The necessary policy changes are apparent based upon Illinois’ messed up fiscal condition. Unfortunately, too few Illinois Republican and conservative donors fund the work that is required to make those changes politically possible.
During the past decade, those very same Republican and conservative donors have been writing big checks. The wrong people have been cashing those checks and profiting handsomely for doing what does not produce governing majorities.
Illinois can again be an economic powerhouse just as it once was. It still has all the same things going for it: Chicago and the metro area surrounding it is world class. The state has some of the best farmland in the world and rich coal reserves. Geographically Illinois serves as a transportation hub that includes air travel, highways, rail, and even shipping via Lake Michigan and the Illinois Waterway that connects Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.
So why the decline? The simple reality is that the wrong candidates keep winning elections, and the bad judgment and greed of elected officials and government employees continues to be given free rein.
Taxpaying families can no longer keep up. Mismanagement and corruption is so out of control that a quarter or more of our state’s budget goes to pay government employee pensions.
Think about $11 per hour retail employees helping to pay $100,000+ a year pensions to many thousands of retired government employees who contributed on average around $160,000 into the pension plan during their entire working life.
Yes, politics is the art of the possible. What many might not understand is that effective communication is the art of making things possible. The “experts” on our side do not know how to connect with enough voters. Thus, those “experts” doom Illinois taxpayers to permanent indentured servitude.
When a small percentage of Illinoisans profit handsomely at the hands of the majority of the population that consists of over-taxed working people, the idea that the few must always win over the many is just plain silly.
Once the many realize how they are being stolen from via confiscatory taxation, they will revolt.
Here are the necessary steps to saving Illinois.
- The federal government needs to make it possible for states to go bankrupt. At long last this is becoming a widespread topic of conservation. For several years now honest economists have accurately called both Chicago and Illinois insolvent. There is no way either can pay its pension debts that have resulted from overly generous (that is, corrupt) pension promises.
- Next, Illinois declares bankruptcy. No small “reorganization” of the debts will do. Slates must be wiped clean. Anything less is negotiating how many tax dollars you are willing to have legally stolen from middle and low-income taxpayers (like those $11 per hour workers mentioned above).
- The state government then separates the government employee pension funds from taxpayers. Instantly the state has about twenty-five percent more revenue available to take care of critical social services and to repair roads and bridges. Current and future benefit recipients should be made to fight it out for what is currently in the accounts. Government at all levels cannot be trusted to run fair and honest pension systems for their employees and thus should get out of the pension business. Government employees should be in the Social Security system like everybody else.
- Restructure the state’s entire tax system. Model it after one of the many states where property taxes do not act as an oppressive mortgage payment that never goes away, only goes up, and regularly destroys home values. Of course, such a reorganization is not an easy task — but it is possible, and it is necessary.
If these and other critical steps are taken, Illinois will have a fresh start, its economy will boom, and businesses and people will stop leaving.
Some readers will be surprised that this list ignores the state constitution’s clause guaranteeing benefits for government retirees. There are several reasons to ignore it — here is just one:
The Illinois Supreme Court, which has already blocked extremely modest pension reform legislation, does not have the power to tax. In a taxing dispute this big, if the General Assembly and the governor both disagree with the court then the court loses. We are not governed by the Illinois Supreme Court, but by three branches of government. There is no good argument for interpreting the benefits clause as saying state government employees can bankrupt the state.
A note on that topic: I attended law school in the mid 1990s and there I learned that lawyers are not taught the U.S. Constitution or state constitutions, but rather, SCOTUS and state supreme court decisions. Having benefited from first learning about constitutions while studying political science, I came to realize that most people educated in law school do not understand constitutional government. (For more on that topic re the federal Constitution, click here.)
To say all the above is politically impossible brings us back to the topic of the information war. The art of winning public support is not mysterious, does not involve witchcraft or the reading of tea leaves or animal entrails.
It is about using all available channels (and creating new ones where necessary) to get the word out. Leftists make the politically impossible possible all the time. For example, it was not that long ago that legally allowing a boy to use a girl’s high school locker room was viewed as politically impossible.
It is possible to win public support for leaders who will clean up the bipartisan mess that is Illinois. Call it making Illinois great again.
Image credit: Illinois Policy Institute.