Let’s be candid. If you identify yourself as a conservative, your first inclination will probably be to vote for Republican candidate Bill Brady in the Illinois governor’s race. I understand that. He covers some of the basic conservative talking points: cutting spending, holding the line on taxes, “pro-life,” pro-Second Amendment, pro-business.
That’s the rhetoric. Now let’s look at the substance of his positions and see how they compare with my own.
Bill Brady proposes to balance the state budget by cutting spending 10 percent across the board. He refuses to identify what programs he will actually cut until after the election. This is not a conservative position.
First, his math is wrong. A 10 percent cut in the operating budget won’t close the currently $9.3 billion budget deficit (the latest figure after Gov. Quinn’s devastating cuts imposed in July). You would need a nearly 40 percent cut in spending to manage that. Second, the spending cuts enacted by the General Assembly and the additional cuts imposed by Quinn have already had a devastating impact on our public schools, colleges and universities and basic services for people with disabilities, the elderly and children in need. The far more drastic cuts proposed by Brady would be result in more of the same. It would be catastrophic, not only to education, social services and public safety but to employment, resulting in the loss of over 120,000 jobs.
In my view, there is nothing “conservative” about destroying our public schools, making higher education more and more unaffordable to lower and middle-income working families, kicking people with physical and mental disabilities out of assisted living facilities and onto the streets (which will end up costing more money), compromising care for veterans, children and family services, daycare (which helps people get off welfare and into work), natural resources, parks and recreation, and public safety.
Cutting spending that represents real waste – the waste of purchases, practices and positions that are intended as political favors and that do not serve a legitimate public purpose – is one thing. That’s why, while Bill Brady has waffled on the issue, I support a thorough forensic audit of our state budget, overseen by a commission of independent citizens. But the systematic dismantling of the public sector, through deep across-the-board cuts to the core functions of government, is something else again. That is not conserving; it is destroying – destroying human lives and the very fabric of our society. It is not a conservative position; it is a radical position, representing the radical right wing of the corporate and banking interests that would like to destroy the public sector altogether, use taxpayer money for private profiteering, sell off or give away public assets, and create a new generation of workers who are uneducated, ignorant, desperate and accepting of poverty wages.
In sharp contrast, my platform is one of fiscal responsibility, of both spending cuts carefully targeted at real waste, and raising the revenue needed to restore health to the core functions of government – education, health, infrastructure, public safety and social services for those unable to fully care for themselves. I support the concept of investing in people, to enable them to be more productive members of society; the kinds of public policies that can help the private sector to flourish and create more employment opportunities. I support raising this revenue through a fair system of taxation, a system that places more of the tax burden on those more able to pay, and less of the tax burden on those least able to pay – a basic principle that goes back to Adam Smith. My plan also includes a dedicated stream of funding for education, along with real property tax relief provided by the state. Mine is the more true conservative position.
Bill Brady has supported the teaching of creationism in the public schools. This is also a radical, not a conservative, position. The true conservative supports our country’s tradition of upholding civil liberties, including the principle that it is not the proper role of government to promote religious beliefs. The true conservative wants America to excel in the sciences and technology, not have its education of these subjects compromised by religious dogma or literalism.
When it comes to the hot-button issue of abortion, Bill Brady is an extremist, favoring a ban on abortion even in cases of rape and incest. My position is that the best way to reduce the frequency of abortion is through social policies that will reduce the frequency of unwanted pregnancies and that make it more feasible for mothers and fathers to support and raise their children – and not by criminalizing all abortion (which is not possible under Roe v. Wade anyway). Bill Brady’s budgetary proposals and views on education would move us in the opposite direction. While some conservatives will not be satisfied by my position, it will be more effective in reducing the frequency of abortion than Brady’s radical approach.
On the issue of gambling, Bill Brady has recently come out in opposition to an expansion of gambling in Illinois by opposing legislation authorizing video poker throughout the state. I welcome his change on the issue – but it is a recent conversion. When the issue came up for a vote in 2007, he was present but did not cast a vote. He supported placing another casino in the City of Chicago. Considering that his campaign has received thousands of dollars from casino corporations, this should not come as a complete surprise. Even his opposition to video poker is more the product of his allegiance to the casino interests rather than the product of a principled opposition to gambling.
In contrast, I oppose any and all expansion of gambling and will work toward reinstating prohibitions on most forms of gambling, including the state lottery, as soon as we have restored fiscal stability to our state. I oppose gambling as a hidden tax on the poor, the ignorant and the desperate. I reject the notion that it is good for our economy. Every dollar taken in by gambling is one less dollar being spent on food, clothing and other products and commodities that are more useful to consumers and producers alike. When we also consider the social costs of more bankruptcies, crime, blight, domestic conflict and divorce, substance abuse, and other secondary effects of gambling, it becomes clear that gambling harms our economy and budget far more than it helps it.
On the Second Amendment, Bill Brady and I both support the right of law-abiding citizens to possess firearms, including the right to carry firearms. However, I realize that in order to get a right-to-carry bill passed, we also have to recognize the political realities of strong local opposition in and around Cook County. Therefore, I propose that a right-to-carry bill should also include a provision allowing individual counties to opt out. That is the only way we are going to get a right-to-carry bill passed in Illinois in the foreseeable future. In addition, I take a much stronger position on other steps needed to reduce violent crime in our state, addressing the social causes of violent crime and the need to crack down on illegal gun sales on the streets.
On the issues of ethics reform and clean, responsive government, Bill Brady now says that he favors campaign contribution limits and an end to corporate and union contributions. However, he voted against the ethics reform bill passed last fall that placed limits on campaign contributions and he says nothing about the important issue of ending campaign committee transfers. While voting against ethics reform, he voted in favor of an amendment that blew a gaping loophole in the bill. One provision in the bill prohibited businesses that have or seek state contracts worth more than $50,000 from donating to officeholders in charge of awarding such contracts. Brady voted in favor of an amendment that exempted road and other transportation contractors from having to comply. This is an “exception” that almost swallows the rule.
There is no reason to suppose that electing Brady as governor will end pay-to-play or the practice of awarding political favors to big donors. There is every reason to believe that such practices would continue; only favoring the Republican gang over the Democratic gang. A recent Chicago Tribune investigation found that Brady voted on three separate occasions for bills that could impact his personal business. He has used his position to favor political supporters. He used his clout to help students gain admittance to the University of Illinois and gave a legislative scholarship to the daughter of a man who gave his campaign $12,000.
I will fight to end pay-for-play in Illinois. I favor a ban on “soft money” contributions, more stringent campaign finance limits on donations in Illinois, a complete bar on contractor donations, and limits on the transfer of funds from party leadership to candidates. I also favor a ban on corporate campaign contributions in Illinois. Despite the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Citizens United case, we can effectively bar corporate interference in the political process by reinvigorating our corporate chartering laws to require corporations to waive their so-called right to engage in political speech.
True conservatives need to look carefully at Bill Brady’s platform and the generalized nature of his campaign promises. Look at his website. He makes vague, general statements, like: “Today’s tax policies make the state’s climate worse than most others in the nation for job-creating businesses. Bill Brady will turn that around and bring jobs into Illinois.” Does he explain how he will “turn that around”? No.
In contrast, I provide detailed explanations of my stances on the issues. Even when you don’t agree with me, you know what I am fighting for, and why. Bill Brady, like his opponent, generally avoids doing that. By keeping his statements vague, he allows himself plenty of “wiggle room.” This is one way in which Democratic and Republican politicians have long kept liberals and conservatives alike in their respective camps — even though they rarely follow through on either the best of liberal ideas or the best of conservative ideas.
What the Democratic and Republican parties and their candidates really represent are slightly different versions of the same corporatist agenda. That is, they push the agenda of the same financial institutions and multinational corporations that fund both parties and their candidates. Thus, while they seem to differ on ideology, that’s just for show. There is very little difference between what Democratic and Republican officeholders actually do in office.
The true conservative may not agree with me on every issue. The true conservative will not agree with any candidate on every issue. But on balance, when it comes to the most important issues — responsible budgeting, fair taxation, providing the fullest educational and economic opportunities, supporting Second Amendment rights in an effective way, rolling back gambling, ending machine politics, providing ethical and responsive government and truly conserving our environment and our civil liberties – the true conservative has many good reasons to favor me over Bill Brady in the November election.
Rich Whitney of Carbondale is the Green Party candidate for governor. To read Whitney’s complete paper on “Why true conservatives should vote for me,” go here.