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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I live in Chicago, a city of dramatic skylines and gleaming office towers for titans of business and finance. My state of Illinois is home to 17 billionaires, and our downstate farmers are the country’s second-largest corn and soybean producers.

And yet new Illinois governor Bruce Rauner says we’re so broke that we must slash $6 billion from our state budget this year — nearly all of it in programs for the poor and middle class. We’re so broke, he says, that there are no other options but to make deep cuts to basic services like mental health programs, drug treatment, and bus subsidies for the elderly.

He also wants to cut housing support programs for people who’ve experienced homelessness and eliminate dental and podiatry services for folks on Medicaid — all programs and services that have actually reduced the state’s overall costs.

Similar budget battles are happening in many states across the country.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, for example, aims to cut $300 million from public universities over the next two years. Kansas governor Sam Brownback wants to slash classroom funding by $127 million. And even in Maryland, the country’s third-richest state, Governor Larry Hogan has proposed cutting Medicaid and state employee salaries.

Despite the growing signs of a national economic recovery, these and many other state officials are whipping up budget hysteria and claiming that the only solution is to crack down on overspending.

I don’t see signs of overspending. When I look away from the skyline and the lakefront, I see young people with nothing to do after school. I see overfilled waiting lists for affordable housing. I see the rusty underbelly of our deteriorating elevated train tracks. I see social services agencies struggling to do more with less.

Draconian budget cuts on the backs of hardworking families and the most vulnerable aren’t the solution. We need more revenue from those most able to pay.

If you’ve ever walked along Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile” — an upscale stretch of skyscrapers and high-end shops along Michigan Avenue — you know we have no shortage of wealthy people.

What’s shocking is that the strip’s luxury store customers pay the same individual income tax rate as struggling working families. Illinois is one of eight states that apply such “flat taxes,” which favor the wealthy.

Many profitable corporations also get away without paying their fair share. In fact, two-thirds of corporations operating in Illinois pay no state corporate income taxes whatsoever.

A network of grassroots organizations called National People’s Action is connecting ordinary folks around the country who are fighting similarly senseless and painful budget cuts. In Illinois, I’ve joined up with ONE Northside and Fair Economy Illinois, two organizations that are bringing together social justice, labor, and faith-based groups to develop detailed proposals for an alternative approach to state budgeting.

The goal is to ensure that our thriving financial sector, our wealthiest residents, and our most profitable corporations pay their fair share of taxes so we can make the investments we need for a healthy economy — one that works for everyone.

Remember, we live in the richest country in the world. We’re not broke — we’re just keeping too much of our wealth in too few pockets.

Susan Gries is the Chief Financial Officer for a nonprofit provider of supportive housing and services in Chicago and co-chair of Fair Economy Illinois.

Cross-posted from Other Words

Photo of Governor Bruce Rauner: Metropolitan Planning Council via Flickr

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Copyright 2015 The National Memo
  • anothertoothpick

    There are 50 states, and each one of them basically have two legislative bodies.

    So out of 100 state bodies, the republitards control 69 of them.

    Yes the Koch’s are doing a good job. And they will change America to fit their needs.

    Rauner, on the other hand does not have this luxury.

    Moreover, he is another one of those that got office with the low turnout. He has NO mandate.

  • U see, it works like this: U self-educate on the issues. U vote. When the elected go to office & start talking crazy, U mobilize & YANK THEIR ASSES OUT OF OFFICE!!! There’s no way 17 millionaires & 3/4 of corporations in a state pay little/no taxes. Otherswise, what are our legislators reading as their duty-charts? Our nations Constitution or the rich/corporations’ marching orders?! We’ve got this all backwards & screwed up. What, is this article just fish wrap? Do people really NOT GET THIS – our DEMOCRACY?! Do U really think the risk people like me take, standing alone, being threatened w/joblessness & homelessness, just for the FUN OF IT??? I’m facing off against SOMEBODY(S) who don’t like my commentary & only 35-40% of voters take it seriously enough to SHOW UP?!?! The rich & corporation ain’t playing games here!!! They mean TO DESTROY THIS REPUBLIC as it was DESIGNED!!! Read this article again & tell U’r self I’m lying when I say they MEAN TO DESTROY IT. The oceans are dying. The air is becoming increasingly poisoned. The food & soil are ‘deformed’ w/GMO residue – that we eat & now, w/out the proper nutritional intake, we CAN’T THINK!!! Thinking, as in understanding & acting appropriately, toward the goal of making EQUALITY the LAW the CONSTITUTION ORDER AMERICAN CIVIC CULTURE AROUND!!! I vote! I have the RIGHT to EVALUATE, DISCERN & COMMENT!!! This article makes the case that we DO SOMETHING or simply STOP pretending we’re engaged & understand Democracy WHEN WE’RE TOO DAMN LAZY TO KNOW ANYTHING OF THE SORT!!! 60% of voters sitting at home on election day is an outrage & we don’t deserve to live in a Democracy under such crazy behaviors!!! In fact, the rich & corporations have already decided we don’t DESERVE Democracy. They’re dismantling it, piece by piece. This article DETAILS HOW!!! Now what do U plan to do about it AMERICA?!?!

  • Independent1

    The only solution that Republicans can seem to ever come up with is gloom and doom of cuts to budgets and every state service they can come up with. As I’ve stated many times on this forum, Republicans know absolutely nothing about running a government; any government.

    Look at Scott walker who after his 1st four years is struggling with a 2 billion plus de
    deficit; and Brownback in Kansas who after just 4 years has 10 billion in debt and only 4 Billion in liquid state assets. And then there was Tom Corbett who even screwed up PA such that Tom Wolf (a Democrat) is now starting out needing to fix a 2 billion budget deficit like Mark Dayton another Democrat was challenged with getting rid of 6 Billion in Debt for Minnesota and Jerry Brown had to try and pay off 27 Billion in CA debt that a guy named Arnold had left him.

    What’s interesting is that they’re supposedly fiscal Republicans (Pawlenty, Walker and Brownbeck) who actually created the messes they left their states in; while two Democrats (Brown and Dayton) who are supposedly spend thrift Democrats had succeeded inthe first terms of both wiping out the debt they inherited from clearly 2 fiscally unsound Republicans. Dayton not only paid off that 6 billion in surplus he inherited from Pawlenty, Minnesota now has a 1.2 billion surplus. And Brown has virtually paid down Arnold’s 27 billion of debt and is now running a surplus; and how did they do this, by using common sense and requiring that those who could afford to pay more, in fact pay more. They judiciously raised taxes on the wealthy. Not only that, but Dayton raised the min wage and mandated that women be paid equal pay.

    And not only did Dayton erase 6 billion in debt, but in the process he created 172,000 jobs in 4 where Pawlenty only saw 6,200 jobs created during his 8 years in office. And Minnesota is ranked in the top 10 states for lbusinesses with a 3.6% unemployment rate. Where Scott Walkter trashed Wisconsin, Minnesota’s neighbor, Mark Dayton saved his state from 4 more years of Republican disaster management.

    Now Tom Wolf has taken another Republican disaster state, so I’d like to post for you below Tom’s vision for bringing recovery to PA which is in total contrast to the Domm and Gloom Rauner seems to be setting Illinois up for. All we can do is wait see how things turn out over the next 4 years, but if Tom Wolf can get the legislature to go along with his vision, I’ll put my money on Wolf – my guess is that given Rauner’s doom and gloom attitude, Illinois is going to be even more worse off 4 years from now than it is today.

    See Tom Wolf’s vision for PA from an email I received from his office today (remember what he’s describing is just typical of the economic disaster one GOP governor after another has created in their state over the past 4-8 years):

    Right now, Pennsylvania stands at a crossroads. We have a $2.3 billion deficit, an education crisis, and a sluggish economy. Our credit rating has been downgraded five successive times, making us one of the least creditworthy states in the nation.

    And since the beginning of 2011, Pennsylvania ranks dead last in the country in job creation.

    That’s clearly not acceptable.

    Yesterday, I addressed both chambers of the state legislature to deliver a bold new vision for our commonwealth because I refuse to be part of the first generation of Pennsylvanians forced to tell their kids that they need to go somewhere else to succeed.

    The reality is that times have changed, and ideas that may have worked in the past simply aren’t working anymore. It’s time to do something different. Our budget should be as bold and ambitious as Pennsylvania has been for over 300 years.

    That’s why my proposal makes a historic investment in education while also providing $3.8 billion in property tax relief to families. And my plan opens Pennsylvania for business so we can create more jobs that pay. The budget also cuts the corporate net income tax in half while also closing loopholes — leveling the playing field for all businesses.

    It also makes investments in our workforce by increasing funding for universities and community colleges while raising the minimum wage to $10.10/hour.

    And it balances the budget without any gimmicks or accounting tricks.

    • charleo1

      The numbers don’t lie. Republican politicians do clearly make a financial mess. So, it might be naturally assumed that Republicans just don’t get it. I have a little different conclusion myself about Republicans. Namely that, they do get it. They know going in, exactly what their policies are going to do. Shrink, and imbalance the economy, cost jobs, depress wages, create deficits, and slow economic growth. While making the very rich a lot richer, the poor, and Middle Class workers a lot worse off, and, at the end of the day, leave the largest banks, retailers, and manufactures with more of the market share, more control over wages, and more people demanding deregulation, and lower corporate taxes. And they accomplish all this, with a simplistic little lie. “It’s not us, it’s the government. This narrative, which none of these Governors came up with by the way. Was created for Right Wing politicians across the Country by so calledConservative Think Tanks on a National basis. With the help of advertising, polling specialists, and professional wordsmiths like Frank Luntz. I would call it, “Never let a crisis created by our slavish devotion to the mega rich, go to waste.” And since the great recession, it has been a narrative that has served them, and brought them political power, beyond their wildest dreams. And gave them license to carry out their deepest, most longly held agendas in plain sight of the
      public, and the press. And left economists largely relegated to the pages of wonky investor magazines, and filing reports to government bean counters.
      Cast in the same discarded light as other apostates who run afoul of their story. Like scientists, educators, and what they label as Socialist malcontents. “Trying to divide the Country along imaginary lines of race, and income.” This according to the spiel, the schtick on the political stump. Businesses are suffering under the same heavy yoke of out of control government taxing, and spending, as everyone. And, if we but concentrate all our efforts on reducing the size of government, and weening some people’s unnecessary dependence on it. We could be that Country our Forefathers always meant us to live in. What a crock!
      But as the man once said. “Never tell a small lie, they won’t believe it!” And when
      he numbers come it, as they will come in. And they seem to refute the narrative.
      Double down! Claim budgets and taxes, just haven’t been cut enough. That we’ve been obstructed by the devotees of big government. Enemies of Liberty, and Freedom. By the Communists, and the trade unions, and other powerful forces on the Left. That work to keep people addicted to government welfare instead of jobs. Or by the Kenyan born President, who actually doesn’t love America the way, “we,” love America. By whatever polls as getting traction, across the intellectual spectrum. Then, the lower the job numbers, the higher the deficits, the more failure endured, becomes their new sales pitch. And the ponzi scheme continues. The stronger their insistence on staying the course becomes. The higher pay offs they promise. And true to Cons everywhere, are not above juicing the books, touting false victories, and inflating profits along the way. To quell any creeping doubts, that could turn into a flood of those who’d maybe like to cash in on their earnings, and think things over. So the question is not whether or not this all falls apart, Ponzi Schemes alway do. The questions are when it does, how many regular working Americans will be terribly harmed by it all? I suspect, mainly because of the increased influence of money on the entire political process, and the rapidity with with a global economy is able to transfer huge sums of wealth, and millions of jobs across the planet. Against the far slower realizations of the American Public at large. I suspect the damage could
      be quite severe indeed. Will it be for certain? I couldn’t hazard a guess. How about you?

      • Independent1

        If you were a member of the Italian Mafia, could you even imagine a better scenario for ripping off the clueless minions than what you just described. Especially with the robbery going on being ‘legal’ because it’s being done by fake politicians??

        I guess when I say that Republicans know nothing about running a government, what I’m missing is saying that maybe that’s ‘intentional’. As you point out, they’re actually very good at siphoning money out taxpayers’ pockets while keeping the vast majority of them hoodwinked with respect to them not realizing that they’re being robbed. I guess what’s a bit unfortunate, is that you, me and a number of other posters here on the NM realize the robbery that’s going on, which heightens our exasperation/frustration over the idiots in our country who are so clueless as to be allowing these crooks to keep stealing from us.

        And I guess what’s even more frustrating for me, is that some of the thievery going on isn’t really so subtle; to anyone who doesn’t have their head completely in the sand, the nefarious activities for people like Rick Scott, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Darrel Issa and others should be readily apparent; but sadly they don’t seem to be given that these idiots keep getting voted back into office.

        Do you think the American populace will ever wake up to all these blatant crooks getting away with stealing the farm???

        • Matforce

          Both you and Charleo1 have it figured. IMHO:
          1) Free Trade Agreements (vs. Fair Trade Agreements)
          2) Supply Side economics (trickle down)
          3) Deregulation of the financial sector (Gramm, Leach, Bliley and the repeal of Glass- Steagall)
          4) Union busting “Right To Work (for less) Laws”
          5) Citizens United vs. The FEC
          These have combined to cast the demise of our beloved USA. You and Charleo1 have cast a glaring light on the orchestrated deception that has been carried out to give “moneyed interest” cover as they continue the fleecing of a complicit electorate, who is duped with rhetoric wrapped in “down home” conservatism, God, Oil, and Red, White, and Blue freedom loving, free-market sounding patriotism, an electorate that has been hoodwinked into voting for their own demise.

          • Independent1

            And sadly, it’s not just thievery of our populace; the GOP is also determined to turn America into a 3rd nation; working to ensure the demise of America’s rail system which is already decades behind most other industrialized nations. See this from the Daily Kos:

            Yesterday, House Democrats saved Amtrak … proving again that they’re the only ones governing

            , but once again, Democrats were the grown-ups in the House:

            In a rare bipartisan vote, the House today approved an Amtrak funding bill that will keep the trains running for another four years …

            The Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act passed on a vote of 316 to 101 (132 Republicans joined 184 Democrats in voting for the bill; 101 Republicans voted against). […]

            Just before the bill passed, a GOP amendment to eliminate all federal subsidies for Amtrak failed on a vote of 147 to 272.And had that amendment passed?

            If it had passed and was later upheld by the Senate, that could effectively have killed national passenger rail service.

            For the second time in a week, Democrats were completely united in keeping critical public services up and running. And once again, proved that Democrats are the only ones interested in governing. You’re welcome, Mr. Speaker.

          • charleo1

            Well said, my friend! Good to hear from you! Keep safe!

        • charleo1

          Geez, I’m sorry, I thought you knew. I am kinda a member of the Italian Mob myself! And, I’m filing suit against the T-Party Syndicate for copyright infringements of my family’s bribery, and business protection racket, as we speak! As an American who’s forefathers came to this Country, and built the blackmail, and extortion business from scratch. It just ain’t right, for an operation to muscle in on the action, without so much as a sit down! Seriously though. I know the GOP Gig is up with a fair number of people. Because recent polls show, when younger people, and family people, especially. Who are buying homes, dealing with making ends meet, health insurance, college, and all that, think of the Republican Right. They think of it as a Party of the rich. Or a Party supportive of religious zealots. Who are fighting public education, rejecting science, and promoting backward ideas. And they also see it as biased with respect to minorities. As a Southern Party of the establishment Whites of yesterday. Which is all true, every bit of it. What I don’t believe they realize is how radical they have become. Or, to what a drastic extent, or how quickly, decisions like Citizens United are changing the political landscape. How much of their influence is being syphoned away by the enormous amounts of money that are not only corrupting the legislative, but is affecting the front end of the process. And how that shapes, and ultimately determines the candidates they have to choose from. What I hate to hear worse than anything, Now what scares me more than just about anything I hear is this assertion that they’re all the same, so why should I bother? That they’re all corrupt, and I can’t stand politics anyway. And besides, I have better things to do than play their meaningless games. Screw ’em. And that right there is the attitude that holds the most danger in all this. And provides the best chance for this latest run at Middle Class financial security, and advancement, to succeed. And wind up an unmitigated disaster for the Country. Then I think it has the potential to reach undeniably bad conditions. We’re talking Great Depression proportions. And then, the turnaround. The, let’s get engaged, and do something here, cause we’re dyin’ out here, 25% unemployment, without a safety net, territory. Which, lets be straight up, is exactly what they’re angling for here. And, the Winger Politicians know it. And Americans, from the lessons of ’08, should know it is not out of the realm of possibility. But as for the moment, seem a bit confused? Or shell shocked? Or maybe just happy because they’re back to work, and think it’s finally all blown over. Instead of realizing the dynamics have shifted, and this is just being the beginning of a fight for their very futures. My hope is they figure this out ASAP!

    • Whatmeworry

      Everyone of the financial messes have a common theme State unions and their Draconian debt due to their pension costs

      • Matforce

        My state’s (which now has a $50 BILLON unfunded pension liability) Republican Governor and legislature decided that the State, as well as our school districts could opt out of paying into the pension fund in 2001 in order to grant a popular feel good reprieve. What could go wrong? The fund was plush with surplus cash and investment returns were in the double digits? Then Wall Street deregulation chickens came home to roost in 2008… And here we are

      • Daniel Max Ketter

        But the mess is universal. I negotiated with Ford back in my active days to get a free pension as well. God bless our labor unions and all their families.

        • 788eddie

          I’ll bet that pension wasn’t really “free;” you probably had to work for many years to earn it.

          • Daniel Max Ketter

            I was one of the hardest working clerks around, putting in 4 hour work days in addition to my union duties.

    • Whatmeworry

      Everyone of the financial successes have a common theme State unions and their Draconian savings due to their pension loss

      • Independent1

        Got nothing to do with unions: the financial disasters in GOP led states are all a function of Gross Republican Ineptitude and outright Thievery!!

  • Matforce

    C&P from an earlier post:

    And why is the mighty USA broke(n)? For the answer you’d have to go all the way back to the (roaring) 1920’s.

    The Great Depression was arguably caused by wealth consolidation at the top, much of which was accomplished when the majority of the capital growth went to those with investments in The Wall Street Stock Market. Stagnant or declining income for the workforce resulted in reduced demand for production and the ensuing snowball effect of unemployment (lay-offs), further demand reduction, and the domino effect of diminished returns, the curtailment of capital investments, the withdrawal of capital when stock prices fell, and finally the bank runs, and the crash of ’29.

    Coming out of the Great Depression, with its lessons fresh on the minds of our nation and its elected officials, policies were enacted to fortify and bolster the middle class. To kick start a recovery, Roosevelt enacted New Deal work programs for the displaced workers like the CCC, CWA, and PWA. Then policies like The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, The Wagner Act, otherwise known as The National Labor Relations Act, and later, the Employment Act of 1946, were measures enacted to fortify the middle class. The Glass-Steagall Act separated the investment banks from commercial banks, and marginal tax rates were set at 90%. These measures, it was agreed, were
    necessary to fortify the middle class (create and sustain a dynamic consumer market), stabilize the financial sector, and practically assure the investment of capital back into the USA.

    These measures were met with bitter opposition and cries of protest from the financial and business sectors and their friends and profit protectors in Congress who claimed they were “unconstitutional,” an “infringement on freedoms,” “socialism,” etc. … Sound familiar?

    But look at the results! For the remainder of most of the 20th century, the USA cultivated the world’s premier, most prosperous consumer economy. The cumulative effect of employing millions of high wage workers resulted not only in the clearing of retail shelves (demand) and the uptick in production, but in the filling of local, state, and federal treasuries. To get a tax break, our wealthy INVESTED their vast wealth in the USA: A win-win-win set-up. Our middle class was gainfully employed, our wealthy received outstanding returns on their INVESTMENTS, taxed at a fraction of their marginal rate or 90%, and our treasuries were plush with cash.

    Together, we were able to achieve the largest expansion in US history, create a “social safety net” (Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, unemployment compensation, etc.), develop the world’s most powerful military, rebuild post WWII Europe and Japan (The Marshall Plan), win the Race to the Moon, AND win the Cold War against the competing Communist system.

    During those years of unparalleled Historic USA expansion and investment, we even had a few years when there were budget surpluses (1951, ’56, ’57 and ’61). We also had steady trade surpluses up until around 1975; by then the offshoring of manufacturing jobs (shoe, garment, textile, toys, and electronics) to 3rd world countries to by-pass the high wage US worker began to take its toll. Then, by the end of the millennium, GATT and NAFTA, but in 2001, when China (Avg. wage- $1.36/hr., some of their children work for 30 cents/hr.) joined the WTO (with MFN status), even our jobs in Mexico left for China, and it’s been a steep downhill plunge ever since. (Incidentally, our burgeoning trade deficits exceeded over Half a Trillion $$$/yr. by 2004 and have not diminished!)

    In my view, our middle class got fat and happy and left the fight for their slice of the American Pie to “someone else,” but in the business sector, their eye never wanders from the bottom line. They continued to probe the fences for weaknesses so they could reclaim their “losses” to US labor.

    FTAs incentivized the jobs exodus to offshore sweatshops and introduced the “global economy” where “multinationals” and “transnationals” continue to monopolize world commerce. The Gramm, Leach, Bliley Act, initiated the deregulation fever that created the lucrative bonus systems on Wall Street and witnessed the “smartest men in the room” behaving badly, then Citizens United, that encouraged Super PACs, in our “pay-to-play” legislature we have today purchased our elections. Marginal taxes on our top earners were continuously reduced since the 50s and 60s until today where marginal rates are around 39% (they were dropped as low as 28% throughout the 80s) and capital gains (where most of the earnings of the wealthy reside, have been reduced to
    somewhere around 15%, about half the rate the middle class pays… All of these bills advanced the interests of BIG $$$, and the by-pass of the spoiled, fat and complacent US middle class (aka: we the people). And now, after 30 years of favor for our “job creators” (how disingenuous), and the decimation of the middle class, the USA has her tit in a ringer!

    Ironically, no sooner had the USA won the Cold War, proving to the world that balanced capitalism, combined with a prosperous middle class consumer market was a system that really worked, than capitalists went about proving Karl Marx right about how unbalanced capitalism works.

    And now, after just 30 years of legislative favor, we’re back to pre-Great Depression conditions where corporatists have managed to garner all of the gains to themselves that they were once required to share. Our Utopian (sophisticated and expensive) society is going broke, and guesses who is making record gains again?

    We’ve forgotten the lessons of the past.