Thursday, February 23, 2012



Several thoughts on Governor Pat Quinn’s (no relation) budget:

--Even before Governor Pat Quinn (no relation) made his budget speech yesterday, when news of budget began leaking early this week, I was all set to put up a post ruminating on the financial trouble we are currently experiencing and how this budget, which Mr. Quinn (no relation) touts as tough, in reality does not even begin to address the fiscal mess that is this state. I was about to excoriate those voters, mostly Republicans, but also swing voters, who simply could not vote for Mr. Quinn’s (no relation) GOP opponent, Senator Bill Brady, because they could not stomach his “hard right” stance on social issues. I was going to point out that voting based on social issues, no matter where one stands on them, is silly because the politicians can do little that would have an impact on these issues. They can rail all they want on either side of the issues of abortion, gay marriage, even gun control, or, apparently, Satan’s designs on our Republic, and doing so will get them votes from constituencies who hold these issues dear and who really believe that one can legislate morality, but, ultimately, those grandstanding pols can do nothing to effect change in any of these issues because doing so involves changing people’s hearts, not telling how to live or how others should live.

In this context, I was going to say that those who are fiscally conservative, or just want to stop the once great Land of Lincoln from falling into the rabbit hole, but voted for Quinn because they are pro-choice are now reaping the fruits of their misguided votes. I was also going to broaden the argument and argue that those who vote solely, say, pro-life without regard to fiscal issues make a similar mistake, forsaking issues over which the pols have some influence in order to vote on issues on which their impact is (In most cases, thankfully, but that is grist for another post.) limited. But one thing gnawed at me, a perennial point of the Pontificator, to much different would things have been from a fiscal standpoint under a Governor Brady? Yes, he would have spent a little less and his cuts would have fallen on perhaps different programs than would Governor Quinn’s (no relation) “cuts,” but Mr. Brady would have had to raise taxes (As I said ad nauseam around the time of the tax increase, the money had already been spent and, constitutionally, Illinois, like most states, has to run what passes for a balanced budget.) and Mr. Brady, being a pol, would have been similarly pusillanimous about making cuts that would cost him votes.

I’m glad I waited until now to post on this issue because this morning’s (Thursday, 2/23’s, page 10) Chicago Tribune provided confirmation regarding the likelihood of Mr. Brady’s pursuing a course much different form Mr. Quinn (no relation). Mr. Brady is arguing against Mr. Quinn’s (no relation) proposed “facilities” closings and trying to mask his opposition in terms of fiscal rectitude, arguing that closing facilities and laying off workers will make the admittedly far more important pension negotiations with the unions representing those workers difficult:

It’s going to take employee participation to solve these problems in the area of pensions, and to throw this (the closings) out at this point in time, I’m just concerned about how those representing employees are going to react.”

So there is your “conservative” candidate for governor, effectively telling us that we’d better not cut the budget because it would upset AFSCME. This should inspire people to vote Republican…oh, yeah.

--Governor Quinn (no relation) was not specific on many of his proposed cuts in the budget, but he was specific about prisons he would like to close: the super-max facility at Tamms and the women’s jail in Dwight.

I don’t know if these cuts are advisable; the Governor argues that we have plenty of excess space throughout the system to house the inmates currently at Tamms and Dwight and that the maximum security jail in Pontiac can provide all the security needed to house the bad actors from Tamms. Maybe he’s wrong, maybe he’s right. On the one hand, it’s hard for me to argue with cutting any kind of government spending. On the other hand, it’s hard for me not to argue that we could always use more prison space in order to house, or, better yet, deter the miscreants among us, unless we decide to overhaul our drug laws, but that, too, is grist for another mill.

Whether closing Tamms and Dwight is a good idea, it is clear that Governor Quinn (no relation) is engaging in a time-honored political tactic: When cuts are needed, cut those programs, facilities, or services that the tax paying middle class finds valuable (in this case, making sure that the bad guys are kept behind bars) so that those who pay the bills will rise up against those cuts and perhaps accede to further tax increases to, for example, “keep us safe.” Never propose cuts in the various cutesy-pie, feel good programs that do little, at best, to address the social pathologies they are ostensibly designed to affect but, rather, serve as sops to the various interest groups and contributors that put our public servants in office. Those are sacrosanct to the pols but would be lopped off in a heartbeat by those charged with paying for these useless, or counter-productive, handouts to the entitled at all levels of the income distribution.

We see this tactic all the time out here in the suburbs when a bond issue for “our children” is proposed. Proponents tell us that if we don’t issue the bonds, class sizes will increase, course offerings will be cut (This wouldn’t be such a bad thing in districts that offer, for example, several finance courses…in high school. But that is another issue.), athletics will suffer, etc. Never do they propose as a possibility lopping off levels of vestigial middle management in the ranks of school and district “administrators”…no sir. What will be cut are those programs that directly benefit, or that are perceived to directly benefit, the students, the children of the taxpayers.

Governor Quinn (no relation) is doing the same thing; he tells us that if we insist on cuts, okay, he’ll close prisons while disingenuously telling us that this will have no impact on public safety. It almost doesn’t matter whether closing the prisons would be a good thing or not as long as most of the voters think that closing them will have an impact on public safety and therefore would not be such a good thing. Higher education, a program near and dear to the hearts of middle class taxpayers, will probably come up for proposed cuts as well.

The state of Illinois is in, as it is often put, one h(eck) of a mess. Given the political realities, and the want of a spine that is such a salient feature of the people who run this state, there is little way out of this other than massive tax increases. Not only is this once great state going to be an inhospitable place for business; it is going to an inhospitable place for anyone who works.

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