What Do We Win When We Win?
“But we have to take responsibility for the way things are, for what this state has become. Because we live here, and raise our children here, and none of us would tolerate it if corruption was endemic on some neighborhood PTA.”
-John Kass, Chicago Tribune, 9/13/09
On the campaign trail, I hear the following mantra from my opponents all the time, “We have to win in 2010. And we can win.”
I nod my head in agreement.
Yes, we have to win. There must be a reckoning for the Chicago Democrats for the devastation they have wrought on Illinois.
Yes, we can win. Republicans could not have dreamed up a better script than the one that has been written for us by Rod Blagojevich, Roland Burris and the other Chicago Democrats who have our economy circling the drain and our state’s reputation in the toilet.
But we have to answer an important question that is not asked enough, “What do we win when we win?”
Winning elections is not an end in and of itself. Because Republicans haven’t won too many elections in the last decade, some seem to have forgotten this.
Winning elections is a means to policy ends. When winning is solely about handing out the spoils of war, then we lose even when we win. That’s the lesson of the George Ryan years.
The endemic political corruption in Illinois that John Kass writes about in this weekend’s Chicago Tribune is not fundamentally the result of bad people (although we’ve had our share). It is the result of systems that have been set up such that the only thing they can produce is what we loosely call corruption: patronage jobs, insider deals, fat pensions,
The Chicago Democrats have set up these rigged systems and too many Republicans have gone along to get along to get their share of the fix.
What we have is not graft on the margins; we have a system that is predicated on graft.
It is a system that works out quite well for the public sector unions and the politically connected who have voted themselves a permanent income. It works out considerably less well for the people who play by the rules in this state, who are left to pay the bills even though they enjoy none of the benefits.
People who have seen their home value decline while their property taxes rise; people who have seen their 401Ks hammered but are still on the hook to pay for multiple public pensions for the politically connected; people who have seen their children turned away from the U. of I. in favor of children with inferior academic records but superior clout; and people who have invested their lives into their businesses only to be dismissed as the “people with the ability to pay” by an insatiable state government. These folks, the people who play by the rules, are starting to understand what I have been saying for a long time: Illinois isn’t broken. It’s fixed. It is fixed against them and their interests.
Kass is right about another thing: we have to take responsibility for the way things are. None of us are innocent bystanders. Rod Blagojevich did not assume office by military coup. He won two elections.
What we tolerate, we beget.
For at least the last decade we have tolerated the debasement of our state. We have averted our eyes as political bullies in state government pushed our friends and neighbors around and, in some cases, pushed them right out of Illinois.
Now that more and more have felt the real world impacts of bad public policy, there is electoral opportunity.
But we will only capitalize politically if we get the policy right. We must explain to the people who play the rules in Illinois how our victory is their victory. I am the only candidate for Governor doing precisely this.
So to answer my own question, what do we win if I win?
- Lower taxes on productive activities like work and investment
- Statutory spending caps on Springfield to restrain government from crowding out private investment
- Overhaul of our failing K-12 school systems through the introduction of competition to change how the money flows and empower parents with choice for the education of their children
- Reordering of Medicaid to introduce cost containment and personal responsibility while improving the quality of care
- Restructuring of state pension systems to impose actuarial sanity
This is what true victory looks like.
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