Illinois as a lesson in government gone wild

By Benjamin Yount
Illinois Watchdog

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — If President Barack Obama (D) wants to see what a deadbeat government looks like, just look at Illinois.

The president’s home state is the example of a government gone wild. It cannot pay its bills and its credit rating has suffered credit downgrade after credit downgrade. Illinois has seen its credit downgraded 16 times since 2003, and the state now has an A- rating from both Fitch and Standard and Poor’s.

But Illinois also demonstrates that deadlines and showdowns over the debt ceiling are little more than made-up dates on a calendar.

Illinois has bills that it’s been unable to pay for 14 years, according to the Illinois Comptroller’s office, and owes $7.1 billion to a host of small businesses, doctors, pharmacies and local governments.

But the state has not closed. No one has repossessed anything. Government does not work well, but it functions.

Illinois, as we all know, is a disaster,” central Illinois Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis said. “When Illinois is held up as a model, it should always make us stand up and take notice.”

Davis said just because government — be it state or federal — can function as a deadbeat does not mean it should.

It would put Washington, D.C., into a similar state that Illinois is, where you have individuals and contractors who are the backbone of economy could be adversely affected,” Davis said.

Brandon Sheridan, an economics professor at North Central College in suburban Chicago, said there are two things taxpayers need to remember as they watch the debate over the federal debt ceiling — politics and time.

Economics and politics are different,” Sheridan said. “I think a lot of what we see going on now is more political, certainly, than about the economy.”

Sheridan agreed with Davis that the federal government can limp along for a little while as a “deadbeat,” but Sheridan said it can’t continue long.

The immediate danger, I don’t think, is maybe as high as some of the popular media outlets make it out to be,” Sheridan said. “But it is a very real danger in the future if we keep playing ‘kick the can down the road’ and ‘let’s manufacture another crisis’ in a few months.”

Davis said the solution is to start talking about spending cuts as well as the debt ceiling.

One of the things that gets lost on all of the artificial deadlines … is the fact that we have been able to cut and re-prioritize some spending programs in Washington,” Davis said.

Davis said a solution to both the debt-ceiling debate and the fight over spending is to get away from lump-sum funding votes, and have Congress go back to the constitutional process of actually crafting a budget.

Contact Benjamin Yount at and find him on Twitter @BenYount.

Posted Oct. 10, 2013

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