Bruce Rauner and Us

9,000 Illinoisans demonstrated against Rauner at the statehouse on May 18, 2016

9,000 Illinoisans demonstrated against Rauner at the statehouse on May 18, 2016 – Photos courtesy of Karl-Heinz Gabbey

DSC_5953Reading time – 1:17; Viewing time 2:42  .  .  .

There probably wouldn’t be a budget crisis in Illinois – or at least it wouldn’t be as severe – had we not spent decades in Magical Thinking Land.

State workers, including teachers – you know, the people who teach your kids – really did need better incomes, but increasing taxes to fund that was not a politically clever thing to do. Politicians wanting to keep their jobs decided that what would be better was to offer a pension to state workers. It was a promise to underpaid state workers of retirement income at a later date. That way the state could defer the additional expense and let the job of finding extra money for that to be dumped on some later generation of legislators and governors.

But the day never came when politicians in Springfield had the courage to face up to the reality that the promise of those deferred payments to workers would actually have to be honored. They just waited, juggled budget line items and hoped for some magical solution to appear, even as state liabilities continued to pile up. All that waiting wasn’t a serious problem, right up to the point when the state went broke.

At that same time we found ourselves in the dungeon of Republican thinking, where all government is bad, where all unions are bad and all taxes are bad. Then Bruce Rauner rode into town on his mealy-mouthed promise of fiscal responsibility for the state. That meant eliminating unions so that workers would have nothing to protect them from people like Bruce Rauner. We could solve our fiscal problems on their backs and on the backs of teachers. Also on the backs of mentally ill patients and school kids. This makes sense if your name is Rauner.

So, shame on all of us for allowing our politicians to let us believe that there was a free lunch that extended for generations. Taxes were low – everyone liked that – but now we have a crisis of epic proportions, paired with an intransigent governor who seems to believe that he is an emperor and is above compromising with the pitiful representatives of the people.

We’re approaching a full year without a budget and Illinoisans – once again, these are real people – are suffering. It just might be that Bruce Rauner is monumentally wrong for Illinois, but we’re stuck with him unless he is found guilty of some impeachable offense. Sadly, being arrogant, mean and a tool for the 1% are not such offenses.


Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

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3 Responses to Bruce Rauner and Us
  1. Dan Wallace Reply

    Jack, I am late responding to this. I’ve met Bruce Rauner a handful of times. I didn’t especially like him, and I agree that he might be described as a bit arrogant. Not a ton, though. I don’t think he can be described fairly as mean. He’s given away more money than you or I will ever make. I also think he cares passionately about the State of Illinois.

    The problems of this state are legion and well-known. Illinois ranks first on the list of states whose residents wish they lived somewhere else, with 50% wishing they could get out of Dodge. Those problems are first and foremost the result of an unholy alliance that has existed for decades between Mike Madigan’s Democrats and the public employee unions. Yes, the very people who theoretically are on the receiving end of those plump pensions that haven’t been funded and that they almost certainly won’t get.

    Admittedly, that unholy alliance has enjoyed the complicity of a bunch of week-kneed Republican governors, too. There’s lots of fault to go around.

    You might well disagree with Rauner’s tactics, which come down to a belief that the only way to break this unholy alliance is to refuse to compromise with it. It probably won’t work, but there’s an old saying that if nothing changes, nothing changes.

    Put differently, just who the hell do you expect him to negotiate or compromise with?

    What I wonder, Jack, is when you’re going to write a blistering, outrage-laden post about Madigan, who has happily run this state into the ground by cynically making promises to public employees and union members that almost certainly won’t be kept. And why won’t they be kept? Because there isn’t any money to keep them. And one reason for that is that Madigan and his cronies have made Illinois one of the worst states to do business in. (Just across the border in Indiana, you can see billboards proudly stating that Indiana has had a balanced budget since 2007. Whom do you suppose those billboards are aimed at? Hint: EMPLOYERS.)

    While running Illinois into the ground, Madigan has thoroughly enriched himself by using his political clout to win property tax abatements for his well-heeled real-estate developer clients. This is the form of “law” he practices. Theoretically, he recuses himself from these cases. But this is all his “law firm” does. So junior lawyers call frightened assessors and say, “Hi, I’m calling from Mike Madigan’s office.”

    It is hard to imagine anything more cynical or immoral – holding onto power by making un-keepable promises to the lower middle class while enriching himself through raw influence peddling. In any other state, with the possible exception of Louisiana, he’d be in jail now. But wait, what’s that? Oh, his daughter is the Attorney General.

    As you say, Jack, follow the money.

    Oh, wait once again. You can’t. Because other than a slip of the tongue in which he acknowledged making more than $1 million/year from his “law practice,” it is utterly impossible to find out anything about how much money Madigan has or where he got it.

    It is also impossible to find out where he actually lives. But I’m willing to bet it’s not in one of the humble cottages surrounding Midway that make up his district. Despite the fact that the state constitution requires members of the state House and Senate to live in their districts.

    This is the guy you want Rauner, or anyone else with an ounce of moral fiber, to compromise with? Equal opportunity outrage, please!

    • jaxpolitix Reply

      To be clear, this is my first comment on state politics, as I’ve focused on national politics and quite specifically, the corrupting influence of big money.

      I cannot speak to Rauner’s sincerity or what is in his heart about the State of Illinois. What I hear are his words, similar to Scott Walker’s in Wisconsin, wanting to abolish unions and privatize everything. Neither is okay with me.

      As for Mike Madigan, sadly, I just don’t know enough about him to comment, even as your words ring true. What I’m confident about, though, is that Rauner constantly sticking a finger in the eye of his opponents isn’t likely to produce anything good for the people of Illinois.

  2. dominick Reply

    The politicians we are allowed to vote for in a two private political party oligarchy reflect the wishes of the people, do they not? The middle class doesn’t want to pay any more taxes than the very wealthy. Naturally, if wealthy people are elected, we should not expect them to raise taxes on themselves. Thus, our government employees in the executive and legislative branches are representing the people as expected, especially those who fund their election campaigns.

    Most adults are too brainwashed to make informed and responsible voting decisions. They have been convinced that voting in elections absolves them of any other civic responsibilities for how government functions. Everyone is complaining, but continue to believe that listening to what candidates say to get elected is somehow related to any reality of what they will actually do in office.

    How many of you reading this blog understand that once an executive or legislator is elected, they have no obligation to listen or respond to you? That they have immunity from criminal and civil prosecution for the decisions they make regarding laws or regulations. Creating a health hazard like lead poisoning is just one example. Billions of dollars of fraud committed by financial institutions is another. The thousands of people who die every week from medical malpractice is yet another, while most have grave fears of being killed by terrorists. They can only be held “accountable” at their next election, after any damage is done – and often irreversible.