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I diaried a few weeks ago about the LTE exchange I had with the Illinois Policy Institute, one of thirty-some state-level, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-affiliated organizations pushing the right wing's anti-tax, pro-austerity, pro-business, pro-wealthy, anti-public servant, anti-worker agenda.  My 30-day LTE lock-out ended February 1st, and I fired off a response to the letter from IPI executive vice-president Kristina Rasmussen published January 17th.  It took a while, but the letter was finally published Thursday.  Since then, though, I've undergone an unexpected transformation!  I tell all about it inside.

The exchange started as a result of an editorial citing an Illinois Policy Institute report, alleging that Illinois residents, and their income, were leaving the state due to high taxes and bloated government.  I responded with a letter criticizing the editorial and the IPI report's assumptions and conclusions, and pointing out their ALEC affiliation and funding secrecy, which was answered by a letter from Kristina Rasmussen of the IPI (see previous diary linked in the intro), which, of course, required a response.  Here is the letter as it appeared in print (with a minor correction):

IPI clearly seeking right-to-work state
February 9, 2012

In the Jan. 17 Pantagraph, Katherine Kristina Rasmussen [oops - DS] of the Illinois Policy Institute berated my Jan. 1 letter criticizing a Pantagraph editorial echoing an IPI report, “Still Leaving Illinois: An Exodus of People and Money.”

She maintains I “maligned IRS migration data” and have my head in the sand over Illinois’ perceived problems. While the IPI report repeatedly refers to a “decline” due to Illinois residents leaving the state for more favorable environs, Illinois’ population has actually increased by 1 million over the report period.

Additionally, the IPI report itself shows the rate of net out-migration has actually fallen by 35 percent since its 2003 peak. The disparity in state and local tax burden allegedly contributing to this flight is 10.27 percent in Illinois versus 10.13 percent in the destination states. People are packing up and leaving over 14 one-hundredths of one percent? Really?

By the IPI’s analysis, people making an average of $35,000 a year are leaving the state because of an estate tax that only affects estates in excess of $2 million.

From the references in the IPI report to workers seeking “freedom from unions,” it is clear that making Illinois a right-to-work state is an unspoken part of their agenda.

If the IPI wants to have a discussion about slashing state services to finance tax cuts and making Illinois right-to-work, let’s have that discussion — but honestly and on the merits, not with misrepresented statistics as the IPI is doing.

Daniel Steffen, El Paso

The data above -- most of it right out of their report -- echoes pretty closely what I cited in my January 17th DailyKos diary, and I sincerely believed what I said at the time.

  Recently, though, I have been looking at some other statistics that the IPI doesn't address, and confess that, after studying that data, I realize I had no idea of the magnitude of the problem.  Sand-blinded as I was, I completely underestimated just how drastic Illinois' competitive deficit really is.  I'd like to share some of that information with you now, so that you, too, can understand the dismal conditions we workers have created for businesses here in the Great State of Illinois.  

For instance, let's look at median household income in the states bordering on Illinois (noted by the IPI as being among those which receive the largest number of Illinois out-migrants -- and we'll throw in Michigan as well, since it's only a half hour or so from the Illinois border) as well as the top four non-bordering "destination" states from the IPI data:

Median household income (2009)


 
State Household Income
California $58,931.00
Illinois $53,966.00
Wisconsin $49,993.00
Arizona $48,745.00
Texas $48,259.00
Iowa $48,044.00
Indiana $45,424.00
Michigan $45,255.00
Missouri $45,229.00
Florida $44,736.00
Kentucky $40,072.00
(Source: U.S. Census Bureau via Wikipedia)

Once upon a time that would have been the kind of statistic that would cause us Illinois residents to puff out our chests with pride.  With the help of the Illinois Policy Institute though, I now see that that's part of the problem.  How is a company ever going to make massive profits paying workers those kind of wages?

One of the disparities the IPI obsessed on in their report was the "high cost of mortgages" in Illinois, suggesting that Illinois residents were fleeing the state seeking lower mortgage costs.  "But wait", I saidf at the time, "Isn't it true that I can call up just about any old nationwide mortgage lender anywhere in the country and (if I qualify) get a loan to buy a house, just like anyone else anywhere in the country?  What, then, could possibly be behind those high "mortgage" costs?  Could it be all those workers with all that income being able to afford bigger, more expensive houses?"  Well, yes, it turns out that is exactly the case.  But now I understand what a bad thing that is.

Median new home price (2007)


 
State Median Price
California $519,000.00
Florida $329,000.00
Illinois $321,000.00
Arizona $317,000.00
Michigan $238,000.00
Wisconsin $236,000.00
Missouri $219,000.00
Iowa $193,000.00
Indiana $185,000.00
Kentucky $181,000.00
Texas $181,000.00
(Source: HousingEconomics.com via National Association of Home Builders)

I think we can all see that expecting employers to subsidize Illinois workers' lust for expensive, commodious accommodations is just one more reason Illinois is such an awful place to do business.

Let's take a look at the number of people living below the poverty level.

Percent of Population Below Poverty Level (2008)


 
State Percent below poverty level
Kentucky 17.3%
Texas 15.8%
Arizona 14.7%
Michigan 14.4%
Missouri 13.4%
California 13.3%
Florida 13.2%
Indiana 13.1%
Illinois 12.2%
Iowa 11.5%
Wisconsin 10.4%
(Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States)

Clear evidence of how overpaid Illinois workers are -- and it's even worse for households with children.

Percent of Children Living in Poverty (2010)


 
State Percent living in poverty
Kentucky 26%
Texas 26%
Arizona 24%
Michigan 23%
Florida 23%
California 22%
Indiana 22%
Missouri 21%
Wisconsin 19%
Illinois 19%
Iowa 16%
(Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation)

Unquestionably, Illinois is suffering a severe urchin deficit, leaving the state at a competitive disadvantage.  The Illinois Policy Institute should take up this vital cause immediately.

A comparison of the number of adults with college degrees reveals an untold story that bodes ill for Illinois in today's highly competitive labor market.

Percent of Population (25+) with Bachelors Degree or Above (2008)


 
State Percent with Bachelors+
Illinois 29.9%
California 29.6%
Florida 25.8%
Wisconsin 25.7 %
Texas 25.3%
Arizona 25.1%
Missouri 25.0%
Michigan 24.7%
Iowa 24.3%
Indiana 22.9%
Kentucky 19.7%
(Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States)

This is clear evidence of lazy potential workers lollygagging around collecting degrees instead of getting their lazy asses out there into the factories (or, I guess, these days, call centers and fast-food places) and becoming fruitful, contributing members of the forced labor force.

Health care?  Despite all the wailing from the tort reform advocates about Illinois' judicial hellholes driving out innocent practicioners who just want to practice their love, it seems that Illinois has still managed to maintain more than its fair share of doctors and all the expensive fees they charge employers' health care plans.

Doctors per 100,000 Population (2007)


 
State Doctors / 100,000
Illinois 280.2
California 268.7
Michigan 250.2
Florida 247.9
Missouri 246.0
Kentucky 232.3
Indiana 216.9
Texas 214.2
Arizona 209.7
Iowa 189.3
Wisconsin 184.4
(Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States)

Yes, it's clear from these statistics that Illinois is catastrophically failing to remake itself as an aggressive player in today's highly competitive marketplace.  Unless the leaders of our state take drastic measures to enable Illinois laborers to compete on an equal footing with the Chinese factory worker making 30 cents an hour, the state's future indeed looks bleak.

Maintaining a competitive edge in today's marketplace takes harsh sacrifice on the part of labor.  The Illinois Policy Institute recognizes that to make Illinois competitive is going to be hard, and is going to be painful for workers all across the state, but the IPI is prepared to shoulder the responsibility to inflict that pain.

But make no mistake, this is not going to be easy, and is not going to happen overnight.  I'll leave you with one last statistic that illustrates just how far Illinois workers have to go to assimilate into the modern 21st century American workforce.

Suicide Rate per 100,000 Population (2009)


 
State Suicides / 100,000
Arizona 16.1
Florida 15.4
Missouri 14.1
Kentucky 13.7
Indiana 12.9
Wisconsin 12.8
Iowa 12.0
Michigan 11.7
Texas 11.3
California 10.3
Illinois 9.1
(Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)

Originally posted to dsteffen on Sun Feb 12, 2012 at 01:20 PM PST.

Also republished by Land of Lincoln Kos.

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