Thursday, April 12, 2007

In which I ask Blagojevich why not HB750

I got a chance yesterday to ask Gov. Rod Blagojevich why he isn't supporting H.B. 750 to reform school funding. He spoke to undergrads at Northwestern; I asked my question in the Q&A session after his speech.

No big surprises in his answer. H.B. 750 would "raise your taxes," and he gave his standard talking point about big corporations need to "finally start paying their fair share." In his view it is "wrong" to raise taxes on individuals, and as long as he is governor he will never, ever let this happen.

I followed up by asking if individuals wouldn't also ultimately bear the brunt of a gross receipts tax on businesses, Blagojevich's proposed school funding reform. Gov. Blagojevich gave a rather queer answer to this: He said he is a believer in the theories of Adam Smith and Milton Friedman, and that he believes the market determines pricing. But isn't a burdensome business tax the exact opposite of what Milton Friedman really called for? And wouldn't Friedman have said the market ensures that costs will definitely be passed along to consumers?

Even so, I now think I asked the wrong follow-up. I should have pointed out that H.B. 750 could actually pass, while the governor's GRT proposal seems like it's dead in the water. I wish I had asked: How are you going to build consensus around your plan, which after all needs political support to pass?

On the subject of political alliances, his speech, which was mostly soft and biographical, did offer some insight into his mindset.

"I'm happy to say I have fewer friends today than I had four years ago," Blagojevich said. And why? He is "shak[ing] things up" and "ruffl[ing] feathers.

"But that's what leadership is," he said.

Is it? No leader can be all things to all people. But Blagojevich is isolated from his own party, and has a serious lack of allies in Springfield. Does that increase or decrease his chances for passing the GRT?

Those looking for signs that the GRT is pure kabuki, intended to fail in a way that's politically beneficial to the governor, take note! Blagojevich closed his speech by dusting off the old Teddy Roosevelt "man in the arena" speech, closing by saying:
[I]f he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
Or something like that...

No comments: