‘Blame it on Rauner’ is Dems’ mantra for 2016
by RUSS STEWART
Let’s impeach Governor Bruce Rauner. Some media luminaries are comparing Rauner to disgraced former governor Rod Blagojevich, who is doing soft time in federal prison. The Republican’s sins do not rise to the level of moral turpitude. Instead, it’s a matter of botched arithmetic.
Rauner has this quaint notion that the state can’t spend money it doesn’t have. That is just so uncool; a recent mailer actually terms him "dangerous." Michelle Harris, the slated Democratic candidate for clerk of the Circuit Court, under the tutelage of Illinois House Speaker and state Democratic Party chairman Mike Madigan, is posturing as being pro-Barack Obama and anti-Rauner, and fixing the blame on everyone but the mayor and the speaker. Harris’ campaign is the prototype of every Democrat running for office in Illinois: to attack Rauner’s "dangerous policies" and "dangerous agenda."
Even Marty Durkan, who is running as an unslated candidate for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, is piling on. Durkan is raising the specter of Flint, Mich., and lumping Rauner with Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder. When "extreme Republicans like Rauner were in charge of managing water supplies," his flier blares, everybody’s "at risk." In other words, don’t drink anything but bottled water while Rauner is governor.
What utter gibberish. But there’s much more to come. Rauner is on track to become a weapon of mass destruction. "Blame it on Bruce" will be the Democrats’ mantra, particularly in the contests for comptroller and in state legislative races. An axiom in politics is that victory vests not in those who are right and just, but instead in those who are clever and audacious. Tell a lie often enough, and fiction becomes truth.
In the run-up to the March 15 primaries, here are a couple of non-lies, what were once known as "facts."
First, the Democrats run Illinois, Cook County and Chicago. Rauner is a mere figurehead. Democrats have been the mayor of Chicago since 1931, the Cook County Board president since 1969 and for 80 of the past 90 years, the governor of Illinois from 2002 to 2014 (Blagojevich and then Pat Quinn), the House speaker for all but 2 years since 1982, which means that Madigan has been in charge for 32 years, and the Senate president (John Cullerton) since 2002.
The Democrats have 71-47 and 39-20 super majorities in the House and Senate, respectively. They can pass any bill they want, including the 2016 state budget, and they can override any Rauner veto, but they’ve done none of the above because they demand that Rauner and the Republicans "sign on" to a tax increase. The Democrats can enact a tax increase, as they did under Quinn, but they want the Republicans to support it, in order to give the Democrats "cover" and protect their majorities.
The mentalities of Madigan and Cullerton, who have been in Springfield for a combined 84 years is mired in the good old Thompson-Edgar-Ryan days. Back then, Republican governors routinely made deals with legislative Democrats, and the taxpayers got socked. Jim Thompson promised not to raise state income taxes in his 1982 and 1986 campaigns, but he promptly did so — with Madigan’s acquiescence — in 1983 and 1987. Jim Edgar imposed a "temporary surcharge" in 1991. George Ryan played patty-cake with Madigan during his term (from 1998 to 2002). Illinois "worked," meaning that borrowed debt, taxes and unfunded pensions skyrocketed. During the Blagojevich-Quinn years, the governors were basically missing in action, with Madigan employing every trick to not raise taxes and to not jeopardize his majority.
During Madigan’s "watch," dating back to 1982, Illinois’ pension debt has ballooned to more than $170 billion, including $85 billion in unfunded pensions, $13 billion in borrowed debt and $44 billion in projected retiree health care costs. Bonded debt has soared from $12 billion in 2002 to $44 billion. Since 2002, 1.2 million more Illinoisans have gone on Medicaid, for a total of 2.8 million — which is 21 percent of the state population. The current budget of $36 billion is short $5 billion in revenue versus expenditures, and about $9 billion owed to vendors, primarily social service agencies, is unpaid, and much of it carried over from the 2015 budget.
So when Harris’ mailings claim Rauner has "eliminated life-saving breast cancer screenings for low-income women" and "cut medical services of the elderly," that is just a lie. Rauner proposed a $31 billion budget, with reductions. Madigan proposed a $36 billion budget, with funding for everything. Madigan can pass any budget he wants, with appropriate tax hikes, but he won’t do it. Madigan’s agenda is "Me, Myself and I." He wants to keep his job and his super majority, so the scapegoat is Rauner.
Second, where is Rich Daley? He was the mayor for 22 years (from 1989 to 2011), exceeding his iconic father’s 21-year tenure from 1955 to 1976. As Chicago sinks into fiscal oblivion, nobody is pointing a finger at him. For two decades, Daley had two priorities: get re-elected and don’t raise taxes. They were intertwined.
So Daley didn’t fully fund pensions, he sold the Skyway and the parking meters, and he ran up bonded debt. Every budget had one priority: don’t raise property taxes, so some "kick the can down the road" scheme was concocted to let the next mayor deal with it, and by 2011, when Daley realized he was going to be "the next mayor to deal with it," he bailed out.
Now Rahm Emanuel is saddled with the legacy of 20 years of fiscal mismanagement and deceit, but nobody, at least thus far, blames Daley, and nobody blames the compliant City Council. The common refrain is, "Hey, I just voted like I was told. Nobody told me nothing." Maybe we should blame George Bush.
As can be discerned from the adjoining chart, there are a surfeit of politicians who were "present at the creation" — directly culpable for current state, county and city problems. Ed Burke has been an alderman for 48 years, Daley was in office for 39 years, Berrios, the assessor and county Democratic Party chairman, for 34 years. Is there no accountability? Madigan has been in Springfield for 46 years, Cullerton for 38, and Barbara Flynn Currie, who supposedly is being groomed to be Illinois’ first female speaker, for 38 years.
One of Rauner’s unacceptable proposals, according to the Democrats, is term limits. It would not affect current members, so Madigan and Cullerton would reign forever more. The problem is that those who are term limited spend all their time positioning themselves for a run at some other office. The converse is that those who are not term limited spend all their time running for re-election.
Hey, that sounds about right. Let’s stay in power right now. Let’s deceive the voters/taxpayers for as long as we can, and if we get booted out, let’s suck up as much pension money until the system is bankrupt. That’s how Illinois works.
The chart is not labeled Bruce Rauner. Let’s blame it on them.
And here’s some salient advice to Illinoisans: Move out. Quick.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.