The country is awash in debt and deficits. According to former Federal Reserve vice-chairman Alan Blinder “the federal budget is now running around $750 billion a year (The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 11, 2013). Also writing in The Wall Street Journal Oct. 10, 2013, economist David Malpass says that the U.S. Treasury will borrow $1.1 trillion in 2013 at a time when the national debt is $17 trillion with another $60 trillion in unfunded federal spending promises. Mr. Malpass cites the lack of presidential leadership to rein in federal spending as a major factor in the creation of these “crisis-level problems.”
Unrestrained spending and promises of future benefits have brought crisis level problems to Illinois as well. (See usgovernmentspending.com collecting national and state tax and spending data). Although our state ranks near the top for political corruption we are dead last in credit worthiness. Two years ago our “leaders” in Springfield hiked the state income tax 67 percent and then proceeded to give more than half the increased revenue to some of the largest corporations in the county (Walgreens, Sears, Caterpillar) to encourage them not to leave Illinois: A reverse Robin Hood approach to representing working men and women.
Closer to home we in Jefferson County have our spending and deficit problems. In a joint meeting of the MVTHS board and the past presidents’ council of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce July 20, 2013, we were informed that the new school school project will cost some $10-12 million more than the $62 million figure the school board leadership (Mike Smith, Carl Miller and Karen Goodwine) gave the voters at the time of the bond referendum. Although it went unreported in the local newspapers, both the district’s financial consultant and it architect (FGM) stated at that meeting that FGM told the school board before the referendum vote that the cost estimates the board had given to the public were unrealistically low and that the project could not be built for $62 million. What kind of leadership is it that conceals crucial information from the voting public?
Most recently our County Board announced that the courthouse needs $7 million in repairs and renovation, money we don’t have. In a story published Sept. 25, 2013, in the Register-News County Board Chairman White gave financial options: “Do nothing; use the current public safety tax; cut all of the deputies; offer a property tax referendum, or offer a sales tax referendum.” No mention of finding a way to do more with less, something small business people do just to survive.
Mr. Malpass is right. Government suffers from a leadership deficit. We can’t do much about it in Washington or Springfield, but we can make a difference here at home — if we get involved.