What Can Rockford Learn from China?

By Michael Kleen ~ Published June 12, 2012 at the Rock River Times

Li and Larry

Recently, China’s new premier, Li Keqiang, signaled a major policy shift when he announced that his communist government will reduce state intervention in the marketplace and give competition among private businesses a larger role in the economy.

“The market is the creator of social wealth and the wellspring of self-sustaining economic development,” Li said. He argued that reducing government’s role in the economy would unleash his country’s creative energies after a period of slowing economic growth.

It is an encouraging sign that a new generation of Chinese leadership is embracing private enterprise and entrepreneurship as engines of economic growth and prosperity. According to the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, government spending in China currently accounts for 23.6 percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as opposed to 41.7 percent in the United States.


Plan for Rockford Sports Complex Raises Concerns

Published May 29, 2012 at the Rock River Times

On May 16, the Illinois House approved a Senate bill allowing Winnebago County and its municipalities to raise their hotel tax rate by 2 percent. These funds will go toward a $37.5 to $43 million project ( to improve several existing Park District sports facilities, as well as to turn the former Ingersoll factory along the river in downtown Rockford into an indoor sports complex.

Proponents of this plan call it “Reclaiming First,” because it will supposedly reclaim Rockford’s place as the number one destination for sporting events in the Midwest. While this plan has received bipartisan support among elected officials in the area, taxpayers have several reasons to be concerned.

The riverfront sports complex alone is projected to cost between $11 and $14.9 million and will be funded by several sources, all of which are public. If passed, the hotel tax increase will generate an estimated $750,000 a year. $7 million in funding will come from the Illinois Department of Commerce, and Rockford’s redevelopment fund and the Rockford Park District are expected to pick up the rest of the tab.


Thank you all for your support!

Jim Hughes (D), Michael Kleen (R), and Larry Morrissey (I) at the Rockford College mayoral forum

After an exhausting and rewarding six months of campaigning, the election has come and gone, so I will be reactivating and updating my personal website.

I would like to thank everyone who supported me, who voted for me, who made phone calls, sent emails, walked door to door, donated, and put out yard signs. You are the folks who help make a difference and none of this would have been possible without you. Thanks to you, I received 18% of the vote in a 3-way race. This was the highest percentage for a Republican candidate for mayor of Rockford in more than eight years.

There is no telling what opportunities will come from the election, but for the foreseeable future I will be focusing my energy on my writing career and on continuing to propose common sense, practical reforms to help revitalize my community. I haven’t decided if that means running for public office again. For now, I’m content to resume my bi-weekly column in the Rock River Times.

As always, I’ll be working on new writing projects, and there may be another book tour in the works. Keep checking the website for updates.


A Race About Ideas

Some of my readers may have heard that I am running for Mayor of Rockford. The rumors are true. Last week, I decided to throw my hat into the ring. After my run for county board in the primary election, I was not going to run for public office again for a very long time. When I learned that there were no Republicans running for Rockford mayor, however, I had to step forward. Someone needs to be in the race defending fiscal responsibility, free markets, and public safety.

This election isn’t even about what political party you belong to, it is about the failure of the current mayor to tackle these issues. He wants to invest tax dollars in sports complexes, while street lights are being turned off to save money. People are suffering in Rockford. We are #1 in unemployment and violent crime per capita in the entire state of Illinois. Someone needs to stand up and talk about these issues. Someone needs to speak up for the average citizen who has been all but excluded from the decision making process in this city.

It is time for a change! Here is a link to an interview I did with WIFR earlier this evening: GOP Mayoral Candidate 6PM.


Public-Private Partnerships or Just Crony Capitalism?

Published September 19, 2012 at Rock River Times

“Public-private partnership” has become the latest buzzword among the political class and its supporters. Often used in combination with “economic development” (another favorite campaign slogan), it conjures the rosy image of government and the private sector walking hand-in-hand toward a more prosperous future. More careful observers, however, see nothing more than a mask for cronyism and corruption. In truth, these partnerships may enrich a few, but they hardly ever yield the promised benefits for the public.

The “public-private” concept works in several ways: either government partners with private business to build and maintain public projects, or government invests in private business in order to foster the growth of certain industries, supposedly for the public good. Rather than stay out of the marketplace, government officials use their influence and authority to grant special favors to their friends and colleagues in the business world.

When government officials and business leaders maintain a close relationship for their own financial benefit, as is often the case with public-private partnerships, it is sometimes called “crony capitalism.” Crony capitalism is marked by favoritism when it comes to handing out legal permits, government grants, business contracts, and special tax breaks. Self-serving friendships or familial ties between businessmen and government officials mean that anyone not on the “inside” of these relationships is excluded from the process.


Escaping Leviathan

Published July 11, 2012 at Rock River Times

In this column, I will tackle two subjects: state and federal grants, and Prof. John Kindt’s guest column on Illinois gambling taxation in last week’s issue of the Rock River Times. Both of these subjects nicely illustrate the difference between advocates for bigger government and advocates for smaller government when it comes to the relationship between government and wealth.

Advocates for bigger government believe that the money you earn, whether it be through wages or income from a business, does not belong to you. In other words, government, be it state, local, or federal, should take what it needs from you first, and then you get to keep whatever is left. They believe that politicians and other government officials know what is best for you and will spend accordingly.

Advocates for smaller government, on the other hand, believe that every dollar you earn is yours first and foremost. When you give some of it to the government, you are expecting that it be spent frugally and wisely on a limited number of basic services. They believe that, although you are not perfect, ultimately decisions about how to spend your money should be left to you.