How fitting that the state that produced the profligate corruptocrat-in-chief is now collapsing under the weight of its own fiscal irresponsibility. The same union-coddling, welfare state-expanding, pay-for-play politics that wrought the current misery in Illinois are wreaking havoc for us all. And to think: If President Obama, Mrs. Obama, Valerie Jarrett, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley had had their way, they would have shoveled billions more in taxpayer funds down the drain for their Olympics folly. As I’ve noted here before, you can take Obama out of Chicago, but you can’t take the Chicago out of Obama.
What a costly lesson for America to learn, eh?
Via the NYTimes:
Even by the standards of this deficit-ridden state, Illinois’s comptroller, Daniel W. Hynes, faces an ugly balance sheet. Precisely how ugly becomes clear when he beckons you into his office to examine his daily briefing memo.
He picks the papers off his desk and points to a figure in red: $5.01 billion.
“This is what the state owes right now to schools, rehabilitation centers, child care, the state university — and it’s getting worse every single day,” he says in his downtown office.
Mr. Hynes shakes his head. “This is not some esoteric budget issue; we are not paying bills for absolutely essential services,” he says. “That is obscene.”
For the last few years, California stood more or less unchallenged as a symbol of the fiscal collapse of states during the recession. Now Illinois has shouldered to the fore, as its dysfunctional political class refuses to pay the state’s bills and refuses to take the painful steps — cuts and tax increases — to close a deficit of at least $12 billion, equal to nearly half the state’s budget.
Then there is the spectacularly mismanaged pension system, which is at least 50 percent underfunded and, analysts warn, could push Illinois into insolvency if the economy fails to pick up.
States cannot go bankrupt, technically, but signs of fiscal crackup are easy to see. Legislators left the capital this month without deciding how to pay 26 percent of the state budget. The governor proposes to borrow $3.5 billion to cover a year’s worth of pension payments, a step that would cost about $1 billion in interest. And every major rating agency has downgraded the state; Illinois now pays millions of dollars more to insure its debt than any other state in the nation.
“Their pension is the most underfunded in the nation,” said Karen S. Krop, a senior director at Fitch Ratings. “They have not made significant cuts or raised revenues. There’s no state out there like this. They can’t grow their way out of this.”
As the recession has swept over states and cities, it has laid bare economic weakness and shoddy fiscal practices. Only an infusion of federal stimulus money allowed many states to avert deep layoffs last year.
The government stimulus has caused more problems than it has solved. Matt Mitchell of the Mercatus:
The real question is: Intentions aside, does government spending actually stimulate the economy? Over the long run (when Lord Keynes said we were all dead) the answer is almost certainly “no.”
Using international data, a number of peer-reviewed studies have examined the relationship between government size, somehow measured, and economic growth. Here is a sample: Barro (1991 and 1989); Folster and Henrekson (2001); Romero-Ávila and Strauch (2008); Afonso and Furceri (2008); Chobanov and Mladenova (2009); Roy (2009); and Bergh and Karlsson (2010). Each of these studies finds a strong, statistically significant, negative relationship between the size of government and economic growth.
What about the short run? Here again the evidence seems weak at best. Consider new research by Harvard’s Robert Barro and Charles Redlick. They find that for every dollar the government spends on the military (read: takes out of the private economy), the economy gains just 40 to 70 cents. Spending a dollar to obtain 40 to 70 cents does not a good deal make. Or consider another study by Harvard’s Laruen Cohen, Joshua Coval and Christopher Malloy. They rely on the fact that the federal government tends to spend more money in districts whose congressional members are chairs of powerful committees than in districts whose members are just rank-and-file. They find that firms actually cut capital expenditures by 15 percent following the ascendency of a congressman to the chairmanship. Moreover, firms seem to scale back employment and experience declines in sales.
It seems to me that by just about any measure, we are currently conducting a large-scale experiment in massive government spending. Moreover, I believe the results of previous experiments predict that this one will lead to slower growth and less economic opportunity.
Illinois needs a Chris Christie.
Instead, we have Santa Obama ready to fork over more boodle.
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