Last week senator Rand Paul, republican presidential candidate decried $25,000 in overspending by some government agency. On the rightwing Salem network station in Chicago, dismissed former Northwestern rightwing agitator, failed candidate and smarm purveyor Dan Proft blustered to a rapidly fossilizing audience about several government funded scientific studies, each costing several million dollars, or less than a hundredth of a penny per person annually combined. Co-host Amy Jacobsen bellowed that we are $17 trillion dollars in debt and can’t afford this stuff! They are silent over Governor Bruce Rauner’s wife who has now become a lobbyist for a group she leads, spending $130,000 in hopes of getting state contracts worth millions. They were silent when, after defense industry company Raytheon posted a nearly $2 billion profit in 2014, according to the Wall Street Journal, republican Indian governor gifted the company $4.8 million in state funds for improvements and expansion. Better these profitable companies spend your money than their own…the proverbial rainy day fund that you no longer have for your family. (http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/mike-pence-announces-4.8-million-subsidy-for-defense-giant-raytheon/article/2561262)
The drumbeat against benefits for the poor and elderly continues. as the presidential election heats up we are certain to see more an more of the nickel and dime slight of hand and distraction to the American voter. The latest presidential candidate, Republican Scott Walker called the minimum wage lame, teasing a regular refrain from the right that the market, not government should decide what is fair pay for workers that could be next to nothing or…
“The left claims they’re for American workers, and they’ve got lame ideas, things like minimum wage,” said Walker yesterday in announcing that god had chosen him to be president.
The American people are perennially bombarded by such bombast, such as posting the salaries of teachers, city garbage collectors and clerks. Unions, they claim, are the reason that states and municipalities are overburdened with debt. Illinois State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka blamed the state’s much touted pension problems on “years of game-playing with the pension accounts and short-sighted decisions to raid the funds, take “pension holidays” and delay payments.”
40,000 of the state’s 50,000 workers are union. 5000 are law enforcement officers, like State Police. Another 10,000 are employed by the department of corrections to oversee an astounding 47 prisons in Illinois. Teachers, the focus of much ire on the right, a manufactured target, incidentally, by charter school lobbyists hoping to divert their share of the pie to corporate schools. Teachers, by the way are a small share of the state’s workforce, as most teachers are paid by local districts. Then there are state fire fighters, state park employees, workers who maintain roads and highways and those IDOT trucks, which anyone who has broken down on the state’s highways appreciate deeply. Zero percent of them are wealthy, by any standard. They are solidly middle class, which makes them the enemy of the right, though they will never say it aloud.
Much of the debt incurred by states are not borne from “greedy” do nothing union thugs like state cops, teachers, firefighters and those insidious state park employees. Most state debt come in paying out dividends and interest to bond holders; wealthy patrons, the friends of politicians in both houses, who loan money to state for projects that should be paid for by or held until there is appropriate money in state coffers. Hint: it isn’t about the projects; it’s about law enforced and state protected secure investments for the wealthy. Under the terms of those investments those already wealthy and well-connected investors are paid first and foremost.
Bond payments to the 1% cost states like Illinois billions of dollars annually. That number pales in comparison to the true burden on states. In Illinois alone, on a state and local level, tax forgiveness, tax breaks and subsidies to corporations and companies in Illinois cost the state conservatively, $4.5 billion annually. It isn’t a matter of holding onto companies who might go elsewhere. Illinois is a road, rail and air hub, uniquely positioned to reach international destinations, as well as the nation. The state is far more populated, with better opportunities to a broadly educated worker, client, support and customer base than any other Midwestern state, by far. The giveaways have nothing to do with keeping jobs and everything to do with access by those companies to the political elite.
Even the ultra-rightwing Illinois Policy Institute could not escape that reality. IPI’s Scott Reader, writing at QCOnline noted that democrat governor Pat Quinn was giving away hundreds of millions in corporate subsidies alone while raising income taxes on working families by 67%. (http://www.qconline.com/editorials/high-cost-of-corporate-welfare-in-illinois/article_17950983-3a6f-52e5-9bbb-dcd404eba084.html) The current republican governor, Bruce Rauner, promising to end business as usual in Illinois has seen the number of corporate lobbyists in the state capital quadruple. Wisconsin, under Scott walker has seen a decline in wages, jobs and standards of living, while violent crime has spiked since he came into office (http://www.cityrating.com/crime-statistics/wisconsin/)By contrast, neighboring Minnesota, under democtar mark Dayton, after raising the state’s minimum wage and taxes on companies, has seen a boom in growth, revenues and wages, and a decline in violent crime.
The corporate revenue drain on the US government as a whole is equally troubling. While republicans pretend hysterical about 69.8 billion in annual food stamp expenditures, most of which goes to predominantly so-called red states (http://www.statisticbrain.com/food-stamp-statistics/), with their finger planted firmly in the dike they conveniently ignore the ocean rushing in around them. Wisconsin is 24 in food stamp participation rate, more than Illinois despite Illinois being nearly 3 times larger, and far more than 45th ranked Minnesota, with a participation rate of 9.4%. Minnesota and Wisconsin are nearly equal in population at about 5.5 million.
Military spending, officially given at $711 billion costs every American, young and old $2031 annually, compared with feeding the poor at $200 annually. Compare that to oil subsidies, which republicans are silent on, to already profitable companies is projected in the US to be $333 billion, or almost $1000 annually for every American (Okay, $951.42 for the sticklers out there.). Subsidies are only part of the story. Tax forgiveness and offsets from the Federal government annually comprise more $1.5 trillion dollars, according to conservative estimates, costing every American an astounding $4286 dollars annually, but $200 hundred to the poor, or a $100 to expand the frontiers of human knowledge is our national priority for cuts? Every 6 months or so the right will attack the National Endowment for the Arts budget. At $146 million, the cost for supporting culture in a broad variety of arts, from grants, to public works, programs for children, music and education is $146 million annually, or about 41 cents per capita, less than the tax on an average lunch at McDonalds or Taco Bell.
The reason for this gross disparity is that the American people have not demanded the insulation between corporate interests and government officials. There are no laws prohibiting any congressperson from going to work for any company the federal government has business with for at least 5 years. There is no law regarding access by powerful money interests to candidates and politicians. There are no laws against the amount of money candidates can amass from powerful donors. There are reports that the Koch Brothers are prepared to spend as much as $800 billion to install Scott Walker as President, a man who has already proven he will promote pre-written legislation by the Koch Brother’s lobbying and action wing, ALEC, the American legislative Exchange Council. Jeb Bush announced this week he has amassed $114 million, a notable portion of which reportedly comes from Saudi interests.
By contrast, Bernie sanders has collected, as of may 1015, $19.5 million, none of which came from corporate funders and nearly all of it came from small donations by individual citizens, and yet, according to the right, Sanders is the candidate who isn’t good for America.
Listen Saturday’s from 11am-1pm to WC Turck, Brian Murray and guests on Chicago’s real alternative media, AM1680, Q4 radio, streaming at www.que4.org.
WC Turck is an author, artist, playwright and talk radio host in Chicago. He has been called the most dangerous voice on the Left. His new book “A Tragic Fate: is an unflinching look at the events leading up to the shooting down of Malaysia Air Flight 17.” His first novel, “Broken” was recommended by NAMI for its treatment of PTSD. In 2006 he published “Everything for Love,” a memoir of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo. He wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He works with the homeless and foreclosure victims in Chicago. He partners in a weekly radio show dedicated to issues, society and politics with cohost, activist and artist Brian Murray For more information, past shows, videos and articles, visit www.revolutioandbeer.com
The Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) is a conservative think tank with offices in Chicago and Springfield, Illinois, and member of the State Policy Network. IPI is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as of 2011. IPI is also a member of ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force and Education Task Force. Senior Budget and Tax Policy Analyst, Amanda Griffin-Johnson, presented model legislation (the “State Employee Health Savings Account Act”) to the HHS task force at ALEC’s 2011 annual meeting. Collin Hitt, Director of Education Policy, is a private sector member of the Education Task Force representing IPI. He sponsored the “Local Government Transparency Act” at the ALEC 2011 States and Nation Policy Summit. In its 2006 annual report the Cato Institute states that it made a grant of $50,000 to the Illinois Policy Institute. The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank founded by Charles G. Koch and funded by the Koch brothers.