans did pick up a few seats in the House and Senate. The treasurer and comptroller offices also went Republican. But the Attorney General (even though it’s run by Michael Madigan’s daughter, Lisa and, of course, daddy has no influence on her – cough, cough) and Secretary of State’s office remained in Democrat’s hands.
And then in 2011, in the middle of the night and just hours before the new legislature came into being (with more Republicans) the Democrats passed the largest tax increase in state history. Even bigger than the tax increase proposal they campaigned on. And, with that, the Democrats were rewarded in the 2012 elections. They won bigger majorities in the Illinois legislature, despite the tax increase and state’s finances deteriorating even more.
So, can Illinois be saved? Can Illinois turn it around? Will the electorate ever hold Democrats accountable for the state’s condition? I have my doubts.
Many of the state’s newer residents are immigrants and they largely vote Democrat. Republicans have failed to appeal to most Latino voters. Democrats also like to give away goodies in exchange for votes. It does work. Everyone likes goodies.
The corrupt Chicago media perhaps is the biggest hurdle for Republicans to overcome. Since the bridge scandal broke in New Jersey, in just a week’s time the Chicago media has focused more on that and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie than they have on the ills of Illinois in the past year. When Gov. Quinn goes to the Chicago news stations, do they ask him about the state’s problems? No. Do they ask him about the state’s debts? No. On the rare occasion they may inquire, they don’t ask about his role. Quinn will even blame the legislature, which he has on numerous occasions and even though it is controlled by his party, the media never connects the dots. Quinn is above it all. He has no role in what happens in the state.
The Chicago media is now focusing on Quinn’s push for a higher minimum wage, which he officially put forth as something Martin Luther King would want. The media has taken up the mantle that King would want a higher minimum wage, so it has to be good. The media will even ask Quinn about climate change because, you know, Chicago and Illinois have suffered through a cold and snowy winter so far. So, the Chicago TV stations will trot out their weathermen, like WGN did with Tom Skilling, and ask Quinn about the cold, climate change and what we need to do to survive. Regardless of who asks Quinn questions, they are all softball questions, no follow ups and never questioning his role in the fiasco that is Illinois. Keep Illinois voters ignorant. That is the job of the corrupt Chicago media.
Most people know it’s rough out there. Most folks know their taxes are high. Most folks know it’s getting tougher and tougher to make ends meet. Many folks know that even though education spending keeps getting higher and higher, the results are generally getting worse and worse. I hear it all the time. My job puts me in contact with hundreds – if not thousands – of taxpayers a year. I hear how it’s getting tougher for them to pay their property tax bill. I hear the complaints. But there is no, or very little, connecting the dots. There is no accountability.
Folks often ask what is the Republican’s plan? Well, there are Republican plans out there but the corrupt media won’t cover them. Most Republicans talk of lowering taxes, reforming government, cutting spending, getting rid of regulations that hurt the business climate or chase companies away and basically creating a more business friendly environment. But the mainstream media largely ignores all of that because they don’t want you to hear about it. They just want you to hear what the Republicans say no to. Or they will focus on just whatever Republican controversy surfaces.
Republicans do shoot themselves in the foot fairly often too. We have four candidates running for governor. Because each of the four wants to be the GOP candidate for governor, each will trash the other. And, of course, the corrupt media gladly will focus on the infighting. In and of itself, that is OK because that is a part of the campaign and it is news. Conflict is good for the news. However, they won’t tell you the positive points of each campaign.
Unfortunately, that is not even the worst of it. Perhaps the biggest problem facing the Republican Party is that each segment of the party fights each other. Conservatives are fighting moderates or alleged RINOs (Republican in Name Only) and vice versa. Libertarian-minded Republicans fight with conservatives and moderates, and conservatives and moderates fight with Libertarian Republicans. And for some, if you disagree with them on a position or two, then that candidate gets the RINO tag or Neocon or Teabagger. Each group fights and then won’t support the Republican winner of the group, based on principles and covictions. That has to stop and a future column will closely examine the disparate parts of the Republican Party.
So, we come back to the main question: Can Illinois be saved? I’d like to think it can. I’d like to think that there are enough Democrats out there that are tired of class warfare politics, corruption, higher and higher taxes and overall mismanagement. I’d like to think enough Illinoisans are tired of a corrupt media that is more interested in being a mouthpiece for a party than it is in doing their job. I’d like to think there are enough people out there that realize constant one party rule often does not work. I’d like to think there are enough people out there that will hold the Democratic Party accountable for what they have done to Illinois.
If not then Illinois will fall apart. And then what?