Tribune: Illinois residents aren't frogs, won't remain in Madigan's boiling pot
Invoking an old wives’ tale referring to ambivalent, “average” amphibians, the Chicago Tribune recently created an analogy between disinterested Illinois taxpayers and a hypothetical pot of frog stew to illustrate the state’s simmering fiscal status.
With Illinois’ economic climate approaching a boiling point, writer John Kass referred to the saving grace that distinguishes humans from frogs: the ability to make reasoned decisions.
“If taxpayers were frogs, they'd sit calmly in that warm stockpot forged over the decades by Democratic boss (House Speaker) Mike Madigan (D-Chicago), with the temperature rising all around them,” Kass said. “They’d sit, and they’d never jump out.”
Frogs don’t read Census statistics, Kass said. They know nothing of the Land of Lincoln’s simmering state of finances, and they would harbor no awareness of pension debt, school bailouts or union politics.
“Your average frog wouldn't know that Madigan has had the political leverage in Illinois for decades,” Kass said.
The bottom line — aside from the overt difference of being two highly dissimilar biological species — is simply that frogs don’t read. Because of that, they don’t care about Madigan’s record of catering to the powerful and connected class. They don’t care about anything, as a matter of fact. They mainly eat flies and float, Kass said.
Fortunately, taxpayers are not frogs, Kass said. They don’t need to figure out how to jump out of a pot. They can pick up on trends, pack up their belongings and move out of Illinois at will in their own decisive response to the state’s failures — and so they have, Kass said.
The newest U.S. Census Bureau report showed that Illinois ranks at rock bottom nationwide for population change, losing over 114,000 inhabitants in a recent 12-month period — more than any other state in the nation. At 12.8 million residents, the state registered its lowest numbers in the last decade, while other states either gained or maintained their populations.
Additionally, analysts at the Illinois Policy Institute said those who are out-migrating tend to earn higher incomes than those arriving, with the difference totaling between $3 billion and $4 billion annually. Institute economist Michael Lucci said that when it comes to evaluating the migration trend, the topic dubbed “wealth flight” is “not being especially discussed,” at least publicly.
"What about those who remain? It's like a cable company losing its customers to competitors," Lucci said. "The cable company responds by raising its rates on existing customers, and that adds to the pressure on those who stay."
Kass said residents are fed up.
“Illinois is past the tipping point,” Kass said. With tight Democratic control of Springfield and government gears grinding to a halt over pensions, school budgets, elected officials’ paychecks and more, private businesses are among the first to notice that the state’s economic atmosphere is not especially welcoming at this point.
That perception creates a subtle chain reaction. With fewer private-sector jobs available, young adults entering the work force seek employment out of state. Their elders, without much incentive to stay behind, often go too, taking their capital with them and creating larger losses for Illinois.
In the public sector, reactions are different because the government happens to be the state’s largest employer. While civic employees put up with tax hikes, they take some solace in knowing that the outlay comes back to them in the form of their own salaries and benefits.
Hence, public unions tend to support the Democrats. Furthermore, “Boss Madigan” is allied with the union sector. Complicating the cycle further is the fact that the Democrats and unions enjoy a particular rapport with the media, the Tribune said. Taking full advantage of their connections to depict their interests in just the right light, they strive to portray themselves as victims.
Private-sector workers, by contrast, elude typecasting because they tend to be overlooked to begin with, Kass said.
Frogs don’t need to make decisions about cable providers, annual earnings or whether the grass is greener in Indiana or Michigan. They don’t have a choice about leaving Madigan’s “stockpot," but Illinois residents do.
“Happily, taxpayers aren't frogs,” Kass said. “They have feet, and they're running and jumping out of Illinois.”