* My Sun-Times column…
Americans usually prefer it when rich politicians at least try to show that they’re just like everybody else, even if everybody knows it’s just an act.
So Bruce Rauner tried his level best, bragging about his hard-scrabble upbringing (on the tony North Shore) and flashing his $18 watch in countless TV ads (paid for by his own gigantic investment accounts).
And by December, two polls showed that the previously political unknown Rauner was leading all three of his fellow Republican gubernatorial candidates.
But then he really screwed up.
For months, he parroted the usual conservative Republican Party line of saying he was “adamantly, adamantly” opposed to raising the minimum wage because the government shouldn’t interfere with business “pay scales” and because doing so would “devastate” the state’s economy.
Nobody really paid much attention because that’s what most Republican candidates say these days.
But while all those “cheap watch” TV ads were running last month, Rauner said something at a candidates forum that should’ve made big news, but nobody really caught it.
“I will advocate moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage,” Rauner said. “We’re hurting our economy by having the minimum wage above the national. We’ve got to move back to the national.”
Politically speaking, demanding that Illinois’ minimum wage be slashed by a dollar an hour is about as dangerous for a candidate as having a heroin arrest record. No joke.
After the comment surfaced last Tuesday, Rauner tried to backtrack, telling southern Illinois reporters he would reduce the minimum wage once schools were better funded and the economy was humming along.
But that statement was beyond laughable, so then he said he could support raising the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour, and tossed in that he could even back raising Illinois’ current minimum wage if some unspecified business reforms were put into place.
But just as most TV viewers probably already suspected that Rauner has some expensive Rolex watches tucked away at each of his nine houses, it’s quite tough to swallow this recent minimum wage “evolution.” Only that’s far more dangerous for Rauner. Falsely posing as a regular guy is one thing, but don’t attack them.
If Rauner gets pegged as a filthy-rich clown who sneers at the rest of us, it’ll cost him the election. Heck, it could even cost him the Republican primary. So his campaign is trying extra hard now to humanize him.
A few months before he formally created his campaign committee, Rauner penned an op-ed for this newspaper praising “right-to-work” laws for offering union members the “freedom” to choose whether or not to join a union. He proposed letting Illinois counties enact their own local laws.
Ask just about any informed union member and you’ll find out pretty quickly that “right to work” isn’t about freedom, it’s about hobbling unions and forcing down wages.
But lately he’s been more careful about what he says. Rauner appeared on Roe Conn’s WLS radio talk show last fall and all but dismissed his earlier position, saying that the idea wasn’t even among his top three priorities.
On Thursday, he flatly denied that he was anti-union during a Downstate radio talk show, complaining that his opponents had been spreading a “false statement” about him.
So is Rauner one of those rich guys who believes working people make too much and have too much power?
If he backs away from his complete and total opposition to an Illinois graduated income tax where the working class pays less and the wealthy pay more, then we’ll know he has truly evolved.
But I wouldn’t even bet one of Rauner’s houses on that one.
* Rauner’s op-ed for several Illinois newspapers a little over a year ago that focused almost solely on implementing a so-called “right to work” law here in the wake of its approval in Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin…
This Midwestern trend for labor reform has arisen because more states are deciding that closed shop rules are unfair and hurtful to both employers and employees. Instead, they are giving every worker the freedom to decide for themselves whether they would like to join a union, rather than being forced to do so as a condition of their employment. A worker shouldn’t be under a union boss’ thumb any more than under a business boss’ thumb. Increasingly, employers are relocating to these pro-employment freedom states, and are looking only at those states when considering job expansion decisions.
These labor issues, along with high taxes, restrictive regulations and high litigation costs have pushed more and more employers out of Illinois for years. We used to lead the nation in manufacturing employment; now, we’ve declined to merely the national average. As employers and jobs leave, our tax burden is spread over fewer taxpayers, increasing the costs for all of us who choose to remain in Illinois. The result is a long-term death spiral that can be reversed only by becoming much more attractive to businesses and their investors and much more pro-job creation for workers.
Illinois need not adopt the exact reforms found in Wisconsin, Indiana or Michigan. But we sure need to move in that direction if we are going to compete for jobs.
One creative solution is available to us that has not been tried elsewhere. Under federal labor law, states may authorize their local communities to decide for themselves whether to embrace right-to-work. Why not empower Sangamon County, or Effingham County, or any of our other local governments to decide for themselves if they would like to compete for the jobs that come with new manufacturing plants or transportation facilities built by the many hundreds of companies that will consider expanding only in flexible work areas?
This approach would lead to greater capital investment, would increase incentive to hire Illinois workers and would grow the number of companies expanding in our state.
* Rauner backtracking on right to work with Roe Conn last fall…
* Rauner on Robert Rees’ Bloomington Cities 92.9FM Friday morning how: “I am not anti-union, that’s a false statement by my opponents”…
* Even so, here’s Rauner’s campaign website…
We need to lower the cost of doing business in Illinois and make job creation our top priority. To do that, we can:
* Get rid of the Quinn-Madigan tax hikes and replace them with a comprehensive overhaul of the tax code that is fair to all taxpayers.
* Create Right-to-Work zones and allow local communities to decide whether workers must join a union in order to get a job.
* Enact tort reform and limit lawsuit abuse.
* Reform the workers’ compensation system to make Illinois competitive with neighboring states.
Notice that the “right to work zones” issue is second on Rauner’s list.
* Meanwhile, Mark Brown calls out Rauner on his anti-Chicago rhetoric…
Rauner has already mastered the politician’s art of telling an audience what they want to hear, although he may be learning that has its limitations.
On Friday, I followed Rauner on his “Shake-Up Express” bus tour through central Illinois as he railed about Chicago receiving “special treatment” from state government and about “major vote fraud” in Cook County, always popular topics with Downstaters. […]
He also couldn’t explain exactly what he meant when he told factory workers in Arthur that “Chicago is getting differential [I think he meant preferential], special treatment, and that’s wrong. We should be one state where every voter, where every taxpayer, where every school child is treated the same.”
Pressed for specifics, he said, “The state is run by Chicago politicians,” as if that explained it.
Rauner says he expects to receive 25 percent of the city vote in a general election because of alliances formed through his considerable philanthropy in the Chicago area.
I wonder if he’ll use that line about special treatment in his Chicago speeches.
*** UPDATE *** From a press release…
Last week Bruce Rauner was caught “shaking up” not Springfield but his own positions on the minimum wage,” said Steven Shearer, chairman of the Republican Fund for Progress and Jobs. “Rauner used that big sledgehammer from his TV ads to smash his previous positions on the minimum wage when polls showed how badly Rauner–who had $54 million in income last year–was taking for proposing cutting the minimum wage by a dollar an hour.”
“Rauner bashes ‘career politicians’ but acts like the worst of them,” said Shearer. “As always, actions speak louder than words.”
“Demonstrating an inherent dishonest pattern of pandering to a particular crowd, flip flopping when the polls show he is taking heat, and most of all–outright lying, Bruce Rauner is proving himself as lacking the character necessary to be a good governor of Illinois,” Shearer continued.
New evidence of Rauner’s dishonest pattern exposes him publicly disagreeing with himself on the “right to work” issue. Downstate, in front of conservative crowds and on his own campaign web site Rauner promotes right to work in Illinois. However, on Chicago radio he dismisses the idea.
FACT: At the outset of Rauner’s campaign for Governor, on December 22, 2012, the Springfield Journal Register newspaper published an op ed written by Rauner calling for a law enacting right to work in Illinois by county. The editorial Rauner authored was published in full complete with his name and photo next to the op ed.
FACT: As of January 12, 2014, Rauner’s own campaign web site “jobs” plan under his “issues” tab has four bullet points of Rauner’s priorities to create jobs in Illinois. Right to work is listed SECOND out of the four bullet points he offers for his jobs agenda. (Maybe his own web site is “misspeaking” or being “flippant” again).
FACT: On the Roe & Roeper show on WLS radio last fall, when the hosts asked Rauner if he wanted to make Illinois a right to work state, Rauner responded with a list of things Illinois needs to do to for a better business climate. Rauner deceitfully downplayed his support of enacting right to work by saying–”I don’t think that is in the top few” items on his agenda. So enacting Right to Work in Illinois is SECOND in priority of his jobs agenda on his own campaign web site but “not even in the top few” of his jobs agenda on WLS radio.
FACT: On a later Roe & Roeper show a woman named “Susan” called into the program praising Bruce Rauner. The hosts asked her to give a specific reason for supporting Rauner so strongly. She immediately said she heard Rauner say he was going to make Illinois a right to work state. Co-host Roe Conn then immediately told the caller: “We asked Rauner that directly–he denied it here…he denied it here, now we’re talking about both sides of the street.” Priceless
QUESTION: Is this another example of Rauner “shaking up” his position on right to work, or is it taking a sledgehammer to his previous position on right to work?
“The issue about lying so boldly and so often is one of character,” said Steven Shearer, chairman of the Republican Fund for Jobs and Progress.” “With George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich, we’ve had enough Governors with bad character–we don’t need another.”