It never occurred to me that anyone in Illinois envied Indiana. Here we are, with Chicago, the jewel of the Midwest, the gravitational force that draws people from throughout the region, and one of our gubernatorial candidates actually wants Illinois to be more like Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee???
I've heard of people being ashamed of their family, but I guess I had never witnessed someone being ashamed of their state. More to the point, why would anyone want to be like Indiana?
I get to see how bad Indiana is every single school day. I live in a school district of some renown close to the border, and one of the problems the district has is that people outside the boundaries of the district try to get their kids in it. So every morning, when the train comes, you see a line of kids walking from the train to school. Employees who are supposed to verify residency have told me that many of these kids who try to sneak into the school come from Indiana.
With Bill Brady wanting to cut a billion dollars from our public schools and make us "more like Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee" I have to wonder what schools *our* kids will be trying to sneak into under a Governor Bill Brady? Missouri's??? Mississippi's???
It's almost like Bill Brady wants to undermine public education -- and an economic legacy once the envy of the world.
There really is a difference in approach between the two parties, and it was made clear in last night's debate. Democrats are talking about building Illinois into a great post-Industrial power, not just in the Midwest but in the country. While the term silicon prairie is overused, Democratic candidates talk about investing in the state, expanding beyond the bizarrely single-sector focus on financial technology and welcoming development in future technologies, whether they would be classified as high tech or not.
But listen to the Republicans. They keep focusing on "small business," as if small business was the savior for all the jobs lost by the rusting away of the Industrial complex. Not only is that belief a pipe dream -- there isn't a single economist out there who would argue that small businesses could replace all the jobs lost by the de-industrialization of the Midwest -- it's defies reality.
Had Republican ideology been based in reality, it would have noticed that credit markets have been reducing loans to small businesses, especially the vital short-term loans that many small businesses use to cover expenses. St. Louis Fed economist Julie Stackhouse reports, “Businesses across the country report that credit conditions remain very difficult. In fact, the data on small loans made by banks show that outstanding loans have dropped from almost $700 billion in the second quarter of 2008 to approximately $660 billion in the first quarter of 2010.”
Republicans keep talking about jobs, but Democrats have been creating them by investing in Illinois and its people. And that's the difference. Democratic candidates like Pat Quinn, Alexi Giannoulias, David Miller and Robin Kelly want Illinois to be, well, MORE LIKE Illinois. They dream of a state that is, once again, not only the economic engine of the Midwest but in the driver's seat for the entire country, even the world.
These two difference visions for the future of Illinois expose another difference: that over the future of education in the state, and how much value we should attach to it. If Illinois' future is "small business" (whatever that is), then education isn't that important. You don't need a college degree to work in a small business (at least not the kind of small business that Brady or Rutherford are talking about). You probably don't even need a high school education. Brady's small business strategy backs up his intention of cutting state spending in public education.
But the Democrat's vision of an Illinois that is once again a leader in high technology and leading edge economic development requires a strong commitment to public education, through the post-grad level. It's a big gap: one in a future where Illinois is a world leader, the other where Illinois is, well, "like Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee."
When you think about Indiana, Kentucky or Tennessee, you don't think about economic engines or driving the world economy. You don't think of supercomputers or cutting-edge development. These are small states with small goals and small futures. And that appears to be what Republicans like Bill Brady and Dan Rutherford want: a small future for Illinois. A simple choice. A simple belief in our future. Or not. But I sure don't want to live in a state "like Indiana."