If the story of the old woman and the snake was not written by a politician, it should have been. Anyone who has ever muttered a dejected “lesser of two evils” while shuffling out of a voting booth knows the sting of fangs and the burn of venom that follows an election. We tell ourselves that we should have known better, that the promises were not to be believed, that all the signs of a bad decision were right in front of us. Judging by those we continue to vote into office, the next time we enter that booth we will do the same thing all over again.
Delusional from debt, Illinois is resorting to a new twist on the tale of the old woman and the snake. Governor Pat Quinn announced an effort to encourage entrepreneurship, the Illinois Innovation Network, which leverages private sector resources in concert with Startup Illinois and Barack Obama’s Startup America campaign.
Startup America is “…the White House initiative to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the nation.”1 America still needs jobs, so once again the president is calling on the private sector to do its duty and start growing:
President Obama has called on both the federal government and the private sector to dramatically increase the prevalence and success of entrepreneurs across the country.2
Would-be Illinois entrepreneurs should take a moment to ponder the old woman and the snake. Illinois is not blazing any new fiscal territory these days. What state taxpayers have been hearing sounds more like Armageddon than solvency. With pension debt estimated to be the largest in the nation, a 2011 retroactive income tax increase, a major city with the highest sales tax rate in the country seated in a massively populated county with sales and property taxes just as onerous, and the likes of Sears and Caterpillar threatening to leave, is this really the land of milk and honey for startups?
Even more troubling than Illinois’ financial blight are the actions taken by its elected officials in Washington, and what their views tell us about the state’s political thinking. The House website of Fiscal Commission member Jan Schakowsky claims that “Social Security is not in crisis.” 3 Schakowsky sponsored the 2011 Fairness in Taxation Act, which would create new tax rates for high earners because “Income inequality in America is the worse we’ve seen it since 1928.”4
Another House member from Illinois, Luis Gutierrez, has embarked on the “Campaign for American Children and Families” National Immigration Tour to call attention to the crisis caused by deporting illegal aliens.5 Gutierrez, sponsor of a federal amnesty bill, was joined by Schakowsky and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin in support of another amnesty measure, the DREAM Act.
Illinois state lawmakers are no less generous than their Capitol Hill counterparts. The Illinois Senate just approved a state DREAM Act, which uses private money to fund scholarships for immigrants without regard to their legal status. The bill also opens the door for illegal immigrants to take advantage of the Illinois’ College Savings Program. Illinois may be broke, but it has permitted illegal immigrants to pay resident tuition rates at taxpayer-supported colleges and universities since 2003.
Illinois pension debt is so overwhelming that it trumps all other issues. The state is a cause célèbre for creating a state bankruptcy mechanism (see: Proposal to Bankrupt States Is Big Government in Disguise). Optimistic business owners encouraged to put down roots in a state whose worst days are likely still ahead should remember remarks by officials that January’s tax increase will not solve the budget crisis. Illinois’ federal and state lawmakers have pushed for giveaways and entitlements that bring in votes, but unchecked spending and absurd generosity to the state’s public employees have created debt that has no solution. Undaunted, Illinois politicians continue to recommend that we lend a helping hand to the state’s population of illegal residents.
You already know how the story about the old woman and the snake turns out. How badly will Illinois startups want to test the truth of its lesson?