Drought in the Debtor State

We recently headed east to Ohio for a family reunion and water-sports showdown.  Because I’m only a generation removed from farming, I couldn’t help but notice the dire state of the corn and soybeans across Illinois, Indiana, and into central Ohio.  Drought emergencies have been declared in multiple states.  You don’t have to look for the official declaration, however, just look at the worry lines and frowns in the small towns throughout the Midwest.  People know that a certain percentage of peers will face bankruptcy as a result, and no amount of federal emergency funding will change that.

What does it mean for you?  Expect an increase to your grocery bill in the next few months – 25% or higher, depending on your diet and where you live.  Grain and soy prices affect such a large portion of the food supply…

Gov. Quinn holds up metaphor for IL tax base

…And while you’re at it, go ahead an budget for the continuing increase to your taxes – especially you fellow resident of Illinois.  The debtor state’s comptroller just announced an estimated $7.5-8 billion figure for monies owed to entities such as vendors, schools, and municipalities.  This backlog of bills is, of course, only a small portion of an astronomical $43 billion deficit, if one considers the cost of pension benefits owed to state workers.  This despite the tax increase Governor Pat Quinn campaigned on.

Our trip to Ohio brought us into states that actually have budget surpluses.  Yes, a foreign concept around here, but there they were on the Columbus local news, discussing the best way to obligate funds for a budget surplus.  I’m thinking, what kind of magicians, what superhuman policymakers could achieve such fiscal responsibility?   Continue reading

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Illinois Debt Top 10

Late last Friday came the news that Moodys cut the State of Illinois’ credit rating, meaning tax-payers will have to pay an even higher rate of interest on all the debt the state continues to accumulate.  This, in combination with news that California’s credit rating actually increased (hey, they know people who know people out there), means Illinois has the worst credit rating of all fifty states.

And so we bring you, in classic Letterman style…

TOP 10 ILLINOIS DEBT RESPONSES

10. C’mon, man, it’s not like we’re using.  We’re clean.  We’re clean…

9.  What do you mean we only get in-store credit?  It used to be called the Sears Tower!  And look – it’s Wrigley Field and Soldier Field and stuff.  That’s got to be worth something….

8.   Give us better rates or we’ll file a grievance with the union.

7.  What are you going to do?  Move to Indiana?  Wisconsin?  Missouri?  Iowa?!?

6.  We gotta plan:  casinos, casinos, casinos.  Put ’em everywhere.  What’s the worst that can happen? Continue reading

Ryan Shows the Courage to Lead

On one side of Washington, the fringe-right of the GOP is using the budget crisis and Tea-Party momentum as an excuse to cut into those social and cultural programs they don’t like.  The Speaker and others with more practical goals look miserable.  On the other side of town, Harry Reed and the Democrats remain in denial about the consequences of their tax-and-spend antics.  Where’s the President?  Waiting it out like a true politician, hoping to make hay for next year’s election.  He’s certainly not proposing any reforms or worthwhile fiscal policy.

The President’s many admirers in the media like to refer to him as “the grownup in the room”, but it’s a Congressman from Wisconsin who’s showing the moxy and vision we need.  Paul Ryan unveiled a long-term budget plan yesterday.  It’s ambitious.  It cut’s approximately $6 Trillion according to his figures.  And here’s the thing: it addresses the unsustainable burden of Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll recall that Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, and Defense Spending comprise the holy trinity responsible for the lion’s share of U.S. spending.  Meanwhile, the rest of the Democrats and Republicans are niggling over cuts to everything else, turning a blind eye to the true fiscal problems.

It’s a bold and risky movie, acknowledged by Ryan as he made the rounds yesterday.  And sure enough, Nancy Pelosi issued a vague statement about ‘starving seniors” while the MSNBC crowd pitched this as the “death of Medicare”.  There are reasons why the politicians don’t want to tackle these entitlements.  Seniors vote and they like their healthcare.  But we have to do this.  We cannot continue down the current path. Continue reading

(Piling) On Wisconsin

Do we win the prize for the 5,000th On Wisconsin blog post title?  Just wondering…  Probably, where you stand on the continuing saga of the Wisconsin collective bargaining fight depends on your political upbringing.  One side favors Governor Scott Walker, the other favors the unions.  One side identifies with the need to address out-of-control debt-spending ratios, the other with the need to fiercely protect the rights of workers.

Here in Beemsville, we’ve decided to frame  this all as a downstate Illinois resident and observer (incidentally, this means we’re used to getting the shaft).  Of course many have noted the high irony of the Wisconsin and Indiana lawmakers fleeing to the Land of Lincoln to avoid their respective votes (but boy are they going to be pissed when they find out they now have to pay a portion of our new and improved IL State Income Tax…)  Illinois is the state Scott Walker and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels see in their nightmares, the example they want to avoid.  The missing state legislators might want o review some of the numbers while they’re hanging around in Rockford and Champaign:

  • Current estimated Illinois budget deficit – $13 billion (2nd only to California)*
  • $8.7 billion – amount of money Governor Pat Quinn proposed borrowing to address current unpaid bills
  • Increased from spending, FY 2011-2012 budgets – 1.7 billion (you might think with all that debt and the income tax increase, someone might actually propose cutting spending, but then you’d be wrong)
  • $7 billion – estimated amount of annual pension obligations by IL State Government in the next four years**
  • $77.8 billion – estimated liability of all state pension funds***

Now those are some pretty hefty figures.  We’re talking Greece-style debt, Republic of Ireland-type debt.  And that last figure, dealing with the obligated unfunded pension, is something Illinois hasn’t really addressed in over a decade (yeah, yeah, Blago in charge, etc., etc.).  The state is currently trying to sell $3.5 billion in bonds to raise money for the current pension payments – the macro equivalent of making the minimum payment on a credit card.

Continue reading

Some Numbers for the Week

  • 16,000 - the number of votes separating Quinn from Brady for Governor of Illinois out of $3.4 million cast.  If you’re a Republican you have to be frustrated with the margin.  How many of those ballots for Quinn were cast by dead people or were repeat-ballots in Democratic Machine strongholds?  It’s Illinois, so you never know and you never will.
  • Four – the number of Illinois counties Quinn carried in this election.  These include very slim margins in Alexander (Cairo), Jackson (Carbondale), and St. Clair (Metro East), and, oh yeah – Cook County…
  • 19 – the net gain for Republicans in State Legislative chambers (State Houses of Reps and State Senates) across the country.  A statistic you didn’t hear about Tuesday night, but one worth considering.  Before the election, Dems held majorities in about 60% of these state legislatures; now that number is 60% to the GOP.
  • $41 billion – current estimated total budget deficit for California ($19 billion), Illinois ($13 billion), and New York  ($9 billion).  Three states that have been firmly under Democratic control for at least a decade (yes, Arnold notwithstanding), and those deficits rise considerably if you take into consideration their state pension obligations.  Aren’t those entitlement programs grand?  And yet, in Illinois at least, the Dems maintain their stranglehold on state government…

Continue reading

If I owe you money…

…please cease and desist with any plans for the leg-breakers. I will send out the check by the end of the week, honest I will! If I owe you money, it’s probably because I like you. That’s right, you.

And isn’t that what it’s all about, being pals? Lending money, cause you know your pal is good for it. If I owe you money, you’re part of the (pardon the Focker reference) circle of trust. What could be better, really.

So go ahead and count your blessings, you whom I’ve yet to pay. The check is in the mail.

Almost.