FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Billionaire Governor Goes After Workers

In November, Illinois voters narrowly decided – after one of the most expensive gubernatorial elections in the nation’s history – to elect Bruce Rauner, a hedge fund billionaire, to lead the state. Consider it an experiment in class politics. How would a man of the 0.01% address Illinois’ many challenges?

Rauner donned populist garb for the campaign. Pumping some $27.5 million of his own money into the campaign,

He promised voters what he knew they wanted:

“We’ll get a booming economy with more jobs. We’ll get the best schools in America. We’ll bring down the tax burden. And we’re going to rip this patronage system, and this cronyism system out of Springfield.”

Voters wanted someone who would clean up the corruption. Rauner was an uneasy choice, partly because his hedge fund was a leading investor of Illinois’ pension funds, a line of business infamous for corruption and rip-offs.

And partly because the promises didn’t add up:  better schools, better infrastructure, less debt, and lower taxes – how does that work?  But enough voters decided to take the risk.

So what is Rauner’s first act? He declared war on Illinois’ public unions.

He devoted his state of the state address blaming unions for Illinois’ problems.  Public employees had the nerve to negotiate for decent pay and pensions.  Their retirees expected that the contractual promises to pay the compensation promised would be honored.  Their unions contributed volunteers and money to political campaigns.  They were bankrupting the state.

So Rauner urged localities to pass so-called “right to work” laws, that would disembowel unions.  Then he issued an executive order – declared illegal by the Illinois Attorney General – to weaken state unions by barring them from assessing fees on some of the workers they represent –and benefit – in collective bargaining.

In a unionized workplace, union negotiated wages and benefits apply to workers who aren’t members of the union.  Non-members – about 15% of the unionized workplaces – don’t have to pay union dues or support union political activities.  But under Illinois law, they pay a fair-share fee, to cover the cost of collective bargaining and enforcement from which they directly benefit.

Fair share fees don’t contribute to Illinois fiscal problems.  Rauner is waging a war on unions.  He hopes to cripple those who opposed him in his last election.  But the stakes are larger than that:  what Rauner is proposing is to inflict trickle down economics on Illinois.

We haven’t seen Rauner’s budget yet, but we know what is coming.  Income taxes will be lowered on the rich; sales taxes extended on working people, making Illinois’ already regressive state tax structure even more unfair.

Rauner has already frozen all “non-essential” state spending and hiring, with an exemption, apparently, for a $100,000 a year Chief of Staff for his spouse.

The war on public workers will be accompanied by a continued assault on public schools. The piecemeal privatization of public education will be accompanied by piecemeal privatization of more public services.  Rauner has already teed up Medicaid – health services for the impoverished –for cuts.  Pension funds imbalances– caused by irresponsible officials refusing to make promised contributions and by hedge fund geniuses pocketing big fees for paltry returns – will be corrected by breaking the contractual promise to retirees.  Rauner clearly would lower the minimum wage if he could.

Rauner will peddle this toxic potion as a charm for Illinois’ ills.  Austerity, he’ll argue, will unleash jobs and growth.  Breaking unions will balance budgets.  Charters will lift kids.  Medicaid cuts will focus on the unworthy.  Everyone will sacrifice; everyone will benefit.

But the reality is predictable – as Wisconsin and Kansas have discovered.  The wealthy – a leading source of the corruption that plagues Illinois – will get tax breaks.  The middle class will get paycuts.  The poor will get less help. The schools will be cut; good teachers will leave.

Illinois voters were sensible enough not to give Rauner a free rein:  Democrats still control the legislature.  Rauner is making it clear where he stands.  Now Democrats will have to decide which side they are on.

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

More articles by:

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail