John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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The Redistributionist Speaks in Illinois

Posted on July 25, 2013

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That the President gave an economic speech in Galesburg, Illinois is significant, although not in the way that he might intend.


Illinois is an economic basket case.

Because of the political leadership in the state, which has been dominated by the Democrats for the last decade, the land of Lincoln is the most likely big state to go belly up.  Chicago, my home town, was voted most likely to follow Detroit into bankruptcy by the chattering classes.

My home state largely followed the economic philosophy of President Obama and that philosophy has largely sealed its doom.

Ronald Reagan had supply side economics.  Eisenhower built the interstate highway system.  Nixon took us off the Gold Standard to increase money supply.  FDR had a New Deal the Prime the Pump.  George W. Bush did everything he could to get money in the hands of the private sector.

Barack Obama’s big idea on the economy can be called redistributionist cronyism.

His overriding concern throughout his tenure as President has been and continues to be that the wealthy have too much money.  Getting rich people to give more money to the government has been his major policy initiative, which is awfully hard when Republicans control the House of Representatives.

His only leverage to raise taxes on rich people was to threaten to either shut the government down or allow tax increases to hit everybody, and hope that the Republicans buckle, which they eventually did.

Illinois raised taxes on rich people and that helped inspire a bunch of companies and rich people to move elsewhere, leaving behind a state amid a true economic meltdown.

The President’s second goal on the economy was to make sure that labor is taken care of.  That has worked so well for Illinois it makes my head spin.  Obama’s GM bailout (unlike Bush’s) was to make certain that the UAW was taken care of, which it was.  Obama tried to appoint some real winners to the NRLB, until the Senate Republican objected, but that hasn’t stopped him.  He also named Tom Perez as Labor Secretary.  Perez has, shall we say, limited appreciation for free market capitalism.

If you peer deeply into Illinois’ fiscal problems, you see a state with out of control pension costs, unnecessarily high taxes to pay for the pension costs, boundless regulations and a corrupt political establishment.

That is the Chicago way, and coincidentally, it is the Obama way.

Congressional Republicans have been pushing another philosophy, one that focuses on controlling entitlement and discretionary spending, limiting regulations, curbing the power of Big labor and cutting taxes (or at least keeping them from going  up).

That philosophy is being implemented in States that surround the Land of Lincoln, which include Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa.  If you compare the economic performance of those three states with the economic performance of Illinois, you get a pretty good sense of which one is superior in creating more economic opportunities and a healthier fiscal picture.

But that is not the path chosen by the President in his speech yesterday.   He is redistributionist at heart, and a plan for real economic growth will never be in his heart.