“There is every reason to believe,” Erik Erikson says, “that the central identity which here found its historical time and place was the conviction that … he (Gandhi) was the only person equipped by fate to reform a situation which … could [not] be tolerated.”
Similarly, when billionaire investment banker Bruce Rauner ran for governor of Illinois in 2014, it was on the platform of what he called the “Turnaround Agenda” — an agenda so bold that only a self-financed man free of influence peddlers could accomplish it. Rauner promised to grow jobs, enact workers’ compensation reform, create lawsuit reform, negotiate union reform, freeze property taxes, [and more]. Rauner was to be the savior of Illinois.
During the tenure of Democratic Governor Pat Quinn (2009–2013), Illinois suffered 13 downgrades from the three major rating agencies. Leading up to the 2014 election, additional downgrades came in June 2013 when Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Illinois to A- and A3, respectively. The reasons given were easy to understand: the state had billions of dollars in unpaid pension and health-care bills.
Governor Quinn is a nice man. A part of the machine. A machine that had just recently won every constitutional office in the state, city, county and, arguably, country — with Barak Obama, a Chicago Democrat, at its head. Yet, in 2014, Rauner won the election for governor while the Democrats continued to grow their power in Springfield, picking up veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate. A not-so-clear indication that Illinois was, perhaps, ready for a billionaire to give state leadership a try. The results? The last two years have been a disaster.
Eric Zorn of the conservative-leaning Chicago Tribune wrote in an April 12, 2016, column: “Bruce Rauner is a failed governor. Fifteen months after the Republican private equity investor was sworn in to his first elected office, the state is in worse shape by nearly every measure than the state he inherited from his Democratic predecessor.”
As recently as October 1, 2016, S&P Global Ratings dropped Illinois’ credit rating one notch to BBB and warned it could fall further, absent a long-term solution that deals with the state’s chronic structural budget deficit and pension woes.
“The downgrade reflects our view of continued weak financial management and increased long-term and short-term pressures tied to declining pension funded levels,” said S&P analyst John Sugden.
The backlog of unpaid bills is higher in 2016 than it was in 2014, as is the unemployment rate and the largest-in-the-nation unfunded public pension liability. We were one of just six states that showed a net loss in private-sector jobs last year. Accordingly, our credit rating has continued to fall, meaning it will cost us even more than anticipated to dig out of a financial hole that’s growing at an estimated rate of $33 million every day.
Illinois still doesn’t have — and mayy never have — a budget for the fiscal year that began last July, which has put many human-service providers and public colleges and universities into a financial crisis.
One can argue that Rauner, a career CEO, viewed the legislature as middle management and misread the “mandate” given to him by the citizens of Illinois.
And this past week’s election is a clear indication of what the citizens of Illinois feel about their Republican CEO governor. In an election where Republicans were sweeping the nation, Illinois [ousted] republican U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, Republican Congressman Bob Dold and Republican State Comptroller Leslie Munger. No other state in the country took the left turn that Illinois took. If Rauner had been on the ballot, he would have lost handily.
Let’s compare this reaction to another well-known billionaire politician, three-time New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg biographer Joyce Purnick was quoted as saying: “It can be argued that Ed Koch cracked the eggs, [Rudy] Giuliani assembled the ingredients, and then Bloomberg made the omelette” when it came to bringing New York City back from the brink. Continues Purnick: “Bloomberg led the city out of recession, smoothly managing the city’s finances and services, keeping the central promise of his self-financed campaign to steer clear of influence peddlers and favor-seekers.”
Bloomberg won his first election in 2001 by two percentage points. He won re-election by 20 percentage points. His wild popularity in 2005 was due to the very clear value he was bringing New Yorkers.
So how was it that Illinois was … the ONLY state in the Midwest to vote for Hillary? (Minnesota voted for Clinton with the slimmest of margins.) Because Illinois knows what it means to have a billionaire in charge of a political body and … we don’t like it.
Rauner could have been Bloomberg, but he chose to be something else. Rauner chose not to lead us out of recession but drive us deeper into debt. Rauner chose ego over compromise and that’s why Illinois voted for Clinton.
By all measures, the Orthodox community in Illinois is far worse off with Rauner as governor. The governor put a stop to our transportation program, he has made job growth difficult, and by not negotiating on a budget he has halted business growth in the third-largest city in America.
Illinois citizens are rightfully concerned that Trump won’t be much different.
Thankfully, over the past days we have seen some clear indications that Trump is has surrounded himself with career politicians — a good thing! To make necessary changes it requires knowing the rules.
My Rav said that we see a clear Yad Hashem in this election. Our job is to daven that it continues l’tov. If past experiences are indicative, we should pray that Trump continues on this path and steers far clear of whatever path the failed governor of Illinois.