The fates of Illinois and Indiana could merge — perhaps literally — bailing the one out of a financial mess and filling a power vacuum in the other.
Some think it a joke, but after watching the experts at my city’s public hearing testify in favor of a multimillion dollar (cost yet to be determined) riverfront development along our chocolate-colored, high-embanked and oddly pungent waterway, I’m not so sure.
John Kass, a Chicago Tribune columnist, reports that similar experts in his city have “finally run out of other people’s money.” He proposes that Illinois simply dissolve into a new superstate, “Illiana,” one that it can be supposed would boast even larger public-private partnerships and more massive debt loads.
“Merging the states of Illinois and Indiana would be a win-win for both states,” adds a Tribune reader. “But why would Indianans agree to this merger? What’s in it for them? First and foremost, with addition of the metropolitan Chicago and downstate Illinois business community to its tax base, Illiana state revenues would soar.”
Why not? Illinois may be a paragon of bad government but Indiana is handing out tax revenue to targeted businesses at a rate only slightly behind. In fact, Forbes Magazine recently ranked us behind Kentucky and Michigan in its list of tax-friendly states, and our leadership is just hitting its tax-and-they-will-come stride. Finally, state law now allows the big cities to pass taxes and approve bonds that bind the hapless in the surrounding countryside.
Well, if we don’t need sovereign townships and counties, do we need a sovereign state? Why not be ruled by a Washington mob or a Chicago mob as well as an Indianapolis one?
That is a moral rather than political question. Dr. Stephen M. King, a political scientist whose work for The Indiana Policy Review over the years predicts that is a fact this just-elected crop of conservative politicians will soon discover. “They aren’t facing policy problems so much as spiritual ones,” he says.
Dr. King’s spiritual impetus is directed more to the motivation of civil service than to a Divine Creator. And when we define “spiritual” thus — an unconcern for material gain or sinecure — we can see clearly the cumulative abdication that is Chicago leadership.
He is joined by a veteran political observer and national columnist, William Murchison, formerly editor of the Dallas Morning News, who argues that the cure for either Illinois or Indiana is to begin electing leaders who embody the unique rural American character rather than a default urban one:
“The political apparatus — a well-paying, prestige-endowing enterprise — pays and praises men and women who promise to do the impossible. But the strength of any peaceable, prosperous, self-sustaining society lies in the character of its people — not in laws that, at their best and wisest, merely reflect that character.”
Murchison goes on to say that politicians today are merely the salesmen of that impossible, “looking for new benefits to tout and new dangers to expose and warn against as they volunteer to fix everything for us.”
Thus we are told that if our city council doesn’t approve a tax increase for big-city amenities such as a riverfront promenade we will not be able to attract the young, talented people needed to keep our economy strong — to compete with bankrupt, tax-strapped, high-rent Chicago, from which the young talented people presumably would be fleeing.
Yes, I’m confused too.
Craig Ladwig is editor of the quarterly Indiana Policy Review.