Big Government and Big Business In Illinois

Governor Pat Quinn, whose state of Illinois is an Obamanomic wasteland of soaring taxes, irresponsible spending, and capital flight, turned up on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today.  Kevin McDermott of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was not impressed by his performance, saying the Governor “couldn’t steer clear of the narrative that he raised taxes on all Illinoisans, then let a few big companies off the hook when they threatened to leave.”

That was essentially how host Joe Scarborough framed the issue, asking whether Quinn’s administration was going to bow to Republican pressure to scale back the 67-percent income tax hike the state imposed last year as it struggled with a crushing budget deficit.

“No, we’re not,” Quinn answered, then veered into what the state is doing to invest in new manufacturing jobs. Scarborough pressed back at the tax point—politely, but still—asking if it was fair to say that Quinn gave “big corporations sweetheart deals” in last month’s targeted tax rollback

“I don’t think it’s fair at all” to put it that way, Quinn answered.

The “sweetheart deal” characterization may be debatable, but Quinn and the Legislature last month did in fact carve out tax give-backs to Sears, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Champion Laboratories. The breaks are worth $300 million over the next 10 years.

There were various reasons for the deal, but in the case of Sears, it was simply because the company threatened to leave Illinois if it didn’t get it.

It’s a very familiar story.  The acolytes of Big Government always portray it as the Little Guy’s only defense against rapacious Big Business, but big businesses with sufficient economic or political power always get special exemptions carved out.  Sears might as well have written its ultimatum to Quinn on an ObamaCare waiver.

Sears did nothing illegal or unethical here.  They simply announced they weren’t going to pay Quinn’s idiotic taxes, and because Illinois can’t afford to lose them, accommodations were reached.  That’s what will always happen.  The notion that Big Government can somehow subdue and shackle Big Business, while a vestige of economic freedom remains, is a dangerous illusion. 

The only way to “subdue” companies while their blood is sucked out by hungry governments is to pin them in place.  Beyond a certain point, it would also be necessary to force them to remain in business.  A government that could do that, at the state or national levels, would cease to be “capitalist” in any meaningful sense… and cease to be a “democracy” shortly thereafter.


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