Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Think experience, knowledge don't matter? See Illinois - Quad-Cities Online: Don Wooten

Great comments on the current Illinois financial dilemma.

By Don Wooten qconline.com

If we may rely on recent polls, Republican presidential primary and caucus voters prefer candidates who have never held political office. If that trend continues and develops, it means that our choice about a year from now will be between ignorance and experience in the oval office.

Choosing among Ben Carson (a doctor who doesn’t believe in science), Carla Fiorina (a failed CEO of fact-free beliefs) and the self-obsessed Donald Trump is a prospect which fills my sober Republican friends with terror.

If you are wondering what kind of president one of the three front-runners might make, I suggest you take a close look at Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a man who clearly has no grasp of how state government functions. One does not doubt his passions, but they do not relate to anything Illinois needs just now.

I realize the media cast our budget deadlock as a fight between the governor and House Speaker Michael Madigan, as if it were a contest of wills between two stubborn men; macho guys who will not yield.

That’s a caricature. Madigan knows what he is doing and what has to be done. Rauner wants to accomplish several far-right ideals and is willing to let the state collapse if he doesn’t get his way. I call it government by tantrum.

How did it happen that we have a man in office with no concept of how government operates? Or, for that matter, how business operates? The two processes are not the same, but they share some basic principles: pay the bills, structure a short-term budget while working on a long-term plan, keep the welfare of your investors (voters) in mind, and don’t treat your customers (or citizens) like dirt.

Rauner’s experience has been in venture capital: putting money into companies for a share of their stock and the ability to dabble in management. Such firms can also gut companies and sell off the remnants. We heard a lot about venture capital when an exemplar of the profession, Mitt Romney, ran against Obama in 2012.

I can’t speak to the day-to-day operations in venture capital, but judging from Rauner’s behavior, such CEOs must operate like kings: giving commands and having underlings carry them out without question. That doesn’t cut it in politics at any level. It’s a collaborative effort, not a win-at-any-cost contest.

I’ll admit that we have had a lot of that destructive behavior in Congress for the past six years, something that has been played out without embarrassment by the so-called Freedom Caucus, about 40 representatives -- and not a few senators -- whose uselessness has become a national, even an international, scandal.

Let’s also consider one of the principal actors dealing with Rauner in this crisis, Speaker  Madigan. He’s not the only participant on the legislative side of the argument, but he’s the one the media fixates on.

Mike has always been the sharpest legislator in Springfield and when Pat Quinn launched the drive to change the state’s unique three-for-one system of representation to single member districts, it gave Mike the opportunity and means to consolidate power. He’s not the whole show, but he is the leading actor.

To Madigan’s credit, he’s holding off the governor’s assault on workers, teachers, students, the elderly, and the poor; but he and Senate President John Cullerton need some help from Republicans to pass a budget and override a gubernatorial veto. Then, we can have an adult consideration of Rauner’s ideas.

In the meantime, the far-right of fantasy of “no government” is slowing becoming a reality. Companies and communities which supply energy and supplies to state installations are threatening to cut services until past due bills are paid.

Those suppliers are under financial stress and cannot operate at a loss.

Revenue is coming into the state; it just can’t be paid out. Former governor Jim Edgar, along with other responsible Republicans, are urging Rauner to act like a governor and tend to the people’s business.

One hopes that our fiscal fiasco can act as a cautionary tale for citizens who are ultimately responsible for the mess we’re in. It is the low turnout in primary and general elections which enables marginal choices to be nominated and, on occasion, to win. That, and little thought before casting those votes.

To repeat Shakespeare: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars, but in ourselves.”

Don Wooten of Rock Island is a longtime broadcaster and former Illinois state senator; donwooten@qconline.com

Think experience, knowledge don't matter? See Illinois - Quad-Cities Online: Don Wooten

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