Thursday, March 30, 2006

Meeks, Blagojevich, Topinka: an inverted spectrum on social and economic issues

(Cross-posted at

Random thoughts after a week back at the Capitol.

The House of Representatives is taking a more active role in shaping the state budget than, apparently, the legislature has done in the past. Usually the Administration submits a budget (they've got an Office of Management and Budget -- the General Assembly does not) and the legislature negotiates around those basic parameters. There are add-ons in the budget to satisfy the demands of legislators and there are agreements reached on what social service agencies will receive state funds devoted to human services. But the big picture stuff generally comes from the Governor's office.

This year that seems to be changing, and that's a very healthy institutional move. The legislature ought to have an equal say in shaping the budget. I've found an odd, persistent deference to the Executive branch on setting the budget in Springfield, and I'm glad to see that the legislature is asserting its role.

I also picked up this insight on Meeks, Blagojevich and Topinka.

On the main economic issue of the next four years: whether to raise the state's 3% flat rate income tax (the lowest of the 41 states with an income tax), Blagojevich is the most conservative with his no-new-tax pledge, Topinka is in the middle with her studied amiguity and Meeks is the most progressive with his promise to raise the state income tax to 5%.

On social issues (abortion rights, stem cell research and gay rights), Blagojevich is the most progressive with his best-in-the-nation record on the morning after pill, abortion rights and the like, Topinka's in the middle with her moderate branding and more conservative voting record and Meeks is on the far right with his evangelical position that essentially mirrors Oberweis'.

(Meeks reminds me that those Christians who take the teachings of Jesus seriously are economically liberal -- chasing the money-changers out of the Temple and all that).

Fun dynamics.


Jill Stanek 7:12 AM  

Re: Jesus and social economics, Scripture teaches that governments are instituted for protection and justice.

But it is the Church's job to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and care for widows and orphans. (Scripture is also clear that able bodied poor and widowed are to care for themselves.)

At some point, the US government began to take over the job of the Church, and the delicate balance between the Church's job and the State's job was tipped.

Money people used to give to the Church for social work now goes to the government.

But the State will never do the work of the Church in this area correctly, as is clear.

Bill Baar 7:29 AM  

I think it's Blagojevich chasing the business out of Illinois.

Best-in-the-Nation is not how I would describe abortion-rights. I felt that way even when I supported his positions.

Abortion is a huge tragedy. Regardless of where we stand on the laws, I don't think Best-in-the-Nation is ever the way to describe what's happening with it.

Clinton sensed this when he said Abortion should be legal and rare, or something to that effect. He at least understood the moral failure.

Extreme Wisdom 8:52 AM  


As you may well know, the citizens of Illinois have been saddled with mounting taxes in the form of steadily increasing property levies.

In those areas where voters were misguided, and continued to fund education industry waste, these taxes have climbed even higher.

What few analysts and think tankers realize, is that when 85%-95% of mortgages have property taxes escrowed, the operational difference between an income tax (taken out of a paycheck) and the property tax (taken out of your mortgage payment) are near zero.

Given that a large chunk of IL taxpayers pay both these taxes, any permanent income tax hike that doesn't come with permanent property tax cut is going to make the electorate just this side of livid.

You and I both know Meeks/Martire/HB750 doesn't cut it in that department. The property tax relief is weak, and it will disappear. (if in fact, it is even noticed)

Blago has a shot at being a real hero. Give IL citizens REAL, PERMANENT property tax relief in 2006, and I know of at least one conservative that will actively endorse him.

Pass HB750 in 2006 or 7, and you've just handed the Republicans the fastest way back into power (or at least parity).

If only Nixon could go to China, maybe only Democrats can give the rapacious education lobby the haircut they so richly deserve.

Greg 10:00 AM  

The legislature seeking to play a bigger role is a very healthy institutional move. I hope that change is permanent.

Eye Doc 10:11 AM  

To sort of echo Bill, there's nothing progressive about raising income taxes and preventing commonsense reforms involving abortion. That's a sign of lack of progress, unless by progress you mean progress in the wrong direction.

Anonymous,  12:08 PM  

Jill, does that mean you support a pro-abortion candidate vs. a pro-life candidate who is liberal on fiscal issues? Just trying to figure out what you really support.
I would have thought you would be a Meeks supporter because he is on the pro-life side.

Dan Johnson 6:33 PM  

Yes, we should minimize abortions. That's why Blagojevich's championship-caliber moves to ensure that proper family planning can occue with the morning after pill does deserve the epithet of Best-in-the-Nation. I think it's common knowledge that criminalizing abortion or family planning leads to more abortions performed, not less. It's always puzzled me why many pro-lifers resist the abortion-reducing sex education or abortion-reducing contraceptives or abortion-reducing morning-after pills so vociferously. And on the income tax debate, we are undertaxing high incomes in this state and overtaking low incomes. There is a big difference between a local property tax (where poor areas pay a higher rate and wealthy areas pay a lower rate -- talk about unfair) and a statewide flat rate income tax that starts at $2100 earned. It's progressive and good for everyone in Illinois to lighten the load on lower incomes (less than about 50K) and raise the loan on higher incomes (certainly above 100K). Jill, what do you think about that?

Jill Stanek 8:36 AM  

Question, 12:08p - I blogged on this, adding a comment that specifically addresses your question:

In the event I'm presented with a candidate running as a social conservative/fiscal liberal vs. a candidate running as a social liberal/fiscal conservative, for whom do I vote?

As a social conservative, I'll pick Candidate A, if he runs.

Tom Roeser added this, on which YDD blogged:

The downstate people on the other line are saying it’s not impossible they could back Meeks. But what about Meeks’ tax hike? They say, listen-odds are that Blagojevich will raise taxes after election or that Topinka will, blaming it on the Democrats. We’re thinking about Meeks. With one vote we’d screw Blagojevich and Topinka both. Not bad for one day’s work.

Dan Johnson 1:36 PM  

Interesting, but I think the part of the conversation that I'm interested in is why pious Christians support policies that benefit the wealthy instead of policies that benefit the poor. And please don't simply repeat the 'teach a man how to fish line' -- Christians, especially those who crusade on social issues, should also crusade for public policies that benefit poor and working class people. The clearest issue is whether taxes are paid primarily by wealthier people or primarily by poorer people. Somehow, most evangelicals consider themselves part of the Republican coalition, and that means they support (particularly among federal Republicans) policies that favor the wealthy and hurt the poor. What gives?

Eye Doc 2:05 PM  

Dan, I would have to dispiute your assertion that "It's progressive and good for everyone in Illinois to lighten the load on lower incomes (less than about 50K) and raise the loan on higher incomes (certainly above 100K)."

With state income tax receipts all over the country surging, I would strongly question why any state that wasn't fiscally mismanaged would need to consider raising taxes on anyone. And, that being the case, correcting the mismanagement would be far more beneficial than jacking up tax rates. In any case, you can hardly say that it benefits "everyone in Illinois" to raise income taxes on people who earn over $100,000. First of all, it's obviously bad for those whose taxes go up. Second, an income of $100,000 is a middle class income these days. And third, the case can certainly be made that raising taxes on small business owners would be bad for the state as a whole, and may not even result in much of an increase in tax receipts.

Bill Baar 6:48 AM  

So how do you know who's Christian here?

And why do you think that's important?

A growing portion of Illinois, isn't.

Dan Johnson 4:46 PM  

Bill, I only bring up the Christian angle because Reverend Meeks is running a unique pre-campaign as an evangelical Christian who combines an economically progressive platform with a socially conservative message. That's interesting and given that more self-identified Christians vote for Republican economic policies instead of Democratic economic policies (at least according to most exit polls), there's an interesting disconnect that I'd like to explore. Eye doc -- one reason why our state income tax receipts aren't surging in Illinois is because we undertax high incomes where most of the income growth is happening. The rich really are getting richer and the rest of us are staying largely stagnant. If the state income tax could capture some of the growth so that in good times when people can afford to pay more they do so, our budget would be a lot healthier. That's not to excuse or deny any mismanagement, but I do believe that's a separate question (and often used a red herring) when the question turns to the tax distribution across incomes. "Middle class" is a very loose term. I believe the median income is $41,000. Doubling that seems like we're getting to upper-class income. (Of course it's kind of a silly argument over terminology -- what's the class above middle class? Upper-middle-class? Rich? Filthy rich?) I'd say once you're in the top 20%, you can afford to pay more in state income tax. Also, the higher we raise the state income tax on higher incomes, the more the state benefits, because those state taxes are deductible from federal income taxes paid (since higher-income people deduct their state income taxes while lower-income people do not). And that means that we keep more tax money in Illinois instead of sending it to DC to fund the ongoing military morass. Finally, I believe we'd increase purchasing power and thus economic activity in the state if lower income people paid less, since lower income people spend all their money while higher income people do not. That's why I think it's better for the Illinois economy and thus better for everyone in the state if we stop overtaxing lower incomes and start shifting that burden to higher incomes.

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