Illinois and Wisconsin politics provide a sharp contrast to the gentlemanly (no women ran) manner Plymouth County Republican candidates conducted themselves in the primary. Although four finished second, there were no losers.
Democrats have controlled the Illinois House for 15 consecutive years - the Governor's mansion, and the state Senate, for nine years. Near the end of the recent session Rep. Mike Bost (R) delivered a paper-throwing rant, directed to Speaker Michael Madigan. Using names like "dictator" and "tyrant," Bost said "We are under the thumb of a controlling, vindictive, ethically challenged, self-serving leprechaun, and I mean no disrespect to leprechauns, Speaker Mike Madigan," Bost concluded.
The domineering Madigan has been speaker of the House for all but two of the past 29 years and also serves as the state's Democratic party chairman. A leprechaun?!
Borrowing from Governor Branstad's repertoire, one Illinois prisoner at the lunch table says to another, "The food was much better here when you were governor."
Three former Illinois governors have been sent to prison in the last 25 years. Dan Walker (D), who once ran for president, was sentenced to seven years. George H. Ryan (R), convicted in 2006, is slated for release in 2013. He was born in Maquoketa, Iowa. Last year, Rod Blagojevich (D) was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Among the hundreds of measures headed to the Illinois governor's desk is a bill to ban flavored (other than menthol) cigar wraps other than menthol, with fines up to $1,000. The cigars target kids and include banana split and chocolate chip cookie dough.
They didn't address the state's $83 billion unfunded public employee pension liability, or their inability to pay bills on time (even after a 67% income tax hike), but they did forbid the possession of shark fins.
In Wisconsin, "Tuesday, June 5, 2012, will be remembered as the beginning of the long decline of the public-sector union," said Washington Post Columnist Charles Krauthammer. That was the date of the ineffective effort to recall Governor Walker. Walker had claimed corrupt union-politician back-scratching had been bankrupting the state.
Wisconsin is historically progressive, and in 1959, it was the first state to legalize the government-worker union.
"Without the thumb of the state tilting the scale by coerced collection, union membership became truly voluntary. Result? Newly freed members rushed for the exits. In less than one year, -AFSCME, the second-largest public-sector union in Wisconsin, has lost more than 50 percent of its membership."
"In Indiana, where Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) instituted by executive order a similar reform seven years ago, government-worker unions have since lost 91 percent of their dues-paying membership. In Wisconsin, Democratic and union bosses (a redundancy) understood what was at stake if Walker prevailed: not benefits, not "rights," but the very existence of the unions," Krauthammer said.
Krauthammer goes on to say, "The unions' defeat marks a historical inflection point. They set out to make an example of Walker. He succeeded in making an example of them as a classic case of reactionary liberalism. An institution founded to protect its members grew in size, wealth, power and arrogance, thanks to decades of symbiotic deals with bought politicians, to the point where it grossly overreached."
"A half-century later these unions were exercising essential control of everything from wages to work rules in the running of government -- something that, in a system of republican governance, is properly the sovereign province of the citizenry."
"Why did the unions lose? Because Norma Rae nostalgia is not enough, and it hardly applied to government workers living better than the average taxpayer who supports them."
In my opinion, unions are not bad -- in fact when managed by reasonable people they have achieved very good results, not only for their members, but society in general. However, there seems to be something about many who rise to power on the state and national level. Something approaching arrogance tinged with malice.
President Obama has been criticized by union supporters of abandoning them, for he did not campaign in Wisconsin during this election cycle. Walker far outspent Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
I remember when even a snot-nosed teen could buy a pack of Wings for a dime, and for a nickel or so, buy a 'punch.' Punchboards were in about every small town café, bar and gas station. You poked a matchstick sized tool in one of the hundred holes and a paper popped out the back. A message told you if you won -- not usually!
These were such good money makers that the mafia reputedly got involved -- in Chicago, not Kingsley. What do you remember about your younger days?
Don Paulin, email@example.com, 7557 30th Av, Norwalk, IA 50211 - 515-201-7236