By David Stanczak
Anyone hoping for a dramatic change in Illinois politics with the departure of Bruce Rauner from the scene was probably disappointed by the news on our TV screens and emanating from Springfield. Case in point: the tone-deaf ad run by Mike Madigan assuring Illinois residents that, “In the fights that lie ahead, Democrats are on your side.” The premise, that meaningful inter-party political fights lie ahead, is patently false. The Democrats now hold the governor’s mansion and have super majorities in both houses of the General Assembly. The Republicans can’t fight in any meaningful sense of the word. Any fights will be among the Democrats.
And what are those fights? How do the Democrats propose to “put families first again”? Why by bringing about affordable health care (i.e. putting the State of Illinois in the health insurance business), attaining equal pay for women (as if we didn’t already have significant legislation doing just that) and “higher taxes on higher earners” (displaying a picture of Trump Tower). I know lots of people with families, and I haven’t heard any of them complain that Illinois should get into the health care business, women’s pay or more taxes on anyone. I have heard them complain that taxes are already too high, that they have nothing to show for those taxes, that the state doesn’t pay its bills, that its leaders are making the state increasingly insolvent (with a public pension debt at $130 billion and rising), that its credit rating is only slightly higher than that of the average homeless person, and that they are envious of people whose circumstances allow them to escape Illinois for literally any other jurisdiction (45,000 Illinois refugees have sought asylum in other states just last year).
The cluelessness of the ad on the issues important to Illinois residents was exceeded only by the conclusion of the ad which featured a clip of Mike Madigan himself, personally assuring Illinois residents that the Democrats (of which he is the most powerful and well-known) are on their side. This would be the same Mike Madigan whom a Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll found to have a 68% disapproval rating. This would be the same Mike Madigan who presided as Speaker of the House over the state’s steady decline since the mid-1980s. This would be the same Mike Madigan who insured, through gerrymandered legislative maps that most legislators can’t be thrown out of office, and through such iron-clad control over everything in the House that he is effectively Speaker for life. One wonders whether, as he surveys the wreckage of the state, he is channels Nero’s satisfaction at Rome in ashes. Or whether he is too clueless to notice the wreckage when he (personally and in his legislatively dependent law firm) and his party are doing just fine.
This week there was a probable harbinger of what it to come. A bill was passed by the Illinois House raising the salaries of the state’s department heads by 15%. The rationale for the move was so that Illinois could compete effectively with other states for talented officials. Illinois is getting its butt kicked in competition with the other states for solvency, credit rating (we’re last), attraction of business, retention of residents, lower unemployment, and satisfaction with life. But what Democrats focus on as the starting point in competition is appointed officials’ salaries? News flash: it wasn’t less than stellar appointed officials who got us into this mess; it was the elected ones, whose leaders are still in charge.
The ad says, “It’s a new day in Illinois.” The new day looks the same as the old day.
Anyone hoping for a dramatic change in Illinois politics with the departure of Bruce Rauner from the scene was probably disappointed by the news on our TV screens and emanating from Springfield.
David Stanczak, a WJBC commentator since 1995, came to Bloomington in 1971. He served as the City of Bloomington’s first full-time legal counsel for over 18 years, before entering private practice. He is currently employed by the Snyder Companies and continues to reside in Bloomington with his family.
The opinions expressed within WJBC’s Voices are solely those of the Voices’ author, and are not necessarily those of WJBC or Cumulus Media, Inc.