Changing the narrative isn't a credible strategy, Governor

It’s a transparent attempt to substitute political spin for sorely needed action.


Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker wasted no time getting to one of his top priorities in a recent before the Economic Club of Chicago: changing the narrative. 

“We spent years where the leader of the state and allies were spending hundreds of millions of dollars telling all of us how bad the state is.” In truth, he said, “We are solving those problems…. The narrative about Illinois is that we are a state on the rise… (W)e are turning the ship in the right direction and powering ourselves forward." 

79彩票注册网址Granted, we should cut Prtitzker some slack on this. Part of his job is cheerleading and recruiting new business to the state, and he made a point acknowledging that we do face severe challenges.

79彩票注册网址But Pritzker went way too far. He might as well designate Lt. Frank Drebin of “The Naked Gun” as his spokesman. “Nothing to see here, move along,” Drebin said as the world exploded behind him. A central strategy based on changing the narrative just isn’t credible. It’s a transparent attempt to substitute political spin for sorely needed action.

79彩票注册网址One reason it won’t work, sufficient in itself, is that so many leading opinions outside the state adamantly reject Pritzker’s rosy view. Those opinions are key to whether Illinois can regain incoming employers, investments and population, but they are far more pessimistic—even fatalistic—than we typically hear within the state. A few examples:

•  The Financial Times asked whether it’s Illinois, New Jersey or California that will be the “next Italy” and warned that state insolvency may be a systemic risk to the entire country.

•  Former FDIC Chairman William Isaac, a leading insolvency expert and a Democrat, that both Illinois and Chicago should already have been in some form of bankruptcy proceeding.

79彩票注册网址•  The Wall Street Journal, referring to Illinois’ “inevitable financial collapse,” said Illinois is “trying to pull off a circus to improve its financial position,” and said “Chicago Property Prices Stagnate, Trail Even Crisis-Stricken Hong Kong.”

•  Warren Buffett basically businesses to stay the heck out of Illinois. Clearly referring to states like ours, he said: “If I were relocating into some state that had a huge unfunded pension plan I’m walking into liabilities. . . .I’ll be here for the life of the pension plan and they will come after corporations, they’ll come after individuals.”

Until opinions like those change, Illinois cannot turn around. But they won’t be changed by spinning a new political narrative.

And does anybody think pessimism like that results from former Illinois leadership and its allies spending hundreds of millions of dollars messaging? Pritzker was presumably referring to former Gov. Bruce Rauner, who didn’t exactly have a coherent narrative on that or anything else. Pritzker outspent Rauner and it was Pritzker’s narrative that prevailed: a progressive paradise awaits if we just start taxing the rich. 

Action, not words, are forming the true narrative, which is simply tax increases with no reforms. 

In the Economic Club interview, Pritzker again slammed the door on the biggest reform we need, a state constitutional amendment to the pension protection clause. The recent local pension consolidation is a sensible step but solves little, as we explained here earlier. Nor have Pritzker and the rest of our political establishment shown any interest in myriad other long-overdue reforms, fiscal and ethical. 

We won’t get real reform until lawmakers accept Lt. Drebin’s deepest wisdom: “The truth hurts, doesn't it? Oh sure, maybe not as much as jumping on a bicycle with the seat missing, but it hurts.” 

Mark Glennon is founder of a research and commentary nonprofit organization.

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