If the Great Recession has taught me anything about politics, it’s this: just because I have to get by on less money doesn’t mean the government intends to get by on less money. It means politicians will look for new sources of money to maintain their standard of living.
Illinois has lost over 300,000 jobs since the recession began in December 2007, according to the Illinois Economic Review. A good number were in high-paying occupations, such as construction and manufacturing. If you were laid off during that period, and have managed to find a new job since then, there’s a good chance it paid less and offered fewer benefits than the your old job.
During the recession, Illinois’s per capita income dropped from $43,700 to $42,100. In the 2000s, we slipped from 9th to 11th among all states. But from 2007 to 2011, state and local spending has increased from $108 billion to $117 billion.
How did Illinois get more money out of smaller paychecks? By raising fees and taxes, generally on the people least able to pay. Even before the recession, Illinois had one of the nation’s most regressive tax systems. But as the government becomes more desperate for money, the burden is spread even more unfairly. Consider:
- To balance the budget, the city of Chicago sold its parking meter concession to a private company that raised rates over 200 percent. The city also instituted a red-light camera ticket program, and increased enforcement of its boot program by lowering the threshold to two tickets.
- Cook County increased its sales tax 1 percent (since partially repealed).
- Illinois increased its income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent.
Franklin D. Roosevelt responded to the Depression by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, but the concept that those at the top should pay more has fallen out of favor in the last three decades.
Now our system of balancing the budget is based on Matthew 13:12: “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”
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