Blog Archives

Leadership that Southern Illinois Can Believe In

By Michael Kleen

What is wrong with Southern Illinois? Open a newspaper on any given day, and you are likely to ask yourself this question. As Disclosurehas documented for the past several years, there is no shortage of political corruption, crime, substance abuse, and economic despair. Of the 34 counties south of I-70, 14 had unemployment rates of 9.5 percent or higher in September of this year, and just two years ago, Southern Illinois University tottered on the edge of bankruptcy. The situation is not hopeless, however. With the right leadership, things can be turned around.

You see, I live far up north in Winnebago County, and we have a lot in common with Southern Illinois. This area has the highest unemployment rate in the state (13.8 percent in September), and I believe that the same thing that is hurting us up here is hurting the people of southern Illinois: a lack of responsible and inspired leadership. A sense of entitlement and contentment with the status quo at the top, coupled with a “tax and spend” philosophy of government, is strangling the life out of our communities.

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5 Simple Ways to Jumpstart the Economy

By Michael Kleen

Martin Van Buren, our 8th president, once remarked, “The less government interferes with private pursuits, the better for general prosperity.” Those words were no truer when they were spoken than they are today. It is time for government to get out of the way and let us do our jobs. In that spirit, here is a list of five simple things government and we the people can do to put our country back on the path to prosperity.

1. Sales Tax Holiday. Suspending the state sales tax would immediately boost consumer spending. A sales tax holiday puts money directly into the hands of consumers and does it in a way that requires that they spend money to save money. According to the Peoria Journal Star, when Illinois suspended the state sales tax on basic school supplies for two weeks last August, consumers spent $323 million and saved $16 million. This year, citing the state government’s inability to stop its out of control spending, Governor Quinn cancelled a repeat of the holiday.

Sales taxes hurt low income families and, ideally, should be dramatically reduced or eliminated altogether. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a 6 percent sales tax amounts to roughly a 1 percent income tax rate for families in the highest income brackets, a 3 percent tax on middle-income families and a 4.5 percent tax on the poorest families. That is because, generally, wealthier families spend only one-sixth of their income on items that are subject to sales taxes, while low-income families spend three-quarters of their income on taxable purchases. Suspending the sales tax on food, clothing, and other essential items would bring much needed relief to consumers.

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Cast Down Your Bucket Where You Are

A Kleen classic at the Disclosure:

In 1895, famed educator and author Booker T. Washington cajoled members of his community to “cast down your bucket where you are” instead of seeking labor or employment somewhere else. Likewise, I firmly believe that more can be accomplished for the benefit of our community by casting our talents and our dollars where we live by buying and producing locally, as well as abandoning the “there’s nothing I can do” attitude.

The real problem is not a lack of business or services, the problem is the complainers who, when it comes down to it, do nothing to prevent businesses from leaving and whose solution to the problems they see is to uproot and leave, or spend their dollars elsewhere, convinced that nothing can be done. For a community to be successful all the members of that community need to act together to bring the kind of entertainment, businesses, and recreation they want to see, as well as support those places already in existence.

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