Some lessons can’t be repeated too often. And for some people, no amount of repetition will make the point. Illinois government, for instance.
Last week it appeared our neighboring museum of political malpractice was about to shed 2,000 private-sector jobs because state lawmakers were stalling tax credits that could lure the corporate headquarters of the newly-merged Office Depot and Office Max to Naperville.
If the credits aren’t enacted, Office Depot likely stays in Florida, and Office Max employees now in Illinois would move.
If you’ve been reading these columns for a while, you know we’re not setting up an argument in favor of the tax credits. We’re setting up an argument in opposition to a self-destructively corrupt political system in which government voluntarily renders itself unable to retain private sector employers except with sweetheart deals that put taxpayers on the hook. The Chicago Tribune gave some clues last month.
Illinois serves a valuable purpose by providing a sort of window into Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell—or at least the Fourth and Eighth where, respectively, greed and fraud are punished. With taxes rising and public employee pensions underfunded by nearly $100 billion, Illinois government struggles to keep private-sector employers around. Unfortunately, it does so by carving out special favors that aren’t available for any business too small to scare Springfield by threatening to flee.
The remedy might seem straightforward: Tax and regulate less, and say hello to new employers and taxpayers. Unless, that is, the struggle itself is an illusion. After all, Illinois is ruled by the same machine Democrats who served up Barack Obama, and those big enough to play might view oppressive taxes and regulation as just more opportunities for deal-cutting.
Maybe they’re struggling, or maybe they like it this way.