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A matter of trust

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

* Eric Zorn hits it right on the head today with a column about the governor’s gross receipts tax and business opposition. It all boils down to who you trust, Zorn writes. Do you trust that Blagojevich has come up with a reasonable, fair plan, or do you trust big business to take care of the uninsured and assume that their arguments against this “job killing” proposal are valid?

Thing is, I don’t trust Blagojevich. Neither do many in his own party, which is what promises to make the coming days so fraught and fascinating. […]

He uses his bully pulpit to propose giving babies one free book a month, stopping minors from getting tattoos, banning violent video games or importing pharmaceuticals and vaccines. But he runs and hides from one of the main challenges of his office — issuing timely rulings on clemency and pardon petitions — and he’s been inept, at best, at policing corruption in hiring and contracts. […]

The gross receipts tax might well be his boldest, bravest and least poll-tested initiative ever. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an independent liberal Washington think tank, last week released a 5,000-word analysis of the pending gross-receipts tax proposal, calling it “a constructive step toward making Illinois’ tax system stronger and fairer” that needs just “a few modifications” to avoid unintended negative consequences.

But to win this battle, Blagojevich will need more than think-tank support. He’ll need trust.

And, I would add, there’s precious little trust of this man at the Statehouse.

* The trouble is, this state’s reporters tend to despise Blagojevich and it’s becoming very clear that they are refusing to give him even close to a fair shake. That’s their right, and the governor brings much, if not most, of that on himself, but the agenda has become pretty obvious: Whack the guv at every turn for just about anything.

Yesterday, the AP moved a story about the guv’s inauguration fundraising…

At least eight companies donated $125,000 to pay for Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s January inauguration, including some with business interests in the state.

The donations, most of which ranged from $5,000 to $10,000, amounted to a fraction of the $1.25 million collected from businesses for Blagojevich’s 2003 inauguration.

I’m not sure exactly what the story was about. Did eight companies contribute $125,000 each? Can’t be because they raised a total of $1.25 million. If their contributions were only a “fraction” of the total, then is it really even a story? Frankly, considering all the hoo-ha about Blagojevich, I figured he was probably raising a lot more from connected insiders. It’s almost (repeat: almost) refreshing to see that he took in so little from those sorts.

Also, take a look at this piece from a southern Illinois paper that quotes Chamber honcho Doug Whitley without offering up any response from the other side…

“We have people asking why they came to Illinois when they could have gone to Missouri,” said Whitley. “We have people asking why they would want to do business in a state that is making situations difficult for them. I’ve had people tell me personally of how they can’t afford to absorb the tax for themselves, let alone for the increases their distributors are going to be putting into items to cover the taxes for them.”

Among other points, Whitley pointed out that the governor is using outdated information.

“We were slow entering the recovery that so many states were seeing,” Whitley admitted. “We know we didn’t start seeing signs of recovery until 2005, but our Governor seems to love the year 2004. That’s the year he keeps drawing his information from when he gives speeches about this. In 2004, we hadn’t started to recover, so of course, the numbers look worse. But, the last two years have seen a turnaround that the GRT is going to kill.”

All good points. Valid. Reasonable, even. But offered up in a completely uncritical manner.

I’m not sure what the governor has to do to get an even break, but it’s clear that those who operate the “filter” don’t think he deserves one. I would assume that most commenters here believe the same, but just remember what could happen if this practice continues with a future governor whom you support.

More tax and spend stories, compiled by our diligent intern Paul Richardson…

* Swapping state pension plan doesn’t save money, says report

* Study examines Illinois state pensions

* Advocates: Governor is holding transit hostage

* More RTA funds urged, gas tax suggested

* Gross receipts keeps plugging on

* Tax plan will be defended in the House

* Tax organization rejects governor’s budget plan

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - the Other Anonymous - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 9:29 am:

    Good points by Rich and Zorn. I think it explains my ambivalence about the plan: I don’t really trust the Governor, but I also don’t trust the Chicken Little approach of big business anytime a tax increase is on the table.

    This post raises a new question in my mind. Do I think that this administration is competent enought to make a universal health coverage plan work? Unfortunately, based on their previous “big ideas” the answer is no.

    As for the press not giving the Governor a fair break: you reap what you sow. However, I wonder if the Ill. Press Association and the publishers are pushing any of this sort of coverage?

  2. - i d - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 9:36 am:

    You write differently since the bus trip. The Gov is the one that has caused the contempt of the people that believed his promises of truthfullness, fairness, and open government. We the people did not lie to him; however, we may hold him accountable for his failure to be open and honest. Reporters should report accurately but the Gov avoidance of the media where he could state his own case makes him fair game for reporters to accurately report what the rest of us are saying. By the way, don’t say hoo-ha since that is the current euphemism for a female body part.

  3. - Brian - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 9:47 am:

    How about answering the question: “Do you trust the state of Illinois with another few $billion, when the state has already shown it can’t productively spend what us taxpayers are already forced to send it.”

  4. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 9:50 am:

    What reason has the Governor given folks to trust him? Is he a man of his word amongst his colleagues, or the kind of guy you need a memorandum of understanding for? Is he someone who is forthcoming to the press about his ethical challenges, or does he lash out at reporters and call them neanderthals? Does he appear at all times to be intent on serving the greater good, or serving himself?

    Reap what you sow indeed.

    My theory, and others will laugh, is that in his head Rod Blagojevich is still running for President someday. Obama pushed back his timetable, but he’s still Democratic Governor of the 5th largest state.

    Health care polls very low as an issue that Illinoisans would like to see they’re state government do something about. But it polls very high nationally.

    And someone reminded me recently that Rod’s inaugural address was all Health Care! Health Care!! Health Care!!! with barely a mention of education.

    Yes, my friends in the front row, as hard as it may seem to believe, Rod still thinks he’ll be President someday.

  5. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 9:50 am:

    ===don’t say hoo-ha since that is the current euphemism for a female body part===

    That’s a new one on me. And I can’t find it in the google, so maybe it’s a local thing.

  6. - S. Illinois - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 9:56 am:

    Rich - My wife and I were in lamaze classes last year and the instructor made repeated mentions of “hoo-ha,” so I guess the term has won technical acceptance. :)

  7. - Bill - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 9:59 am:

    People laughed really hard in Ark. about Clinton running for president. He was hated by just about everyone including legialators in his own party and he LOST his bid for re-election. Its funny how things turn out.
    I see a lot of similarities with Rod and Bill including their affinity for Elvis, their concern for health care for all citizens, their dedication to education, and their sense of what is right and fair play. As far as Zorn is concerned, I’d trust Rod a lot more than I would trust him.

  8. - MIDSTATE - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 10:10 am:

    No new spending until all debt had been paid. All it will do is increase debt. Doctors, hospitals, all medical providors should be careful about this. How much longer can they finance the state? We need to pay off current medical bills, and pay down the pension debt created not only by Blogo, but past Republican administrations. Other states are cutting taxes. Why can’t we????

  9. - Hollywood Rod - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 10:12 am:

    Trust Blagojevich or Blagojevich Trust both seem like an oxymorons.
    Free up those federal subpoenas Rod!
    What are you so afraid of?

  10. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 10:14 am:

    Thanks, “S. Illinois,” but I think I’ll continue using the word anyway. :)

  11. - Concerned Citizen of Chicago - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 10:19 am:

    GRT = Additional State of Illinois bureaucracies.
    Reduce government, don’t expand it.

  12. - Little Egypt - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 10:31 am:

    Rich you say “I’m not sure what the governor has to do to get an even break.” How about living up to his first campaign’s #1 promise - NO MORE BUSINESS AS USUAL. Blago has deserted Springfield like we were a leper colony. He’s moved a lot of job to Chicago. He lives in Chicago. When he decides to work, it’s in Chicago. I really don’t care that he chooses to live in Chicago for the sake of his family. Thompson did the same when his daughter reached school age. But Blago has the personality of a brick. He throws out project proposals and then runs. He reminds me of a school yard boy who is trying to get the attention of kids by lobbing a water balloon over the fence, waits to watch the reaction, then runs for his life. After the balloon bursts, the kids go back to doing what they were before and pay no attention to the kid on the other side of the fence. THAT’S OUR GOVERNOR!!!! Illinois is not a one-man show. Blago needs to spend more time in Springfield, be more visible to voters, and most of all for once in his political career, talk to the press and take the hard questions. But for him, it’s all about the show he can put on. It was all about the bus too and look where that’s gotten him.

  13. - Cassandra - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 10:32 am:

    Now, who would trust any politician. Being untrustworthy is part of being a pol. They always have an agenda and they never want us to fully understand that agenda. If we’re evaluating the various tax plans based on trust or lack thereof of the sponsoring pol or pols, we’re going to get gypped.

    The questions we need answered here are how much is this going to cost me, the individual taxpayer, and what assumptions were made in arriving at that figure and second, where precisely is the money going. It might be possible to develop a calculator to answer the first question, but beyond broad categories of Emil’s Earmarks, schools, and health insurance, we simply aren’t going to get very precise answers to the second. The middle class citizens (the ones who aren’t eligible for the earned income tax credit and aren’t rich either) who are going to pay for all this will, I guess, be performing the tax equivalent of throwing (lots of) their money into the wishing well.

  14. - Larry McKeon - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 10:33 am:

    The credibility gap of this administration was created during the first six months of the governor’s first term. That damage cannot be totally undone. It’s a matter of trust. Once lost, it is almost impossible to turn around.

  15. - Just Saying - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 10:38 am:

    Please, I’m actually curious, show me one economist who says that this GRT idea is a good one. The report Zorn mentions soft-balls its criticism, but it basically recommends changing the gross receipts tax to a value-added tax, which, of course, addresses about 90 percent of businesses’ concerns.

    This is what the report says:

    One potential problem with a GRT is its impact on high-volume, low-profit margin businesses, for which the tax can represent a high percentage of potential profits. Another potential problem is that a GRT favors businesses that conduct most operations in-house over businesses that purchase intermediate goods and services from other firms, since the tax is imposed each time a business purchases inputs from an outside firm. (This latter problem is called “pyramiding.”)

    Illinois can address both of these problems, however, by allowing businesses to subtract the cost of goods purchased from other companies from the gross receipts subject to the tax. Texas and Kentucky allow a similar, although broader deduction.

    I’m still looking for an economist, not on the governor’s payroll, who backs this idea. Any takers?

  16. - i d - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 10:43 am:

    You could just use the term brouhaha and avoid any sophomoric comment.

  17. - Frank Booth - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 11:09 am:

    “this state’s reporters tend to despise Blagojevich and it’s becoming very clear that they are refusing to give him even close to a fair shake”

    Wow! Talk about your blanket comments. Day after day of Rod’s great headlines in the Southern Illinois media because he brought them a baseball stadium. A Southtown piece is touted on the Gov’s GRT website. And if the state’s reporters hate Blago so much, why do they keep going to work for him?

  18. - Team Sleep - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 11:11 am:

    I know some people who work for the governor. Even they aren’t told what the governor is doing and what his policy ideas entail. Some of them have never even met the guy. If you treat your staff in that manner, how can one expect the governor to treat anyone else who oppose his views any differently? I know the governor operates from his Chicago office and home, but he should be down in Springfield at least once a week during session to negotiate with legislative leaders and meet with top staff. He is only prolonging matters. He was elected to and is paid to govern; sometimes, that means compromise and dialogue.

  19. - Bill - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 11:16 am:

    Team Sleep,
    Aren’t you asking a bit much? After all, the Cubs are at home.

  20. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 11:23 am:

    But I like hoo-ha.

  21. - YNM - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 11:48 am:

    I like hoo-ha as well. And trust me, regardless of what word gets used, there will always be sophmoric comments.

    On topic … I’m pretty sure I don’t trust completely the Governor OR the Anti-GRT community. So, maybe we throw the entire trust thing out the window and determine what kind of state we want to be, who we want to help, how we best make fiscal decisions. Maybe it’s time to remove the politics from it completely and just look at the big picture.

    Crap. I knew I felt the idealism coming on again.

  22. - Team Sleep - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 12:08 pm:

    Bill, that was pretty funny.

  23. - Little Egypt - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 12:11 pm:

    I can believe that the Governor’s office doesn’t know much of what is going on, except perhaps his two or three buddies who keep feeding him this bull, coming up with lame ideas, and convincing Blago to lob them out there in his name. I really feel like every agency press spokesman/woman gets thrown to the lions (the press) on a daily basis. I’d sure like to see their job descriptions and see if under “other various duties as assigned” it includes frequently throwing yourself in front of the bus for the sake of the kingdom.

    White House for Blago - that’s a good one. Bill Clinton was available for the press. Remember 60 Minutes and the hard questions about infidelity? At least he and Hillary sat there and listened and answered. How about the grand jury (or whatever it was called) to question Clinton about Monica? I can’t think of any other U.S. President who could have or has stood up to that kind of scrutiny in the press, for whatever reason. Read the Peter Principle. Blago has definitely gone as far as he’s going to go up the political ladder.

  24. - no love on M - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 12:29 pm:

    Frank, talk to some reporters about the Governor. The level of hatred is unprecedented. Don’t think I’m saying that he hasn’t brought alot of this on himself, but the GRT never received an unbiased look from the start. Part of that is also Blago’s fault because he started out with the wrong message. That one story you reference may be the only one written in the state that didn’t slam the GRT totally.
    Just because Dick Kay took a job after he retired hardly equates to the state’s reporters somehow liking the guy. (Yes Rebecca’s a former reporter as well, but I doubt that was what you were refering to.)

  25. - Papa Legba - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 12:31 pm:

    With all of the bologna that has come out of the Guv’s office, I doubt he will be getting an even break from many people any more. The guy is a rank amateur who speaks out of the both sides of his mouth. He panders to whatever the hot button issue is at the time and doesn’t follow up on his grand schemes.

    He can campaign but he can’t govern. His “good will” capital with the people in Illinois has been exhausted. It was all his doing.

  26. - Squideshi - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 12:32 pm:

    I think that the Govenor should just bite the bullet, admit that he was wrong, support House Bill 750, and move on. People will much more appreciate that type of honestey than the current charade that promises to just drag on and on, like an albratross hanging from the Governor’s neck. There is at point at which it makes sense to cut your losses, and sometimes changing your opinion is the RIGHT decision that people appreciate.

  27. - Tea Leaves - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 12:58 pm:

    Bill - Maybe resident of his floor in federal prison, but not President of the United States.
    I’m still laughing! Your killing me Bill.

  28. - Drew - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 2:10 pm:

    You don’t have to distrust Blagojevich to realize that the GRT will cost plenty of jobs and trickle down to consumers. All you really have to do is take the time to understand how the tax works and exercise fairly basic logic.

    On another note, it’s easy to dismiss support lended to the GRT by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities when you realize that they have never found a tax they did not like or consider economically harmful. You could also try doing a Google search and checking out the scores of think tanks whose analysis runs contrary to their own.

  29. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 2:17 pm:

    Well, we will now have two competing proposals in play in the two different houses, tax swap in the House and GRT in the Senate. This could lead to something actually happening.

  30. - Little Egypt - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 2:35 pm:

    Steve, you’re probably correct. Any bets on how long the legislature will run over this year?

  31. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 4:29 pm:


    No idea, because I’m not talking to the only 3 people who are going to count on that decision.

  32. - ole timer - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 5:31 pm:

    Rich - Don’t your EVER get tired of being an apologist for Hairdo?

  33. - Bill - Tuesday, May 8, 07 @ 6:45 pm:


  34. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, May 9, 07 @ 12:31 am:

    Bill - Yes, folks scoffed at the idea of a President Bill Clinton, but I think the comparisons end there. IQ and ongoing federal investigations are where the contrasts begin.

  35. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, May 9, 07 @ 12:36 am:

    Rod Blagojevich is much more like George W. Bush in every way, from his disdain for “academia” and non sequitur references to pop culture, his obsession with taxes, his inability to govern effectively while campaign so well, his twisting of the apparatus of government for political gain, his preference for surrounding himself for kow-towing sychophants, and his holier-than-thou attitude. Heck, Blagojevich still refers to it as “The War on Terror.”

  36. - Bill - Wednesday, May 9, 07 @ 4:10 am:

    “his preference for surrounding himself for kow-towing sychophants”
    Hey!Watch it!

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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