Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., May 14, 15 or 16
Besides feeding in to critics’ disparagement of the Land of Lincoln and betraying Rauner’s supposed fondness for the state he purports to lead, the governor’s own turnaround plan wants to cut some facets praised by the respondents (such as highway construction and universities). The first-term Republican billionaire also overlooks some suggestions, instead apparently cherry-picking claims that bolster his anti-union, pro-business austerity agenda.
Rauner’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity asked 10 ambassadors, business leaders, consuls general, etc. from other countries about their impressions of Illinois, especially in the context of locating and Foreign Direct Investment in Illinois.
Complaints range from the predictable to the petty: taxes, infrastructure; inadequate preparation of the labor force on the one hand, and parking rates, bureaucratic delays in getting drivers licenses and tollway fees on the other.
These Movers & Shakers (of course: Rauner’s 1% peers) criticized labor unions and downstate (which more than one noted is not competitive with Indiana or Wisconsin. Or developing nations with virtual slave labor, for that matter).
One wonders if they’d ventured beyond Chicago’s collar counties. Or interacted with everyday Illinoisans.
These 10 make up a tiny and narrow subject group virtually guaranteed beforehand to mirror Rauner’s mindset, and they were served up leading questions to stress the responses Rauner openly seeks.
As for the respondents: They want more. It doesn’t take a microscope or psychic to read between the lines and see their real plea: “Woo us!” “Give us more – more incentives, more subsidies, more ways to pay workers less and operate with fewer regulations…” “Gimme Gimme Gimme!”
None concedes that since two-thirds of the state’s businesses pay no income taxes, they probably are whining about sales taxes or property taxes or routine user fees, like for their stretch limos that are so danged hard to park.
Besides suspicious duplications on supposedly separate responses (for example, two different answers both describe Chicago as the “capital of the Midwest”), these Movers and Shakers (M&S, OK?) look at Illinois from Learjets, high-rise offices, and luxury residences, with equally lofty priorities of maximizing profit and doing well, not doing good.
Perception is reality for these M&S titans of wealth and/or power.
But their reality isn’t always – even often – real.
Sure, there’s general agreement that Illinois has great transportation and communication systems, some empathy that conventional wisdom by other nations’ ill-informed decision makers about Illinois stems from news coverage of crime or limited popular-culture references (one memo concedes that foreign “ignorance … rarely sees beyond Capone and Jordan.”) And more than one praised the state’s universities.
(Yes, Irony Hawks: Rauner’s Illinois Board of Higher Education Director James Applegate told the state’s already beleaguered universities to expect cuts of 30 percent over the next year and a half.)
A little insight trickled out, such as the concern that small companies don’t get the same consideration as large enterprises, but most telling was the common criticism that Illinois “undersells” itself, is “outgunned by less attractive states,” has too little of an overseas presence, where there’s a “deep lack of understanding” about the Midwest.” And repeatedly, those 10 surveyed say Illinois needs to do better promoting the state, to “do more outreach,” because “more work needs to be done.”
Instead of promoting Illinois, though, Rauner is going global in going negative, criticizing the people and places he contends he serves.
The Governor is adding insult to injury, and shame to greed.
[PICTURED: Photo from retired-iea-teacher.com.]