President Obama. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. All of these men are guilty in failing to lead. They all seek a bigger and bigger government that takes more money from the people and businesses. All of them have sought deals that forsake the future for their own short-term gain. All of them ignore problems that no longer can go ignored.
We have a myriad of problems facing this country and facing this state. And what do the leaders do? They pass the buck, string everyone along and do little to nothing.
In recent months, President Obama has held the country hostage due to a fiscal cliff he helped design and for sequestration that was his administration’s idea. So, he is able to get enough Republicans to agree to increase taxes to the tune of $600 billion over 10 years to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.
With the sequestration, which will only cut about $44 billion from Fiscal Year 2013’s budget, Obama has sought to blame Republicans for any budget cut because they wouldn’t agree to a “balanced approach,” meaning more tax increases on top of the ones he already got not even three months ago. By the way, the sequestration deal that he engineered in 2011 was only about budget cuts and not budget cuts with tax increases. And, we really aren’t cutting the budget, we’re just cutting back on the budget increase.
So, Obama threatens folks with the release with detained illegal immigrants, longer lines at airport security, fewer teachers and fewer first responders. Oh, and the White House stops all tours – except for those who pay Obama $500,000. They will still get a White House tour. School kids be damned. High-paying donors, come on in! Does that sound like leadership? No.
We just completed four years of $1 trillion-plus annual budget deficits, with the 2013 fiscal year set to fall short by another $900 billion. By the end of 2013, the U.S. will surpass the $17 trillion mark in its debt. Before he became president he decried $9 trillion in debt as “treasonous.” Today he calls nearly $17 trillion in debt as no big deal and “manageable” and that we “don’t have a debt crisis.”
Has Obama actually proposed any kind of budget cutting? No. He says we “cut” $2.5 trillion from the deficit – over a 10-year period. No, we have not cut “2.5 trillion from the deficit,” because the deficit is still growing at nearly a $1 trillion annual pace. The deficit is growing, not shrinking. Does that sound like leadership? No.
Medicare will run out of money in 10 years. Does Obama propose or press for any kind of Medicare reform? No. Does he demonize anyone that puts forth any kind of a plan to save it? Yes. What does Obama propose? To cut the amount of money paid to doctors and hospitals in an effort to prolong Medicare’s solvency by a couple of years. Does that sound like leadership? No.
Under Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Democratic-run Senate didn’t put forth its own budget for four years – defying law. Finally, this year it did. The Senate Democrat’s budget proposal calls for spending more than $45 trillion over a 10-year period and adding trillions upon trillions of dollars to the nation’s debt. It calls for growing the federal government spending about 6 percent a year. Does that sound feasible? Does that sound like leadership? No.
And then there is Illinois; perhaps the nation’s most derelict and dysfunctional state. Despite the biggest tax increase in state history two years ago, Illinois is $10 billion behind in paying its bills. It was $8 billion behind before the tax increase. The pension problem is at least $100 billion in the hole.
So, what do the state's leaders do to address these very serious issues? Well, one of the state’s leaders, Gov. Pat Quinn, creates a cartoon snake to “pressure” lawmakers into doing something about Illinois’ collapsing state pension system. Does he propose a plan to fix the pension problem? Sort of. Basically, the Quinn plan, if you can call it that, would just be a band-aide on the pension problem. It doesn’t fix or solve it, but it makes it better. Now, does he actually do anything to push it? No. Does he call in legislative leaders to spend some quality time in his office and use the power of the governor’s office to get a deal done that actually begins to fix the problem? No. Does he actually lead? No. Squeezy the Pension Python performs more leadership than does Quinn.
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton does put forth a pension reform program, Senate Bill 1. However, SB 1 is short on details such as how much it would actually save Illinois taxpayers, who at the moment are on the hook for all of this debt. It also really doesn’t reform the state’s pension mess. It’s murky and short on many, many details. That is never a good thing. Does that sound like leadership? No.
And then we have Illinois’s all powerful Oz, House Speaker Michael Madigan. Most state politicians cower to Madigan. He rules all. All Democratic House members march to the Madigan drum. They never step out of line – unless he tells them it’s OK to step out of line. No House pension reform plan ever really makes it our of Committee in the House because Madigan and his minions won't let it. Does that sound like leadership? Heck no!
Now, there is a pension reform bill that does have shot at getting somewhere. Called Senate Bill 35 and sponsored by State Sen. Daniel Biss (with House support coming from Rep. Elaine Nekritz), it doesn’t really fix the problem, it just makes the boo-boo better with some Band-Aids. It’s not the best plan out there, but with the Illinois political infrastructure as it is under the control of Democrats, it’s probably the most passable plan. If Speaker Madigan allows it to pass. There is still some question if that will happen or not because the government unions are against it. Does that sound like leadership? No.
Some of you might be wondering about the Republican leadership in the country and in Illinois. As far as Republican leadership nationally, the House has put forth a budget under Speaker Boehner and Budget Chairman and former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. The Ryan budget does balance the budget in 10 years. Yes, it adds more debt until then, but it is impractical to cut $1 trillion from the budget in just one year, or even two years. Ryan, in the past and once again this year, does propose actual entitlement reform, especially for Medicare. We can’t begin to balance the budget unless there is entitlement reform. The Republicans for years have proposed various forms of entitlement reforms. Is that leadership? Yes.
In Illinois, Republicans are largely out of the equation, especially after last November’s election which saw Republican numbers in the Senate and House drop to where Democrats have veto-proof majorities and absolute control of both chambers. Republicans have no power. Republican Rep. Tom Morrison has put forth pension reform legislation that would move the pension system into a 401(k) style program. As good as the legislation is, it has no chance of getting anywhere in the Democrat-dominated House. Heck, it won’t even make it out of Committee.
The real key for Illinois Republicans will be in 2014, an election year. What will the candidates for governor propose and when someone does become the Republican nominee, what will he or she propose to do to fix the state’s problems. So, for now, Illinois Republicans get a pass. For now.