Monday, July 20, 2015

Dubious Research, Double Dog Dares, and Debbie Downers: Some Media's Love Affair with Rauner

Dubious Research, Double Dog Dares and Debbie Downers: Some Media's Love Affair with Rauner:

I read with no small measure of amusement the Chicago Tribune’s recent sneering editorial “A dare to Madigan,” calling out the Speaker: ” So what’s Madigan got?  Looks like nothing.”   Or, was that “nothin’?”

The Speaker, once the darling of the same editorial board’s acclamations in 2013 for his masterful (yet unconstitutional) approach to doing the Tribune’s bidding; that is, masterminding the passage of SB1 and the reneging of benefits promised to public workers and retirees in Illinois, has now become the media’s vilified antagonist. 

Before:  “Madigan acknowledged during debate that his bill is not salvation…but it hurtles the ball forward.  That is worth celebrating...” Then, listing Michael Madigan as one of those great politicians who would not accept the status quo of unpaid bills and tax increases, the Trib gushed: “Please accept our applause.”

Now:  “The speaker looks like he has nothing.”

How time changes all. 

Well, all except the Tribune Editorial Board. 

The Tribune editorial board may be vacillating in their political favorites, but we can depend on consistency in their mission to maintain Illinois’ flat tax, avoid any progressive concepts in taxing services, undermine collective bargaining, privatize public education, and use whatever ink it takes to promote that plutocratic agenda. 

And, if that takes some fudging of information or some old-fashioned disaster mongering, so be it.

“If people needed yet another reminder of the Illinois disaster; it came in a new study this week.  The Mercatus Center, a public policy research group, examined the financial outlook for state governments in all 50 states – and ranked Illinois dead last.”   (Chicago Tribune, July 9, 2015)   

The Mercatus Center?

According to Sourcewatch, the Mercatus Center was founded and is funded by the Koch Family Foundations.  Moreover, the Mercatus Center is involved in ALEC’s tax and fiscal policy task force.  “The Wall Street Journal has called the Mercatus Center “the most important think tank you’ve never heard of” (

Why would the Trib use that dubious source? Other more reputable researchers don't quite see it the way ALEC does.

Business Insider just ranked Illinois #12 out of all 50 states – well ahead of Indiana and Wisconsin. 

Kiplinger just ranked Illinois’ future financial outlook as in the middle of the pack, beating out 14 other states (including Indiana).

Maybe much of the economic outlooks are not only clouded by but also wrought with the political position of the analyst.  Take for example ALEC researcher Laffer’s Rich States, Poor States study.  Illinois falls far, far down the hierarchy for positive economic outlook (approximately 40); he also rates many of the most underperforming and lower producing economies (southern states) as potentially powerhouses in the next year.  In fact, many of the right-to-work and non-union areas of the country which frustrate any comparison with the kind of opportunities in Illinois are characterized as better or promising.   

Here’s another case in point.  Crain’s recently reported findings from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that Illinois has surpassed 48 other states in recent measurements of job creation.  In fact, Crain’s opened with the line, “So much for the job killer rep.”  Much of the movement was in high-tech start-ups, and much of that fuel was attributed to the post-secondary educational advantages within the state.
Speaker Madigan sent that information around in a quick note to the Illinois House members, a noteworthy fly in the Governor's shrill ointment of economic doom in the Turnaround Agenda. 

The Illinois Policy Institute was quick to attack the “good news,” identifying the report as lacking in fullness and too short on bad news.  Ardent supporter of Governor Rauner and the Turnaround Agenda, the IPI offered another series of takes on the US BLS report to dull the shine.  They even went so far as to find some research on the largest 340 counties in the nation, and selected three from Illinois that placed extremely low. 

No good news for you!

By the way, those same three counties, when compared to the over 3100 counties across the nation, do quite well and much better than most of the counties in states where ALEC says we can expect the next fiscal parousia.
The Times research looked at the quality of life in every county across the nation, and their information included life expectancy, average wage, employment numbers, obesity, education levels, etc.

Illinois’ fiscal crisis, to quote a learned Supreme Court Judge, is "one of its own making."  And as long as the Tribune, the IPI, or the new Governor can work to convince us that the fiscal sky is falling, the creditors are at the gates, or the vulnerable and marginalized are victims of Madigan; they can keep us headed in the direction they have always wanted:

Never a progressive income tax.
Never a reasonable tax on services.
Never a minimal transaction tax.
Never collective bargaining.
Never eliminate tax edge credits for corporations.
Never eliminate tax loopholes like TIFs.
Never amortize the ridiculous ramp of payments back to the pension funds.  

Instead, taking his cue from the Tribune, our new Governor has rolled out an “improved” pension reform outline to capture back the $2 billion he had counted on before the ILSC decision of May 2015. 

Unencumbered by precedent or legality, Rauner has directed his Republican leadership to put forward his new “plan” for pension reform.  House Leader and Representative Durkin has stated that he will sponsor and draft new legislation to do just that; and he will offer the Democrats a chance to join on to this measure.

In case you missed it Speaker, that’s a double dog dare from the Governor. 

And Rauner thinks he has “somethin.”

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