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Actually, it could be a whole lot worse

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012

* Illinois Chamber President Doug Whitley gave Gov. Pat Quinn a C to a C+ grade for job creation policies so far. The governor took umbrage

Quinn responded that he believed the United Auto Workers would give him an A thanks to his role in convincing Chrysler to bring 1,800 jobs to its Belvidere plant.

Point taken, but considering that Illinois is almost always portrayed as the worst state in the entire freaking universe, an average to slightly above average grade from the state Chamber leader is comparatively positive.

* What Whitley wants

To that end, Whitley said that ahead of Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget address Wednesday, the Chamber of Commerce is highlighting five areas where the state needs to focus on making serious improvements. They include restoring fiscal integrity, reducing the cost of doing business, improving education and work force skills, investing in infrastructure and improving confidence in the state’s judiciary.

Thus far on making the necessary improvements, the Chamber’s leader gave Quinn a grade of ‘C,’ mainly because he said the jury is still out on the changes the governor has implemented. Yet he acknowledged Quinn has improved our situation in the last three years.

Whitley took a favorable view of reports that Quinn plans to call for a 9 percent cut in state spending over the coming year.

“I would think that would be significant,” he said. “If that’s what comes through, that would set the right tone.”

* But this is a recommendation too far

Whitley did praise the governor for identifying economic development as a priority, and especially for putting renewed focus on generating more trade between Illinois and the rest of the world. But he says Quinn “gets a really low grade on fiscal policy.”

“The situation is not terribly different in Illinois than the situation in (debt-crippled) Greece,” Whitley said. “We are going to have to do things that aren’t terribly popular — but it’s the only way to turn this state around.”

Um, Doug, the Greek unemployment rate rose to almost 21 percent in November following months of severe austerity measures, according to the latest reports. Spanish unemployment is almost 23 percent after huge budget cuts. If Greece and Spain have taught the world anything, it’s that you can’t slash your way to prosperity.

Granted, cutting the Illinois budget by a similar amount would have a lesser impact on the economy than slashing a federal budget. But it’s still gonna hurt, and it’s a bit unseemly to be so glib about the coming cuts (which we’ll discuss in another post).

- Posted by Rich Miller        


41 Comments
  1. - Plutocrat03 - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 9:27 am:

    The hubris of a politician asserting, without any explanation, that they were instrumental in bringing any kind of job to Illinois is breathtaking.

    The reality is more likely that the Belvedere plant was in good enough shape despite it;s location to bring this retooled Fiat in to US production .

    Let’s cross our fingers and hope it is a decent car the public will embrace.


  2. - Robert - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 9:27 am:

    The Chamber of Commerce sounds like a typical voter:

    We want more services (”improving education and work force skills, investing in infrastructure”)!

    We want less taxes (”reducing the cost of doing business”)!

    Oh, and we also want a more balanced budget (”restoring fiscal integrity”)!


  3. - mark walker - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 9:39 am:

    Why is it that when a company decides to move jobs out of Illinois it is the governor’s fault, but when they decide to bring jobs into Illinois, it’s because the “plant was in good enough shape”?

    A little fairness please.


  4. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 9:41 am:

    So, the Chamber of Commerce and all the big business enablers of Illinois policy for decades all of a sudden want to offer solutions and criticisms? Once they offer some skin off their back, I’ll give a hoot about their political analysis.


  5. - Billy Dennis - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 9:43 am:

    Nice rational response to a irrational speech. The right-wingers will continue to promote this cut, cut, cut nonsense no matter what. It’s good that someone, anyone is pointing out that it just doesn’t work.


  6. - Fed up - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 9:48 am:

    Spending more than we take in for the last 10-15 years hasn’t seemed to work either. So maybe giving cuts a chance isn’t so crazy. That being said I don’t think anyone is going to be happy with the budget. Quinn should of signed the gambling bill. The money would be a few years off but better than nothing. Expanding the sales tax to services is another idea.


  7. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 9:50 am:

    Anytime someone compares our situation to Greece, at the state or national level, I can’t them seriously.


  8. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 9:51 am:

    Robert sums up the usual contradictions pretty well: spend more on what we want, cut our taxes and balance the budget.

    –The hubris of a politician asserting, without any explanation, that they were instrumental in bringing any kind of job to Illinois is breathtaking.–

    If you have to wear the jacket for every bit of bad news, you get to take credit for good news. There are Edge Credits, job training funds and an Enterprise Zone designation that helped seal the deal for Chrysler.


  9. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 9:56 am:

    The Greece comparison is just dumb, too. What relationships can you draw between a nation-state that’s tied up in a multi-national currency and one of fifty United States?


  10. - WashingtonIrving - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 10:08 am:

    “If Greece and Spain have taught the world anything, it’s that you can’t slash your way to prosperity.”

    The problem is that at some point, people will stop lending. Or at least at reasonable rates. I don’t know if the rates have changed, but a few months ago IL debt was at a higher interest rate than Mexico.

    Fiscal austerity has negative short term consequences. But, at some point the numbers don’t work. If Greece and Spain had made reasonable cuts ten years ago, they would not be in this position.


  11. - Just sayin' - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 10:12 am:

    By 2017, the backlog of bills (not including bond, pension and other debt) will be more than what we bring in during the entire year ($34 Billion). Exactly how is that not Greece again?

    Greece got to where they were for years of spending way more than they had, borrowing more than they can afford and then the bill became due. Illinois’ budget is out of control for one reason, and one reason alone. The state wantonly disregarded the money we had coming in, spent (at times massively) more than we had, raped and pillaged the pension funds and borrowed more than we can afford (the latest Capital Bill which the funding mechanisms will not be able to support in the long term).

    We can’t tax our way to prosperity either nor can we capitulate to some of the basest elements of human nature by adopting the “I want free stuff! Make someone else pay for it!” mentality which drives things like a graduated income tax, the Pole tax, sin taxes, etc. We can’t even produce enough smokers to keep up with the commitments we’ve tied to cigarette taxes.


  12. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 10:18 am:

    ===Exactly how is that not Greece again?===

    Because it’s not today. It’s a projection assuming no action whatsoever.


  13. - dave - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 10:19 am:

    By 2017, the backlog of bills (not including bond, pension and other debt) will be more than what we bring in during the entire year ($34 Billion). Exactly how is that not Greece again?

    Sure, except no one actually thinks that there will be a $34+B backlog in bills in five years.


  14. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 10:24 am:

    Mr. Whitley should be careful what he wishes for.

    Even the most conservative Cost Benefit Analysis place the value of one human life at $6.3 million dollars.

    I highly doubt many Illinoisans would agree with the statement “Someone should die so I can save two dollars.”

    On the otherhand, there are probably a lot of folks who would agree with the statement “I would like to save $8 even if it means Sears moves its headquarters out of Illinois.”


  15. - Ahoy - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 10:24 am:

    –Quinn responded that he believed the United Auto Workers would give him an A thanks to his role in convincing Chrysler to bring 1,800 jobs to its Belvidere plant.–

    Um, Chrysler does not employ those people unless there is a market demand for the product. Is Quinn going to take credit for creating the demand? I think government gives itself too much credit for success and critics give them too much blame. In the end, businesses create jobs and they create them because they can make a profit. While Governments employ people, they are not a net job creator.

    Illinois needs to make some changes to lower the cost of doing business so more businesses will come here, make a profit and employ people. They can do this by making reforms to workers compensation (note last year’s action was not reform but simply shift money from medical providers to businesses) and reforming the State’s Unemployment Insurance program. We are also losing out on job opportunities due to our State’s perception. This is will take a while to fix but we can do it by enacting reforms listed above and fixing our budget. These fixes will take more than press conferences (take note Senate Republicans).


  16. - Just sayin' - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 10:28 am:

    Oh, it’s just a projection… in that case, let the good times roll! We’ll just pass the bill off to our kids anyway. Oh wait, we aborted them.


  17. - Plutocrat03 - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 10:28 am:

    “If Greece and Spain have taught the world anything, it’s that you can’t slash your way to prosperity.”

    A few months of spending cuts proves that fiscal responsibility does not work? What a silly statement. It took decades of overspending to get to that point. It will take years to get the situation to improve.

    The collapsing governments of Europe are simply a harbinger of what is to come when lenders don’t want to buy more bonds. Will it happen tomorrow to Illinois? Clearly not. Will it happen in the future? Unknown.

    Personal and businesses can sustain overspending for a time, but not forever. To believe that government spending can outstrip revenues indefinitely is akin to a religious belief which requires the suspension of all knowledge.


  18. - so.... - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 10:29 am:

    Actually Rich, what I think Greece and Spain (and the European debt crisis in general) have taught us is what happens when the people who loan you money lose confidence.

    Yes, implementing austerity measures causes pain, at times very severe pain, but at some point you need to stanch the bleeding and stop piling on debt.

    Greece, and to a lesser extent other European countries, has reached the point where they simply cannot continue borrowing money, the market won’t give it to them and it’s playing havoc with their economies. Illinois, thankfully, has not yet reached that point. We should right the ship before we do


  19. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 10:36 am:

    ===A few months of spending cuts===

    Nice spin attempt. Didn’t work.


  20. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 10:46 am:

    –Actually Rich, what I think Greece and Spain (and the European debt crisis in general) have taught us is what happens when the people who loan you money lose confidence.–

    I think it has taught us bondholders will seek to avoid a haircut and play hardball with Germany to pony up from its huge reserves to support its shared currency.

    The Rube Goldberg machine comprised of the EU, the Euro and the Euro Zone just doesn’t translate to the United States. They have their mess, we have ours.


  21. - Plutocrat03 - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 10:48 am:

    Spin?

    Really? Is that all you got? How long should it take to fix a large complex problem?


  22. - Just sayin' - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 10:48 am:

    “They have their mess, we have ours.”

    Comprised of ultimately the same thing… too many people wanting free stuff and nobody wanting to pay for it and lecherous bond houses more than happy to hook us on “free money”…

    We’re all heroin addicts to the banks now and they aren’t giving freebies anymore.


  23. - bored now - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 10:49 am:

    it will take years to climb out of this morass. unfortunately, none of our political leaders (the four tops — ok, really only one top, but we’ll pretend — and the governor) are predictable when it comes to budgeting, taxing or spending. so laying out a long-term plan to regain fiscal sanity is meaningless to the markets because, well, none of our leaders can be trusted here. opps…


  24. - fecalslinger - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 10:53 am:

    Didn’t we recently spend $31 BILLION to invest in our infrastructure? Where did that go? More stimulus money spent at the Admiral?


  25. - Louis G. Atsaves - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 10:55 am:

    I agree at the present time that Illinois is not Greece. But Greece still offers a learning experience that most on both sides of the political spectrum still turn a blind eye to.

    Greece just isn’t “slashing” its way to prosperity. Greece has also instituted a series of large tax increases across the board, including property taxes. Folks are getting pummeled at both ends. The number of homeless is soaring and the usual economic safety nets for individuals have evaporated or have diminished due to funding problems.

    So I guess “taxing and slashing” your way to prosperity also doesn’t work? :-)

    The Greece situation involves letting problems fester and get out of control instead of addressing them head on.


  26. - so.... - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 10:59 am:

    I also take issue with the inference that government austerity measures are what are causing Greece and Spain’s high unemployment. While they certainly don’t help, they are not the major cause.

    Spain suffered a massive property bubble that burst in 2008. From January 2008 to January of 2008, Spain’s unemployment rate went from 9% to 15.9%. (//www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=z8o7pt6rd5uqa6_&met_y=unemployment_rate&idim=country:es&fdim_y=seasonality:sa&dl=en&hl=en&q=spain+unemployment+rate) Austerity measures didn’t cause that. Unemployment has continued to rise since then due to the debt overhang from the property bubble and the European debt crisis. Government austerity measures certainly have not helped, but they are not the main drivers of Spain’s unemployment problem.

    Greece has faced similar headwinds. But in their case, the main problem really is the lack of confidence caused by massive, completely unsustainable government debt. Investors fear a sovereign default, which drives up interest rates and weakens confidence in other institutions (like banks) that hold Greek bonds. The fear that Greece may withdraw from the Euro and reinstate a greatly devalued Drachma is also tremendously disruptive. People have withdrawn money from Greek banks for fear that their savings will be forcibly converted to drachmas, which restricts the availability of credit. Private companies are finding it hard to conduct business because foreign suppliers won’t accept a guarantee of credit from a Greek bank. (see http://www.economist.com/node/21543522) All of this is incredibly disruptive to the Greek economy, which drives unemployment.

    I am not arguing that austerity reduces unemployment, it doesn’t. But it can help restore investor confidence, which is absolutely needed for a prosperous, functioning economy.


  27. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 11:01 am:

    A cost benefit analysis in 2002 put the total economic value of the biosphere at roughly twice the GDP of all of the countries in the world combined. And that was their conservative estimate.

    Based on CBA, we should eliminate every tax break and expenditure directed at the private sector and transfer that money to The Department of Natural Resources.

    Good idea, Doug.


  28. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 11:01 am:

    ===Didn’t we recently spend $31 BILLION===

    No. That’s an ongoing thing. Not sure exactly what has been spent so far.


  29. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 11:03 am:

    ===But it can help restore investor confidence, which is absolutely needed for a prosperous, functioning economy. ===

    Yeah, while millions of people are forced into misery.


  30. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 11:04 am:

    –Greece just isn’t “slashing” its way to prosperity. Greece has also instituted a series of large tax increases across the board, including property taxes.–

    The biggest fiscal problem in Greece is the culture of tax evasion. Do the google and you’ll find estimates on the size of the unreported, untaxed, underground economy ranging from 25% to 50% (that’s legal activity, not drugs or other illicit activities).


  31. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 11:07 am:

    My point about Greece was merely to acknowledge austere budgets are painful, but fiscal integrity requires such pain.

    My “C” grade was intended to be neutral, because the jury is till out. You can’t have an “A” with 9.8% unemployment and 627,000 people out of work, not counting the ones who have moved out of state or given up.

    I’m trying to encourage the governor and his administration to stay the course on the message of a Jobs Agenda that he spoke of in his State of the State. Acknowledge the need and then go to work on achieving results.


  32. - Oz - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 11:16 am:

    I’m so sick of hearing this election year feel good hype on creating new jobs.

    The corporate media keeps publishing the 1,800 Chrysler jobs as though Illinois is growing it’s workforce.

    Fact is that there were something like sixteen companies if I remember correctly that were cutting a combined total of 1,800 jobs at the same time Chrysler was announcing their jobs.

    So net gain is zero. Oh and that was before Sears HQ announced layoffs.

    The fact of the matter is that the number of people employed in Illinois on a non-farm payroll seasonally adjusted basis shows that are less people employed in Illinois as of Dec 2011 than we had in June 1997 going on fifteen years ago.

    If we are not growing the employed workforce we are not growing the tax base. The growth over the last 15 years was due to deficit spending and when we cut that spending the GDP is going to take a huge hit imo.

    Just like Greece the people will be in the streets soon telling the politico’s to take their Odious debt and shove it.


  33. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 11:44 am:

    “a prosperous, functioning economy.”

    To Rich’s point, in order for our economy to be deemed prosperous and functioning, it has to be sustainable.

    An economy that returns huge gains to private investors today but leads to total economic, social, moral or environmental collapse ain’t sustainable.


  34. - so.... - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 11:50 am:

    ===Yeah, while millions of people are forced into misery.====

    Austerity is no fun. Nobody enjoys it. That’s why you need to be careful about what you cut and make sure that you are not 1) being counter productive or 2) inflicting undue misery on people.

    Using Illinois examples: cutting prescription drug coverage for Medicaid is possible, since it’s an “optional” service, but it would also be stupid because it would cause illnesses to progress to the point where expensive intervention at a hospital is needed. Cutting social services for disabled people is possible, but it’s inflicting misery on the people who are the least equipped to deal with it.

    But I don’t think it’s out of line to ask state retirees to pay something for their healthcare, or require state employees to either pay the true cost of their pensions, or move to a cheaper option. Accelerating the move to managed care for Medicaid would also be a good idea. These are just a few possible reforms that would save serious money without inflicting “misery”.

    Again, austerity is no fun. But sometimes it is necessary. The challenge is to do it humanely.


  35. - so.... - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 11:55 am:

    ==To Rich’s point, in order for our economy to be deemed prosperous and functioning, it has to be sustainable.

    An economy that returns huge gains to private investors today but leads to total economic, social, moral or environmental collapse ain’t sustainable. ==

    The same goes for government spending. Illinois hiked its income tax 66% and we’re still in the hole by $500 million this fiscal year, and will see a $3 billion + deficit by FY2016. That isn’t sustainable.

    Illinois hiked taxes by a huge amount. That side of the equation has been dealt with. It’s time to start getting expenses under control.


  36. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 12:43 pm:

    I think any time a Democrat Governor get’s a C+ on job creation from a former Republican Governor’s cabinet member who runs the state’s largest business group, he should take the trophy and run


  37. - mark walker - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 1:53 pm:

    Agree with schnorf. The Gov should have thanked the Chamber and moved on.


  38. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 3:48 pm:

    I think this quote for Jeff Kuhner, from the Washington Times sums up what is meant by Illinois’ similarity to Greece.

    “For years, the Greeks indulged in generous entitlements and high social spending, ignoring their country’s runaway deficits and ballooning debt. Government interventionism suppressed the private economy. Tax revenue dried up. Corruption spread. Cronyism became a feature of life. Greece was transformed into a sclerotic, bloated welfare state. The bill has now come due, and present and future generations must pay for money that was borrowed - and squandered - yesterday.”


  39. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 4:45 pm:

    Anon, 3:48, you are truly clueless, which might explain your quoting The Washington Times.

    Since 1818, the State of Illinois has been a stable ongoing enterprise that has never missed a bond or pension payment and has advanced the ball in relative peace and prosperity.

    Since about the same time, the nation-state of Greece has had nothing but civil war, coups, invasions and defaults.

    They are a little different.

    Greece: 11.3 million people.
    GDP: $304.8 billion

    Illinois: 12.9 million
    GDP: $644.2 billion


  40. - Excessively Rabid - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 8:18 pm:

    Better way late than never dept.:
    ==The Greece comparison is just dumb, too. What relationships can you draw between a nation-state that’s tied up in a multi-national currency and one of fifty United States? ==
    That if we had our own currency in Illinois instead of being stuck with the dollar, we could devalue it. By joining the Euro, Greece put themselves in the same sorry position as Illinois. Snark off.


  41. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Feb 21, 12 @ 8:44 pm:

    @Schnorf -

    As always, you are on point.

    Pull a Nixon and Declare Victory.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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