Illinois can learn from former Eastern Bloc countries

A reoccurring theme of ours is that if the political debate isn’t going to be about something – it’s going to be about nothing.

When Republicans don’t try to advance policy solutions based on their platform’s principles – then the debate is about nothing. When it’s about nothing we get –

  • U.S. House Speaker Pelosi,
  • Barack Obama being discussed as a serious presidential contender,
  • a second term for Rod Blagojevich,
  • and a veto-proof majority in the Illinois State Senate for Emil Jones.

There is a big something on the horizon for the future of Illinois in the form of a huge proposed tax increase. And you can bet your bottom dollar there will be Illinois Republican state house and state senate members voting for that 67% percent increase in the individual and business income tax come next year.

We’re not convinced that state House Speaker Mike Madigan will allow it to come to the floor for a vote. We realize he’s a liberal – we’re just not sure he’s foolish enough to think that chasing yet more businesses out of the state and increasing the already heavy tax burden on Illinois working families is a good idea.

It’s a fair guess that Madigan knows that Illinois taxpayers have been doing their part by increasing funding at double the rate of inflation for twenty years. It’s also a fair guess that Madigan realizes there is no real oversight over the spending of all the money the Illinois government school BLOB is already getting.

When Republicans stand for nothing all that’s left is to hope that one powerful Democrat is as smart as he seems.

We could write a new article every day about different examples of how raising taxes is the way to impede economic development, limit job opportunities, and depress tax revenue growth. Smart political leaders all over the world already understand this. They are simplifying tax systems and working to decrease tax rates.

Last week in the Wall Street Journal deputy editor Daniel Henninger listed a few examples of enlightened leadership in places around the globe where the taxeaters don’t rule, and policies are decided by what’s best rather than what profits those who live off tax dollars.

In “25 Years Later Reagan’s Tax Cuts Are a Global Tide,” he writes,

Communism had been running what might be called a 40-year demonstration study in life at one end of the Laffer Curve — what happens to economies when you tax away pretty much everything. Freed of this utopia, the peoples of Eastern Europe now had to devise new tax regimes appropriate to nations eager — for want of a better phase — to work, save and invest.

The first former Iron Curtain country to cut its taxes was Estonia in 1994, led by Prime Minister Mart Laar, who claimed then the only economics book he’d ever read was Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose.”

Other Eastern European nations followed, and the political impulse in those nations is to lower the rates. In the U.S., on the other hand, former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin is arguing for the opposite. Henninger writes,

The Rubin Solution may not be easy. Even a Democratic Congress might realize that raising taxes today is swimming against the global tides. In reversing the Clinton tax increases, passed in another age 13 years ago, and spreading tax cuts to the financial sector, George Bush has driven the roots of the Reagan tax philosophy deeper. If he resists a grand compromise on entitlements that raises taxes, it may prove to be his most enduring legacy.

Which brings up the question of what the legacy will be for Illinois Republicans occupying General Assembly seats when an enormous tax increase passes. Or as one person recently said – “There are Republicans in the Illinois General Assembly? That’s news to me.”