In Rauner's Endless Summer, Memories of the Blagojevich Administration

Jun 24, 2015

Here we are, rapidly approaching the Fourth of July, and we are still talking about legislative battles, a governor picking a fight with the speaker, and Illinois heading toward a new fiscal year without a budget in place. Sound familiar?

Why does this matter? Why spend so much time on a disgraced politician, even if it is the four-year anniversary of his conviction for political corruption?

There is a value in thinking about precisely which aspects of the Blagojevich way were most damaging to Illinois government. And personally, I rank his ridiculous scheme to sell President Obama's senate seat pretty far down the list.

Far worse than his corruption was Blagojevich's refusal to acknowledge the reality of the state's financial situation. He reportedly once hid in a bathroom to avoid having to hear bad news from his budget director.

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in his arrest photo on Dec. 10, 2008.
Credit U.S. Government

Rauner has certainly paid lip service to acknowledging Illinois' fiscal shambles. But he has been secretive about how far he'd be willing to go in balancing spending and raising taxes. The bullet points he distributed during the campaign wouldn't raise nearly enough revenue. He's hired an advisor closely aligned with the disproven "supply side" economic hypothesis. And his budget proposal this year simply imagined $3 billion in savings.

It's also worth remembering that Blagojevich so poisoned his relationship with legislators that many refused to take him at his word, demanding written legal agreements in lieu of traditional handshakes. It remains to be seen whether Rauner can cut deals with the legislators he's simultaneously calling crooks and liars -- or whether he even really wants to.

Music: "Ocean of Noise" by Arcade Fire, "Jailhouse Rock" by Elvis, "All About the Money" by Christophe Beck, and "Theme From The Endless Summer" by The Sandals.

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