The story of Santa Claus, the fable of government

Thirty years ago when I traveled outside of Illinois people from other states and even other countries would comment to me about Chicago’s reputation as the home of 1930s Al Capone type gangsters. Now when I travel, I hear jokes about the gangsters who populate the halls of political power in Chicago and Springfield.

This reputation of Illinois is growing. The following is the second paragraph of a article that posted a couple of days ago:

Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, California, Illinois, Los Angeles and Chicago are simply the poster children for what happens when elected officials engage in reckless and irresponsible management of their economies, their banking system or their respective government’s public finances.

It almost doesn’t get any better than that. What great national and world recognition for the Land of Lincoln, and what great company we’re in. I kid around, but it’s not a laughing matter. Anyone who has taken the time to follow what’s happened in Greece et al should be horrified of the fiscal company we’re keeping.

Here’s the title and subtitle of that Forbes piece:

The Economic Incompetence Of The Political Class

If politicians don’t get serious about fiscal profligacy, markets will.

The writer, Charles W. Kadlec, included this paragraph:

“One lesson is that to live in liberty requires an elevated level of diligence, oversight and skepticism of our elected officials. Taxpayers and financial market regulators need to insist on more honest accounting and disclosure of the true costs of the government programs in general, and government employee pensions and benefits in particular.”

Uh, no kidding. Taxpayers in Illinois are facing the consequences of their failure to do just that.

Forbes isn’t the only place where Illinois is getting national (and international) attention. On the same day as the Forbes article the Wharton School’s website posted this:

Broken Promises: Can the World’s Stressed-out Pension Plans Be Rescued?

Only New York and Illinois are mentioned as examples of state and local government pension messes. Illinois is referred to as a “worse-case state.” Here is an excerpt:

  • “Illinois will run out of pension assets in 2018 even if it earns an 8% annual return on investments.
  • Chicago has a $44.8 billion unfunded liability and only enough assets to last until 2019.”

Anyone reading Bill Zettler’s work is already familiar with the rest of what’s in the Wharton article.

George Leef, who writes for both National Review and the John Locke Foundation, has an excellent theory that might explain the source of this kind of fiscal insanity:

They’ve presumably gotten past the idea that Santa Claus delivers free toys to good children, but persist in believing that the government has magical powers to do the same thing.

There’s a silver lining to the 2008 financial crisis, the 2009 and 2010 Obama spending, and the continuing saga of irresponsible spending at the state and local level. It’s that more Americans are now awake and helping to deliver the news to more people that government isn’t Santa Claus.