Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Walkerism Spreads South


Since before the dawn of recorded history, when a lost tribe of Chicago pickpockets and sex offenders got lost on the ice of Lake Michigan and accidentally ended up founding the State of Wisconsin, there has existed a great and storied rivalry between the Cheeseheads and the Flatlanders.

So imagine our surprise when we woke up one day and found that the Republican Party of Illinois  had decided to transplant the entire Wingnut Management Necronomicon of the "goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to run their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin" to  the home of Abraham Lincoln.  Well not "surprise", actually, since you could see it coming a mile away, but whatever the polysyllabic German word is for a nightmare that unfolds in slow-motion but which you still can't seem to outpace no matter how fast you run,

For those of you not familiar with what's going on these days in the Petri dish of Illinois politics, here's your primer.

First, The Nation gives you a big and not very detailed picture.
We Need Syriza in Illinois
When a millionaire governor decrees austerity, it’s time for the left to step up.

Jane McAlevey February 16, 2015

The new governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, is a hedge fund manager whose salary last year was $60 million. He spent $65.9 million—including $27.6 million of his own money—buying his last election, and he’s about to introduce an austerity program that will make most folks in Illinois think they are living in austerity-wracked Greece, with less idyllic weather. While he’s generating national headlines by trash talking unions, he is quietly taking a scalpel to every important social program in the state, starting with an Illinois program that subsidizes high-quality childcare for 160,000 low-income kids. Instead of extending a small tax increase that passed the Illinois legislature in 2011, staving off a crisis, he’s letting the increases expire. Rauner is methodically manufacturing an economic crisis for his state, one that will let him do what he has long been set on doing: shrink the government and squeeze the 99 percent.
Rauner hopes to smash labor in Illinois so that he can take a baseball bat to it nationally.
But national magazine flyovers don't tell you what's really happening on the ground.  For that, you need to have someone present in the theater of conflict to tell you Who Struck John, and for that level of detail, you need someone like the indispensable Rich "Capitol Fax" Miller (who generously gave me a home on his blogroll years ago when I used to write a lot more about Chicago/Illinois politics) who explains who these things play out in and around the capitol:
More than a few statehouse types have been wondering aloud for weeks what Gov. Bruce Rauner is up to with his almost daily attacks on organized labor.

Just what, they ask, is the end game here?

His people say that the governor feels “liberated” since the election to speak his mind about a topic that stirs great personal passion in him. He played up the issue during the Republican primary, then all but ran away from it in the general election, including just a few weeks before Election Day when he flatly denied that “right to work” or anything like that would be among his top priorities.

Yet, there he is, day after day, pounding away at unions, demanding right-to-work laws, vilifying public employee unions as corrupt to the point of issuing an executive order barring the distribution of state-deducted employee “fair share” dues to public worker unions such as AFSCME. The dues are paid by people who don’t want to pay full union dues.

Some top Democrats believe that Rauner may be setting them up for a grand bargain this spring. Democratic lawmakers most certainly are going to freak out when Rauner presents his draconian budget. Rank-and-file members undoubtedly will demand some sort of tax hike to prevent draconian cuts to their cherished programs. Rauner eventually could say he’d agree to additional revenues in exchange for passage of his economic package.
So Rauner is starting a fire to try to force the legislature into giving him half of the Koch Brothers' agenda in exchanging for putting the fire out.

Sound familiar?

Rich also offers this invaluable history lesson for anyone who wants to understand the Byzantine relationships between labor, power politics and wealth among the factions of our two, deeply flawed parties here in the Land of Lincoln:
In the November [1982] election, the Illinois AFL-CIO endorsed [Adlai] Stevenson [III] against [Jim] Thompson. But the incumbent received crucial backing from several individual unions after Stevenson suggested things like replacing unionized highway workers with prison inmates.

Thompson defeated Stevenson by just 5,000 votes. His speech and a sharply divided labor movement were crucial to his success—even though Ryan, whom the unions despised, had become his running mate.

After the election, Thompson signed a bill to legalize collective bargaining for state employee unions. He interceded in contract negotiations to break an impasse, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees endorsed his 1986 re-election bid, followed quickly by an AFL-CIO endorsement.

Every governor since then has learned the Thompson lesson: Keep state workers happy.

Well, every governor except the current one...
So from 30,000 feet, one, hazy view.

From the oculus atop the dome of the state capitol, a sharper picture.

And at eye-level, about a mile from where I live, this is how those policies are being made manifest, (with some eye-catching emphasis added by me):
Bernard Schoenburg: Rauner administration hires three from Illinois Policy Institute

Posted Feb. 11, 2015 at 10:00 PM

KRISTINA RASMUSSEN, executive vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute and its associated organization, Illinois Policy Action, recently issued a statement of congratulations to three people hired away from the organization by the administration of Gov. BRUCE RAUNER.

BRIAN COSTIN of Buffalo Grove, who was Illinois Policy's director of government reform, has been named policy director for Lt. Gov. EVELYN SANGUINETTI. He also worked in government relations for the Heartland Institute in Chicago. He's being paid $80,000 annually.

JANE McENANEY of Chicago, who was government affairs manager for Illinois Policy, is now director of legislative affairs for the Illinois Department of Revenue. She spent five months working in the campaign headquarters of the MITT ROMNEY presidential bid in 2012 and earlier was a staff assistant to U.S. Rep. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., in Washington. She's being paid $75,000 annually.

DONOVAN GRIFFITH, who was Illinois Policy's manager of government affairs, is legislative liaison to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. He was earlier government relations program manager for the Evanston-based American Massage Therapy Association and was a legislative analyst for Illinois House Republicans. He was campaign manager for a winning House race in 2010 of now-state Sen. SUE REZIN, R-Morris. He's being paid $75,000 annually.

"Each of us advances the cause of liberty in our own special way," Rasmussen said in her announcement. "For some of our amazing team members at the Illinois Policy Institute and Illinois Policy Action, that means taking on a new challenge to improve government from the inside out."

"We are honored that the new administration is looking to our team for talent," she added.

The liberty-based Illinois Policy group clearly shares some views with Rauner, whose family foundation has donated at least $625,000 to it since 2009.
For those joining us for the first time, the innocuous-sounding Illinois Policy Institute is exactly what you would expect it to be:  another well-funded Koch Brothers front group with deep roots in all the usual, radical Hobbsean madness to which all those groups swear allegiance (Hail Hydra!)

And the Heartland Institute -- America's leading Randite climate change denial chop shop and spawning ground for future Conservative guests on MSNBC -- is another outfit with longstanding ties to the Koch Empire.

And so, one hire at a time, one policy decree at a time, our new governor works the Koch Brothers's playbook, line by line.

Sorry, The Nation; the time for the left to "step up" and all ye other slumbering workers and prisoners of want to arise was last fucking November.

I guess they had better things to do.


Grung_e_Gene said...

An estimated 35% of Union Members voted for Bruce Rauner. I guess it's Oops? or maybe Huh? Rauner's going to screw me out of my Pension?!?

Fiddlin Bill said...

Citizens United.

Mike Lumish said...

Wow! You are in fine form today. Illinois politics sound every bit as crooked as New York.

And you are correct in that the time for people to get off their butts was three months ago. I was angered by the results - especially in the Senate - but not surprised because it had been clear in the polling results for six months. And my general admiration for President Obama, with his new found feistiness, is tempered by the obvious question WHY WERE YOU NOT DOING THIS SIX MONTHS AGO WHEN IT MIGHT HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE?

n1ck said...

All of that may be true DG, but at least a whole lot of Illinoisans were able to remain pure.

You see, first you let the Republicans win elected office. Next, something something mass social uprising, and then finally, something something utopian social Democracy!

Step 1 complete.

Now it's just a waiting game, you see!


Mike Lumish said...


By Jove, I think he's got it!

anniebananie said...

The stupid, it burns. I'm a retired state employee. About every other month I have dinner with other retirees. Leading up to November I talked myself blue in the face trying to convince them NOT to vote for Rauner. They were not interested in facts, only saying he's got to be better than Quinn. Quinn being the only governor in the past 30 years that actual made the State's part of the pension payment. Go figure.