GOVERNOR PAT QUINN'S TOTAL FANTASY POLITICAL MAKE-OVER
What's a guy like Pat Quinn to do? He's already ten points behind Republican Bill Brady in the latest Rasmussen poll, 47-37, in the race for governor and yesterday's proposed 33% income tax hike is only going to make matters worse for him. Add to that a pissed off Mayor Daley, furious at Quinn for what he terms a "political double cross" that could gut Chicago and other municipalities of $300 million. It is the makings of a "perfect general election storm."
Not sufficiently titillating to win the big prize on his own, it took Blago and a national senate seat-buying scandal to flip Pat "Rumples" Quinn into the Illinois governor's office. But this is a real election and people have to like you to elect you. You can't just rely on the "win by default" methodology. That spells trouble for Quinn when you're up against an affable guy like Bill Brady.
Somehow, Quinn needs to spice things up - and soon. It's true - in Illinois there may not be any naked politicos in the shower room threatening each other like disgraced Democrat Congressman, Eric Massa, and Rahm "Rahmbo" Emmanuel to add some wonky political intrigue to this race. But if Quinn wants to get elected on his own merits, the dude needs a total political make-over. Now, don't be jaded. It's worked for a lot of people - think of America's Biggest Loser but for politics. It's not the same thing, of course, but there are parallels. So, that being said, here are my recommendations for Governor Pat Quinn's Total Fantasy Political Make-Over:
GET CREATIVE. Pat, I know you are a Democrat and Democrats like to raise taxes. Raising taxes means you can spend more money that isn't yours. Here's the problem: People see that the state of Illinois has completely mismanaged all of their money. Thanks to you, Illinois has one of the lowest bond ratings in the U.S - second only to California, which is going down big time. Especially, in this environment, a 33% tax increase just isn't very creative. Then there's this borrowing thing. Again, hate to say it, but borrowing $4.7 billion dollars to stave off the $13 billion budget shortfall isn't very creative either - especially if your only plan is to keep spending money and not make it. Ah, the benefits of subsidized failure! Pat, political creativity may be an oxymoron - but prove me wrong. Get creative!
GO BACK TO SCHOOL. Pat, in your speech yesterday, you gave Illinois an ultimatum: a 33% income tax increase or budget cuts for school children. However, I'm not quite sure you really did your homework. According to the Illinois Policy Institute, only 32 % of Illinois public elementary school students are even reading at grade level. It gets worse in middle school when the number slips to 30%. By 12th grade, only 20% of public school students possess the requisite skills to succeed in college (yikes!) and 25% of students drop out of Illinois public schools altogether. We spend $25 billion annually on education and this is what we get? Is there a return policy?! If so, I want my money back.
REIGN IN YOUR BIZARRE SPENDING HABITS ("AKA" Stand Up to the Batman). Despite this serious budget crunch and your stated drastic need to raise taxes by 33%, Illinois went on spending rampage of the ridiculous in 2010. Now I liked Chris Nolan's "Dark Knight" as much as the next guy, but why did the State of Illinois spend $10,000 on a star-studded Batman Gala? Next time, let the Batman pay for that himself - I mean, Bruce Wayne has got the bucks. Right? And $78,000 for a quail promotion? That's definitely for the birds. $1100 for Hawaiian party props? Excuse me, Pat, but, it costs nothing to hula - just wiggle your hips. $6500 for a live bass demonstration? Definitely sound fishy. And that is just the tip of the insolvency iceberg according to the Illinois Policy Institute's 2010 Piglet Book. My advice to Pat: you really need to do something about these bizarre spending habits and quick before people catch on that Illinois government is truly incompetent.
GO ROGUE. No, it's not just the title of Sarah Palin's national best seller. Pat, it means that you need to take a real stand. You called for a 33% income tax increase in your speech yesterday, arguing that Illinois is "forcing our vendors to float us a loan." Sun Times columnist, Mark Brown, agreed with you, calling Illinois "The Land of Deadbeats" and that no amount of spending cuts will be enough to overcome our budget woes. Brown is right - if you want to keep the status quo and the cycle of corruption going. It is no secret that Illinois' public bidding process isn't so public, that a closed circle of elites are the ones who get the contracts. So, do I feel bad about these "poor" vendors? No, actually. With no competition and the lack of an open process that allows small, efficient companies to bid, Illinois taxpayers are routinely overcharged for goods and services. So, Pat, it's time for the sheriff to go to work. Open up the public bidding process and stop politicizing the goods and services that we buy. That would save us tremendous amounts of the money you are so concerned about. If you're not willing to, we will have to find somebody else.
ACTUALLY USE THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE. Pat, you used to be known as a reformer. Remember that? Remember all Sunday press conferences, staged on media "slow days" to demand change? Unfortunately, in your year in office, you have squandered all that credibility. What if - and I know this is scandalous - you actually used your office to reform Illinois and rid it of corruption? I mean, you don't want people to think you were really just a fraud masquerading as a reformer, do you? Well, here's your opportunity to truly enact constructive change and leave the long line of political favors and alliances waiting at the door. You'd be a media sensation! Maybe even a reality TV show producer would come a knocking at your gubernatorial door.
FINALLY, GET SOME COLOR. Shame on you for what you're thinking. I'm not talking about voting demographics, race, color, or creed; Even though these are important, even critical to the Democrat constituency. However, I prefer not to be cynical. I am a believer in, "If you build it, they will come." In order for people to park their vote in your box, your likeability factor is key. Here's the problem: Bill Brady has got you beat in the appearance and personality category. He's just the kind of big, bold Irish guy the voting electorate likes. On the other hand, you're a pasty white guy with the terminal malady - known as "Failed Liberal Progressive Syndrome." You need to leave the rumple-y suit at home and get yourself a little color. This doesn't have to be complicated or dangerous like tanning beds. What I am recommending is the basics: moisturize, apply self-tanner, and...smile.
Whew! This Total Fantasy Political Make-over for Governor Pat Quinn was a lot of work!! Maybe it's just easier to vote for the other guy.
William J. Kelly is a conservative satirist and graduate of Second City's Conservatory program. He is the executive producer of the Emmy award-winning TV production house, Rev Productions and recently ran for Illinois comptroller in the Republican primary.
2010, Bill Brady, Chicago, Eric Massa, general election, Illinois, Mayor Daley, Pat Quinn, Rahm Emmanuel, scandal, taxes