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The [Thursday] Papers

"Moody's Analytics has a different take on the state of the state of Illinois than the one Gov. Bruce Rauner [offered Wednesday]," Tom Kacich reports for the Champaign News-Gazette.

"Its newly released economic forecast for the state, delivered in dry, nonpolitical tones, doesn't demonize organized labor or state employees for the poor financial condition of the state government.

"In fact, when it addresses what it calls the state's 'failed' fiscal policies and its 'precarious' financial condition, Moody's puts the onus on the taxing and spending of previous governors and legislatures.

"The state's budget has been unbalanced and unsustainable for many years," Moody's said in a 41-page analysis to the Legislature's bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. "The state's fiscal condition has deteriorated for two principle reasons.

"First, for decades it has balanced its annual cash budget by not putting aside sufficient funds to cover the increase in future pension benefits, causing unfunded liabilities to increase. Second, when the state economy was performing well from the late 1990s into the mid-2000s, Illinois expanded government services but did not raise taxes or put away cash reserves.

"The state's fiscal condition was poor going into the Great Recession, which had a devastating effect on revenue and increased demand for services."

If we're going to use words like "accountability," let's hold those responsible accountable for this mess - instead of punishing once again those who have already been harmed.

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"In another section, Moody's takes a look at 'right to work' laws, a legislative initiative that Rauner has promoted as a local option, but not on a statewide basis. With right to work, employees in unionized workplaces can't be forced to pay union dues, although they enjoy union benefits. Eventually, a union's finances and influence erode.

Right to work laws reduce union membership, Moody's notes, but less clear is whether they actually contribute to economic growth.

"Since laws that hurt unions shift the balance of power from employees to owners, they tend to erode wages and lead to a more uneven distribution of the gains of economic growth," Moody's said. "Consequently, even if the impact of right-to-work laws is positive in the short run, it can diminish over time because of the downward pressure on incomes."

Gangsta Moody's, y'all. Goin' right after Rauner.

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"In another blow to the Rauner narrative that Illinois is a bad state for business - he showed a chart last week that ranked Illinois 48th among the states - Moody's concludes that 'Illinois' business climate outshines its regional rivals,' although it acknowledges that 'the state's shaky finances have some firms questioning whether they want to expand in the state or elsewhere.'

Moody's says that while the fiscal crisis and the possibility of higher state taxes "are expected to subtract modestly from growth, Illinois is unlikely to lose its appeal for corporate headquarters and companies that need highly skilled workers and are willing to pay for the top talent."

Paying for top talent is something Rauner understands.

That might also explain the labor cost part of this segment:

Further, business costs in Illinois "are only marginally higher than they are nationally," concludes Moody's. "Costs are now lower than those in Wisconsin and Ohio but higher than those in neighboring Missouri and Indiana. Firms in Illinois tend to pay less in taxes, and their utility costs are below average, but labor is on the expensive side. By and large, though, business costs are pretty favorable and lower than those in states that have similarly high metropolitan areas with unique features that appeal to businesses such as California and New York."

That reminds me of this section of my 2004 article on McCormick Place for Chicago magazine:

For all the talk of high labor costs in Chicago, convention officials still use wage rates as a selling point. A Web site dedicated to the McCormick Place West expansion boasts of average hourly pay that is lower than that in several other cities, including New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, San Jose, and Atlantic City.

"We honestly don't believe Chicago is out of line with its labor costs," says McAvoy. "We do believe that some of the work rules need to be reworked to make it easier to exhibit, but that's no different than any of the other cities."

Not only that, but McCormick Place's labor force, as mobbed up and ghosted-payrolled as its been over the decades, has also had a reputation of being the best in the business - so much so that crews are sometimes flown in to out-of-state locations to handle other folks' business. So maybe paying for top talent - and getting top returns - is indeed a counterintuitive selling point for Illinois (and by Illinois I mean Chicago, because that's where the bulk of the talent resides).

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Please click through for the rest of Kacich's report.

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Because Kacich works for a newspaper, there is no link to the Moody's report he is quoting from. Because I don't, here it is.

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Bonus Moody's:

"The state's tax burden has been consistently below that of the Midwest since the early 1980s and has been lower than the national average since the late 1980s. Illinois' tax burden is also lower than those of its neighboring states, with the exception of Missouri and Indiana. The state has been able to keep its tax rates low by deferring its commitments for employee compensation."

Will the media report it this way?

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More Moody's

"Right-to-work laws weaken labor unions by eroding the power and influence of organized labor - they tilt the balance of power so that workers reap fewer of the gains from growth. The laws create what is known as a free-rider problem - by making the payment of union dues voluntary, workers are able to benefit from union bargaining efforts without having to pay for it. With fewer employees paying for the cost of representation, the financial resources of unions get eroded and their influence and power suffers."

That's surely what Bruce Rauner wants, but it's hard to see how Illinois becomes more compassionate and competitive - the new governor's slogan - by furthering economic inequities.

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Decorating Illinois Pols' Offices
Inspired by Aaron Schock.

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I'm Begging You, Fix The Debates
Last night's mayoral debate on WTTW was the latest in a long line of media fails; you can check @BeachwoodReport for my real-time commentary (most appearing also at the hashtag #ChicagoTonight).

Every debate fails in its own way, it seeems, and Chicago Tonight's was curious in its own respect.

First, moderater Phil Ponce raced through the questions like he had a plane to catch. Second, Ponce hadn't appeared to do his homework, showing unfamiliarity at times with both the previously stated positions of the candidates and, in the case of the mayor, reported facts that contradict the carefully prepared spin. Third, a bunch of the questions - about dogs in Maggie Daley Park and dibs, for example - weren't worthy of wasting time on.

I just don't get it.

Every debate is like the first one that's ever been had in all of human history. Lessons aren't learned. Campaign themes aren't built on. Time is wasted. Hosts are ill-prepared.

What did anyone learn from last night? How was that exercise helpful to voters?

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I'm not sure which debate the Tribune's folks were watching, but "Emanuel Goes On Offensive" sure wasn't the one I saw.

In fact, Emanuel, whom I'm pretty sure was the one sniffling throughout the show and (I'm told) had two cold sores on his lower lip, was not in top form. Chuy Garcia - to his benefit - was the most assertive I've seen him, and Bob Fioretti and Willie Wilson seemed frustrated most of the time with the division of airtime.

"Emanuel appeared more confrontational than in two previous face-to-face meetings before newspaper editorial boards," the Trib reported.

I didn't see it that way. To me, Emanuel was relatively low-key and seemed particularly frustrated with questions about the city's red-light camera program, as well as questions undeserving of airtime regarding his motorcade running red lights and apparently including a chase car.

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Fran Spielman's account for the Sun-Times found a different focus:

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel was attacked Wednesday for the well-oiled fundraising machine that has put nearly $31 million in his campaign coffers since 2010, with mayoral challenger Bob Fioretti declaring, "If that's not pay-to-play, I don't know what is."

"The nexus between Emanuel's heavy-hitting donors and the mayor's public appearances and official actions was center stage during a live mayoral forum on the WTTW-Channel 11 program, Chicago Tonight."

I guess there were three debates last night! I didn't see that as "center stage," and I found the (truncated) discussion about it confused, with the mayor left off the hook as neither Ponce nor Fioretti, who was the chief aggressor on the topic, clearly articulated the problem as outlined in the Tribune's current investigative series.

(Our journos are not adults. Rather than crediting the Trib, whose work led to the topic being raised last night, the Sun-Times felt compelled to only note instead that "Both major newspapers have written articles about Emanuel's fundraising." That's just outright deception. And God forbid you should help your readers by actually linking to the Tribune's work.)

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Clarification: I did learn something last night. With a sample size now of two - the first being this defense of a long-ago property tax increase vote - I learned that Chuy Garcia is at his best when he's attacked. That's when he becomes animated and articulate and forces an argument. As told by the Sun-Times:

Before the spotlight was turned on his legendary fundraising, Emanuel tried to put County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia on the defensive for a comparatively miniscule contribution Garcia once received from a red-light camera operator.

"Chuy, right before the County [Board] voted on a red-light operation, you took $1,500 the night before and then, you were the swing vote the next day," Emanuel said.

Garcia was livid.

"I took a $1,500 contribution from a 30-year friend who does no business with the city, and you know that, so you're lying about that. And we weren't approving a red-light camera. We were responding to a request from a suburb that wanted to install a red-light camera. The county hasn't installed any red-light cameras. That's the truth.

"You're distorting, and you're lying, and you know it. And that's the reverse Robin Hood right there: Robbing from the poor to give to the rich," Garcia said.

I'm not sure the Robin Hood bit makes sense in that particular spot, but so be it.

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If the media doesn't understand itself, it will never reform. And it never understands itself. Take this analysis by Spielman, who obviously thought the debate was awesome.

Thanks to Ponce's deft and fast-paced questioning, Wednesday's forum was a lively affair that touched on a host of subjects. Topics included police manpower, legalizing and taxing marijuana, school closings and charter openings to the Lucas museum, the notorious dibs system and the favored snow-removal treatment paid to the dead-end street where Ald. Edward Burke (14th) lives.

That's not a debate, it's a game show.

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Spielman: "The third debate was all over the map. And it was fun to watch."

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The Trews About Those Super Bowl Ads
Budweiser and Nissan tell touching - if confusing - stories preaching about values neither company demonstrates in real life.

Diary Of A Lost Pregnancy, Postscript: Here Is What I Suggest
The term that seems to fit my situation most closely is "missed miscarriage," a horrible amalgam of negligence and incompetence; you fucked up your pregnancy and you didn't even notice.

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BeachBook
* FBI Put Anonymous 'Hacktivist' Jeremy Hammond On Terrorism Watchlist.

* Help Wanted: Chicago Reader Seeks Editor.

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TweetWood
My three favorite debate tweets.

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This one must've been too insidery, 'cause it got no play. Maybe needed a polish.

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A few non-debate tweets.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: At your disposal.



Permalink

Posted on February 5, 2015


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Slow TV Chicago.
POLITICS - Dangerous, Low-Wage Industries Depend On Immigrants, Refugees.
SPORTS - Wrong Foot Louie vs. The Fireball Kid!

BOOKS - Meet Chicago's American Writers Museum.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Meet Limo Bob.


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