Two Editorials: Cuts are necessary and possible

Two newspapers in the past week editorialized on state budgets – the Chicago Tribune about Illinois’ and the Wall Street Journal about two states that are setting the standard for how to solve a budgetary problem.

The Chicago Tribune’s was a wordy work that would have been a lot more enjoyable to read had that paper not helped to bring us President Barack Obama. If you’re going to be credible on budgetary matters it’s probably not a good thing to have cheered on the career of the most fiscally irresponsible president in history.

Writing about Illinois political leadership, the Trib says:

Faced with problems largely of their own making, these people merely shift the blame to national economic trends. They behave as though they are helpless. And perhaps they are.

Perhaps they are? That’s silly. Anyone with basic math skills understands the problem of spending more than you take in year after year after year. And any clear thinking person realizes that adding debt on top of that isn’t a solution.

Over spending, over promising (as with state pensions) and over borrowing are actions that our political leaders have excelled in here in Land of Lincoln under both Republicans and Democrats alike. They are not helpless. They’re grown men and women with enough ability to get elected to important offices.

The Trib lists some pertinent facts:

  • [Our leaders have a] legacy of unpaid bills.
  • [That] legacy includes a state tax scheme that discourages new business investment.
  • The state that ranks a pathetic 48th in job creation now suffers an unemployment rate of 12.2 percent, the highest in 27 years.
  • The January jobless rate in all 12 Illinois metro areas exceeded the previous year’s rate – for the 32nd consecutive month.
  • As job numbers shrink, those among us still fortunate enough to have jobs must pay for our lawmakers’ habitual recklessness.

The Trib writes:

State government’s free-fall into insolvency was designed intentionally and executed methodically. Over the years, legislators devoted more to hoarding power and ensuring their re-election than to smart governance. They repeatedly created employee benefits, entitlement coverage and spending obligations that the people of Illinois cannot pay as costs come due.

The Trib names Speaker of the State House, Michael Madigan, and the President of the Senate, John Cullerton, who have a combined 72 years in Springfield. It’s good to do the math on years of experience, too. A few years ago I added up the combined years of experience of Illinois Republican state legislators. The GOP’s seven centuries of combined experience still hasn’t produced an alternative budget, by the way.

Of Madigan’s and Cullerton’s caucus members, the Trib calls them “timid, dependent enablers.” Those words apply to both sides of the aisle. It’s time for Republicans to draft a plan and take it to the voters. Now. In this election year.

If those Republicans need inspiration, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial from last Saturday provides it. The headline is:

States of Progress

Two new Governors tackle deficits without tax increases.

It opens:

Can states balance their budgets without tax increases? America’s two newest governors are giving it a valiant try that deserves attention as they cope with record deficits and a slow economic recovery.

Those governors are Republicans Chris Christie (New Jersey) and Bob McDonnell (Virginia) who were elected last November. Both face state deficits and the national economic slowdown. The Journal reports:

This week Mr. Christie proposed his first budget, calling for a 9% cut in the state’s $32 billion annual general fund. He is not talking about phony Washington-style “cuts” against a baseline that automatically increases each year.

Mr. Christie would cut $475 million in state aid to local school districts… The Governor’s critics moan that cutting education would victimize children, but he correctly points out that schools eat up more than one-third of the budget, and that New Jersey spends a gaudy $13,600 per student.

Mr. Christie deserves special applause for his willingness to battle government employee unions.

Virginia’s Bob McDonnell is also targeting education: suggesting a $700 million cut.

Mr. McDonnell argues the cuts are fair because school spending has risen 60% in the last decade…

The Journal notes:

Both governors are under attack from liberal interest groups and the media for not raising taxes, but the public wants government to restrain itself the way families have already had to do.

With so much bad news about government to report, we thought you might be interested to know that spending control is possible.

Amen to that.

©2010 John Francis Biver