By Dan Proft
Winston Churchill reportedly said of Clement Attlee, the man he both preceded and succeeded as Prime Minister, that Attlee was “a sheep in sheep’s clothing.”
I write here not to review British political history but to wonder aloud what Churchill would say about the dithering of inconsequential men in the face of crisis today. That rumination inevitably leads me to Governor Pat Quinn’s State of the State Address in Springfield on Wednesday.
Quinn created the cartoon character Squeezy the Pension Python to explain the depths of the fiscal abyss that is the state’s public sector pension system to low information voters like the members of the General Assembly.
Squeezy has been such a hit that Quinn enlisted Barney to write a kindergarten-friendly State of the State Address about a fantastical world called “Our Illinois”.
In Our Illinois, “we leave no worker behind,” according to Quinn. Back in Actual Illinois, this news must have come as quite a surprise to the 9% of Illinoisans (truly more like 15%) who are unemployed.
In Our Illinois, “small business means big business,” said Quinn and therefore, “Driving economic growth for small businesses requires doing all we can to make sure government is not in the way.” Back in Actual Illinois, small businesses are paying the fourth-highest combined national-local corporate tax in the industrialized world. In Actual Illinois, the only way to get state government to ignore your business is if you’re sitting on stacks of unpaid invoices for services rendered to state agencies.
In Our Illinois, Quinn has “signed into law education reforms that put the students of Illinois first.” Back in Actual Illinois, two-thirds of fourth graders are not grade-level proficient in reading or math, to say nothing of student performance in Actual Chicago.
Our Illinois is a corruption-free zone of Burkean representative democracy because Quinn “passed a strong ethics code for office holders and public employees.” Back in Actual Illinois, Quinn’s two-time gubernatorial running mate, a man Quinn described as “a person who’s honest and one of integrity,” is doing a 14-year stretch in a federal prison in Colorado and three state legislators have been arrested since the codification of that “strong ethics code” of which Quinn spoke.
If only the woozy dreamland that is Our Illinois was distinguishable from Actual Illinois, perhaps the nearly one million individuals who have fled Illinois over the past 15 years for friendlier confines would have simply populated Pat Quinn’s state of delusion instead.
But as long as Actual Illinois is populated by flocks of voters who behave like “sheep in sheep’s clothing,” Pat Quinn is our shepherd.