One of the guiding principles to American capitalism is the necessity to have a sound and functioning business. Otherwise, your company will go bust and you’re out on the streets looking for work. Conservatives will tell you this mantra, and not only preach the gospels of the free market, but are also quick to call anyone accepting government assistance a “free loader." So, can anyone please explain to me why corporate welfare in Illinois has become the standard when many of our most powerful corporations threaten to abandon Illinois if they do not receive big tax breaks?
There has been a lot of talk recently about Sears leaving the Chicago area, and Gov. Pat Quinn has been mulling over what kind of an assistance package the state will offer to the large retailer. In an attempt to lure Sears Holdings away from Illinois, the state of Ohio has offered $400m in public tax assistance. Seeing that other states are offering huge incentives to attract Sears and other large corporations from Illinois, Quinn’s hand is being forced to offer competitive packages just to keep private interests satisfied. Crain’s has reported recently that the total cost of corporate tax breaks – public funds going to private business – will top $850m. Illinois’ budget deficit is quickly approaching $5 billion, and the state government along with the new Chicago City Council budget has drawn out big cuts to public services. This proposed $850 million going to private interests would help knock out a huge chunk of our state’s debt and keep many public jobs.
Earlier this summer, Chicago Public Schools cut 1,000 teaching jobs, and the majority of those who lost their jobs were people of color. The massive lay offs haven’t seemed to do enough according to the City Council. The city’s response? Close more schools. The city has announced it will close more schools on December 1. Parents, teachers, and community organizers in Lawndale, Humboldt Park, Logan Square, and Albany Park have felt the belt tighten on public services being offered in their neighborhoods, and on November 23, nine neighborhood organizations organized to prevent the closure of more schools on the city’s west and northwest sides.
Last week, Occupy Chicago organized a march with Stand Up! Chicago titled “Jobs not Cuts," calling for an end to corporate welfare in Illinois. Both organizations want to see the use of public funds going towards more job opportunities for teachers and other civil servants, not to large corporations who have received tax breaks over the last ten years. JP Morgan Chase, who reported record profits in Q1 and Q2 of 2011, received $34.7 million in tax breaks just from the State of Illinois. According to the large bank, these public funds were necessary to keep the jobs of the 2,247 people employed by JP Morgan Chase in Illinois.
Large corporations are holding jobs in Illinois hostage, and demanding big tax cuts on top of record profits just to stay put. Quinn has bent over backwards for many companies, and continues to do so while cutting public funding for education. What we are witnessing is a similar misdirected approach that Governor Walker in Wisconsin took when he proposed to limit collective bargaining for public unions. The big difference is, in Illinois, we are paying the corporations to maintain current jobs, much less create new jobs, while we cut thousands of teachers’ jobs. The private world calls for a free market, one that promotes efficiencies in order to earn profits, yet the same private world also demands tax payer money despite its own efficiencies. I believe that in order to address this unbalanced modal shift, the same public unrest that was seen earlier this year in Madison needs to happen in Springfield.
Photo Credit: adactio