By Pat Hughes

We have gotten used to a steady drumbeat of bad news about Illinois. It is not even news anymore when we find out that Illinois is last in the nation, or 47th, or somewhere near rock-bottom, in one economic ranking or another.

We have known for a while now that Illinois is last in the nation in funding its pubic employee pensions. But we recently found out the situation is even worse than we have been told. In fact, it’s twice as bad. The shortfall is not around $100 billion; it’s more like $200 billion, according to Moody’s.

An already impossible burden, piled on the back of Illinois families, just got bigger.

For most people, these numbers are too big to understand. It just sounds like a lot of zeroes.

But this incoming tide of bad economic numbers is not some kind of abstract math. These numbers don’t just exist on power point slides. These numbers, which keep showing that Illinois is the worst economic performer in the nation, are real. They are cold and unavoidable proof that decades of terrible policies are ruining this state and inflicting unnecessary pain on the people who live here.

These numbers are about hopes ended and about looking for jobs that are not there.

These rotten numbers are about ordinary citizens adding up what they have, what they owe, and wishing for money that just is not there. They know it’s not going to get better, and after trying so hard for so long, they give up.

These numbers are about people putting the last of their office furniture in the truck, and handing the landlord the keys and moving their business somewhere new, somewhere better, forever.

These numbers are all about pain. Real pain suffered by real people.

As with all things in Illinois, if you are one of the big guys, you can reduce your pain, or make it happen to someone else. If you are the teachers’ unions, you can get someone else to fund your retirement benefits. If you are Sears you can get a $330 million tax break. If you are Motorola you can get a $100 million tax break. And if you are the CME and CBOE, you get a $100 million tax break, too.

The rules are different for the heavy hitters in Illinois.

But thousands of Illinois businesses don’t get special deals. They play by the rules. They have to. They can’t afford lobbyists to rewrite the rules for them.

The ruling class in Springfield has made it very clear. It does not care what happens to the small businesses, the corner stores, or the garage start-ups. If you are nobody nobody sent, you don’t count.

When the State’s numbers are bad, it just borrows more money, stiffs its vendors, or raises taxes. When an ordinary business in Illinois can’t pay its way, it closes. Or, if its owners can do it, they leave.

Every business that leaves Illinois, or is driven out of existence, is the end of someone’s efforts and hopes and dreams. The government should help people pursue those dreams, or at least stay out of the way, but instead it is ruining them.

The financial numbers coming from our state government are terrible, and the rotten economic performance they capture is a national and international disgrace.

The ruling class in Springfield is the worst group of political leaders in the United States of America.

Literally: the worst. The numbers don’t lie.

Illinois has to change. These policies have to change. These numbers have to change.

These politicians, with a few honorable exceptions, have to be replaced.

This pain has to end.

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