Government Spending

Prairie State Debt

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Bring the noise!

The Manhattan Institute's Josh Barro provides a thorough accounting of Illinois's budget mess and how it came undone:

Illinois hasn't really balanced its budget since the tech-boom years of the late 1990s. Faced with a growing gap between revenue and spending, state lawmakers have resorted to borrowing money to pay for current operations. This borrowing can take unusual forms; sometimes, for example, Illinois simply stops paying its bills, sending IOUs to vendors, such as hospitals that provide Medicaid services, and to local governments and authorities. (As of March, Illinois had piled up over $8 billion in such unpaid bills, and the governor and legislature were squabbling over whether to borrow even more to pay them.) All this borrowing has added up: the state's bond debt and unfunded pension liabilities have skyrocketed from $20 billion in 1998 to $126 billion by this July.

Technically, Illinois shouldn't be able to amass such a heavy debt burden, since its laws, like most states', require the state budget to be balanced yearly. The problem is that Illinois' balanced-budget rule is full of loopholes. The legislature, for instance, can meet the requirement simply by attesting that the budget is balanced at the time of enactment, even if it knows that budget gaps will appear later in the year. When those deficits appear, the legislature can then borrow money to close them; it doesn't have to cut spending or raise taxes, as most other states require. The balanced-budget requirement also doesn't apply to Illinois' pension obligations; the state is free to treat them as carelessly as it likes.

These lax rules have allowed Illinois to increase its spending, through good times and bad, without raising taxes.

Whole thing, including how Chicago's recently elected mayor, former Obamaite Rahm Emmanuel, turned on the city's unions, here

Reason on the state budget meltdown here, here, and here.

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  1. The historian Paul Johnson says that occasionally entire societies will go mad for a certain period of time. He lists Revolutionary France and Nazi Germany as the two most obvious examples.

    I think 21st Century America has become another. This is just madness. No amount of taxes will ever satiate these people’s apatite for spending. And no matter how obvious and brutal the budget math is, they refuse to face reality.

    A sizable portion of the country seems to believe that the government can spend any amount of money for the indefinite future provided it properly taxes the rich and eliminates “corporate welfare, fraud waste and abuse”. That is just madness. It is more benign but no less insane and detached from reality than thinking Jews are running the world and plotting to destroy the country.

    1. It is more benign but no less insane and detached from reality than thinking Jews are running the world and plotting to destroy the country.

      This was kind of discussed in Matt Welch’s and Michael Shermer’s NPR talk. The number of people who actually form opinions on a scientific, or near-scientific, basis (viewing data, forming views in conformity with facts) is alarmingly small. The ability of people to hold views in defiance of facts to the contrary is scary.

      1. The ability of people to hold views in defiance of facts to the contrary is scary.

        I disagree with the gullibility/naivete premise because people are just questioning what is sold as facts.

        Data is manipulated to fit POV and the global warning debate is a classic why we should not accept hockey graphs or any ‘fact’ without review.

        1. Not questioning what is sold as facts is a form of gullibility.

      2. Nothing is a fact. Most information is not directly observed (not that you can’t fool yourself anyway) but instead relayed and interpreted by human beings who may lie or manipulate.

        At any rate, collecting, evaluating, and processing data demands both ability and time/labor, which is why people tend to take shortcuts.

      3. I listened to part of an NPR feature where various callers said that they were or were not voting for various candidates because of their wives.
        One refused to vote for Mitch Daniels because she didn’t like how his wife bailed on the family.
        This is the level of thought that goes into the selection of our representatives.

    2. The historian Paul Johnson says that occasionally entire societies will go mad for a certain period of time

      I tend to see it more as “rarely an entire society will go sane for a certain period of time.” Revolutionary France and Nazi Germany just went hyperactive with what is otherwise normal for societies because they followed their horrific beliefs to their horrifying logical ends.

      It is more benign but no less insane and detached from reality than thinking Jews are running the world and plotting to destroy the country.

      I see it as the same. The results of antisemitism have been relatively benign for most of the centuries its existence too. So far as I know it began when Theodosius II put extra taxes on them, and restrictions on their residences, clothing, jobs and farms. Kind of like now for everybody.

    3. Just last night on some Fox program, there was a discussion of “entitlements”. The libertarian fellow was explaining the math. The promised Social Security and Medicare won’t be paid because it simply can’t be paid. The trillions of dollars of promised benefits are beyond our ability to pay. And the liberal guy was arguing about food stamps and how the social safety net needs to be MORE generous. As John says, it’s a form of madness.

    4. Dems seem to enjoy ramping up spending and then demand more taxes to pay for it. Rinse, lather and repeat.

      Of course a certain amount of taxation is unpopular, so they have to demonize certain groups – the rich, corporations, etc – that aren’t paying their “fair share”. Rinse, lather, repeat.

      Depressing.

      1. It would be one thing if there was a level of spending, even a high one, where they said enough is enough. But there doesn’t seem to be one. They really seem incapable of stopping. That is where they cross from old line socialism into madness.

        1. Problem is, when things go shitty, no one is held accountable. Then we forget. Then things get better for a little while. Then things go shitty again but a little worse than last time, and again no one is held accountable.

    5. Good point, John. Hopefully it is some sort of finite period of madness and not, say, a decline like the end of Roman Empire.

  2. these people’s apatite for spending

    Spellcheck doesn’t always help

    1. So sue me.

      1. I just thought it was funny, it doesn’t take away from your comment, which I like.

        1. Thanks. And good catch. I am America’s worst speller. It is some kind of missing gene. It is like people who can’t do long division.

          1. Well maybe if you stoped drinking the blood of puppies, you’d spel beter.

  3. A short list of national science foundation spending on dubious studies.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics…..d=13689403

    1. You know, I was once funded by the NSF. Which is a little weird, considering that my doctorate is in law.

      1. And you know what we academics always say when the NSF funds something really weird? It’s good that you did that, NSF, very good that you did that.

        1. VERY nice Twilight Zone reference!!

      2. You know, I was once funded by the NSF. Which is a little weird, considering that my doctorate is in law I am libertarian. OTOH, it makes me just a typical libertarian

        1. And I use roads!

          1. [gasp]

            1. And libraries!

              1. [double gasp]

                1. I took deductions on my taxes, too.

                  1. [chokes on triple gasp, begins to masturbate]

                    1. Come to think of it, my dad was working for a NASA contractor during the Apollo years. So my very existence is tied to the federal government’s generosity. I should be on my knees in gratitude.

                    2. […]

                    3. I have no doubt you’re on your knees in gratitude but I doubt Sugarfree will cum, no matter how hard you suck

          2. and a shit load of other government programs too? Do you make John Stossel look like he isn’t a hypocrite?

            1. Isn’t this like saying that if a Democrat doesn’t voluntary pay higher taxes to avoid the ‘Bush tax cut’ they’re a hypocrite?
              I mean, there are plausible arguments that can be made against libertarianism, but this doesn’t strike me as one of them.

              1. I think the democrats are full of it, just as the conservatives but libertarians have mastered the do what I say, not what I do meme

            2. Libertarians can distinguish between personal behavior and systemic preference, and thus understand trying to improve a system while not getting dicked over by the status quo.

              1. The I’m not really raping you but just cleaning out my dick theory

  4. I have that Sufjan Stevens album. That makes me better than all of you.

    1. It’s a shining example of tweeish indie-pop.

    2. Yeah, it’s the only one I have by him… and there’s a reason for that.

      1. My preferred order

        Michigan
        Seven Swans
        Illinois
        —significant drop-off—
        All Delighted People
        The Avalanche
        Age of Adz
        [pre-Michigan stuff that I haven’t listened to because Pitchfork didn’t tell me to, yet]

        1. Speaking of Pitchfork, I should add that my favorite album by the Decemberists is “The Crane Wife” and I don’t like anything by Radiohead after ‘OK Computer’ so my ‘Indie Rock cred’ is none too high.

          1. The new Decemberist’s is pretty good. Although this is coming from someone who–except for bits and pieces–finds the first album their strongest work.

            Sounds a lot like the boutique soundtrack for a very ambitious third season of Firefly.

            1. I agree about the Decemberists’ first album. And the new one has the advantage of following Hazards of Love, which to my ears could make anything sound like a masterpiece.

              1. (Sadly?) Hazards is my second favorite album by them. (Rake’s Song is outstanding).
                I’m probably one of those pretentious ‘prog’ guys, though, which is probably why I liked Crane and Hazards, and didn’t particularly care for their new album (and I think they stole Calamity Song from REM).

          2. With Indie Rock more mainstream than ever and hipster culture more ironic than ever, having Indie Rock Cred is sort of like trying to step in the same river twice.

          3. I tend to think of “indie” rock and “alternative music” as “failure music”: once the artists become commercially successful beyond a certain point, the original fans whine that the artists have sold out.

        2. Way to completely dismiss his Christmas efforts.

          1. Way to completely dismiss his Christmas efforts.

            Hey! I said I was a Christian! Why won’t you believe me?

  5. Living in NW Chicago, I can’t help but feel a sick fascination with watching the whole thing explode, close up. Perhaps it’s the same thing Slim Pickens felt as he rode that a-bomb.

  6. Goddamn, that album is fantastic. I’m going to listen to it as soon as I get home.

  7. I’m in the Western suburbs of Chicago and I don’t think anything is going to change anytime soon.

    Governor Quinn has refused to cut anything. The Democrats control both houses of the state legislature and are totally in charge of the legislative remap.

    Growing up, I always thought Illinois was a great state to live in and never once thought of living somewhere else.

    Now, I wonder if I will still be living here in 10 years.

    1. Texas will welcome you, too, I’m sure.

      1. Man. I’ll bet fewer people would move here if we coulda got the airports shut down.

  8. Come on feel the Illinoise”

    Girls, rock your Boise.

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