Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek
Everyone's fallen right into their roles. I wonder if House Speaker Mike Madigan ever marvels at how it's all worked out so perfectly.
Back in 2012, when Gov. Bruce Rauner was launching his evil plot to take over Illinois and crush labor unions all over planet Earth, the Chicago Teachers Union foretold it all.
The union released a clever video called "Stand Up to the Fat Cats." The dark stars of this tale? A little kitty called "The Rahminator" and his catty pal "Rowdy Rauner." They were the leaders of the litter box gang out to destroy beloved teachers and unions everywhere, while getting rich off of everyone. (Scroll down to watch the video.)
"The fat cats just sat back and laughed as the money rolled right into their pockets," says the dad reading the Fat Cats story to his child.
Yes, everyone's playing their parts to the hilt, the Speaker must think these days. Things could not be working out better.
Teachers and other labor unions never have been more united. Rauner and Rahm never have been more unpopular. The governor continues to call for the destruction of unions as we know them, even as he loses a couple high-profile primary battles.
And no one pays much attention to the Speaker himself, as his various campaign funds pile up more and more money from labor unions and lawyers. The Speaker was left out of the clever union video.
He's been out of sight for a month now, but he talked plenty before that. The Speaker, known as the Velvet Hammer, appeared with his wry grin, talking about how he's protecting the poor, the working stiffs and the middle class from that evil Rowdy Rauner and his litter box gang. Of course, Madigan didn't call him a name. He still politely referred to him as the governor.
Still, the narrative works so well. Madigan, who has been in power for all but two of the past 30 years, gets to save the little people.
The poor, the disabled, the mentally ill, the disadvantaged children all suffer while the state has no budget, but Madigan and his supermajority bear no blame. Illinois public colleges edge near the precipice. Union members in college towns who see their pensions and their very livelihoods being threatened blame the new, rowdy governor, not the long-time Speaker-savior.
Madigan's Democrats, and those in the Senate, tell constituents Rauner is to blame for all the current impasse pain. I'm sorry, we just can't get anything done, but we are busy protecting you, their stories go. Never mind the fact that they've held the majority now with Madigan as their leader since 1997 and for another 12 years prior to 1995.
Never mind that in all that time, pension debt skyrocketed to $111 billion. Never mind that Democratic majorities regularly have approved budgets that spend more than the state was taking in. Never mind that lawmakers have talked for 30 years about needing to fix the school funding formula, with Madigan and Democrats in charge of the House for 28 of those 30 years.
Never mind that Madigan, Democratic Senate President John Cullerton and his predecessors all cut budget deals with Republican and Democratic governors over those 30 years. Which often included "non-budget" items like deals to keep businesses here like the White Sox and Sears and casino legislation in return for this or that.
Rauner is the fat cat, not Madigan, whom you might recall acknowledged he'd likely be subject, some years, to his own millionaire's tax, which he's pushed a few times in the past few years.
Never mind all of that.
Never mind that you're suffering even though both Rauner and Madigan know there will have to be both painful cuts and a tax increase in the budget deal to come, but that deal won't come until after the November election.
Rauner is the rowdy, evil, fat cat who has said since he took office that he'll sign a tax increase. He's the one who's repeatedly said he'll sign a tax increase and give up items from his turnaround agenda, but the blame is all his.
Madigan doesn't want his members voting for a tax increase before an election. And neither does Rauner. Never mind.
Never mind that it's Madigan, who for 31 years has been all about keeping that political power and control. Never mind that he only changes his mind when his members feel threatened and enough of them band together and demand that he let something happen, lest they lose their seats.
This impasse crushing our college towns and the good people in them isn't Madigan's fault at all. This impasse that boots developmentally disabled adults and children from group homes where they're comfortable isn't Madigan's fault. This lack of pay increases and pension contributions for Chicago Public School teachers is all Rowdy and Rahminator's fault. Keep dumping that labor money into Madigan's many litter boxes.
Yes, the Speaker must smile to himself while he counts the contributions to his campaign fund that will keep this serial drama running.
Everyone's playing their parts perfectly.