Our only hope is real change

Friday, October 29, 2010

Decision time looms for the American voter. And the choices couldn't be clearer:

At the national level, it's whether to reward or rebuke a Democratic president and majority in Congress that ignored the will of the American people to pursue a liberal agenda at the expense of economic recovery.

At the state level, it's whether to reward or rebuke one-party rule by Democrats in Springfield that has spent Illinois into a $130 billion financial hellhole.

It's hard to fathom how President Obama so connected at an emotional and inspirational level with the voters in 2008 but managed to so misjudge what they wanted from him. Obama was essentially running even in the polls until the economy collapsed and the nation turned to the charismatic but relatively inexperienced junior senator from Illinois to resolve the economic crisis.

Instead, the new administration and liberal leaders of Congress decided to use the crisis to push a left-wing agenda on health care, energy, spending and aid to government employees. A politician who campaigned against cynicism in politics cynically used the nation's economic predicament to advance liberal political causes.

The result has been a train wreck: A health-care plan that is increasing insurance costs, prompting companies to look at dropping coverage for employees, and hampering employee tax-free and health-savings accounts for medical spending. A combination of Federal Reserve moves and regulatory reform that was supposed to rein in Wall Street is putting free bank checking for the middle class on the road to extinction. A stimulus package promising to keep unemployment below 8 percent left 14 million unemployed and the jobless rate at 9.6 percent. And, by the way, housing prices are showing signs of weakness again, and economists fear that they could end up being below the already depressed levels of 2009.

Such is what the nation has reaped from Obamanomics. Now, the word from Washington is that the administration wants to focus the next two years on . . . jobs. No wonder the nation is in an angry, sullen mood. And it's not just on the political right. It has even infected the 2008 candidate of hope as Obama has taken to calling his political foes "enemies."

In Illinois, irresponsible government has saddled the state with a $13 billion budget deficit and pension and other retirement obligations for government employees that add up to $130 billion by the reckoning of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago. A study by the American Legislative Exchange Council ranks Illinois 47th among all states in its economic outlook.

Gov. Quinn has been at the helm for almost two years and done nothing to inspire confidence that he can tame the forces driving the state toward insolvency, especially the public employee unions that have sunk their fangs into the taxpayers' jugular to support gold-plated pensions and benefits most of us can only dream of. He cuts a deal guaranteeing no layoffs to a big government workers union while proposing a tax increase.

Republican Bill Brady promises to cut the state out of its crisis, a course derided by his opponents and some experts as impossible. Still, no tax increase merits a minute's consideration until the state's economic infrastructure is reformed: government spending controlled and reduced, the tax and regulatory structure reworked to encourage business investment, and the pay, benefits and pensions of public employees brought in line with the private sector.

Finally, no matter how much you may like your Democratic state representative, a vote for him is actually a vote for House Speaker Michael Madigan, who runs Springfield like a personal fiefdom and has presided over the state's economic decline longer than any other elected official.