Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Reverse New Deal: Millionaire Republican Governor Bruce Rauner closes the 138-year-old Illinois State Museum to preserve tax breaks for the wealthy

(Bruce Rauner on inauguration day, January 12, 2015. Since becoming the governor of Illinois, Rauner has been working hard to enrich himself and his super-wealthy friends, while cutting services and programs that benefit the middle-class & poor, e.g., programs for domestic violence victims, rape victims, and the homeless. He has also cut, or tried to cut, funding for education and medical care. These efforts have been called "morally reprehensible." Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

On the website of the Illinois State Museum, visitors are told: "We regret that all Illinois State Museum facilities are closed to the public until further notice."

What the 138-year-old museum doesn't tell you is the reason why. And that reason, essentially, is this: Republican Governor Bruce Rauner--a man with a net worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars--wants tax breaks for himself and his rich buddies, and paying for a museum doesn't fit into that plan. To see how Rauner and his super-wealthy friends have been enriching themselves through public policy, while repeatedly cutting services and programs to the citizens of Illinois, see...

"Rauner's $100 million in corporate tax breaks drawing fire," Chicago Sun-Times, April 9, 2015

"Rauner to Benefit From Budget Cuts With $750K Tax Break Each Year: Report," CBS News, February 25, 2015

"The wealthy got the bulk of Illinois' tax cut, policy group says," Chicago Business, February 17, 2015.

And the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy recently reported that Illinois is one of ten states that "are particularly regressive. These 'Terrible Ten' states tax their poorest residents--those in the bottom 20 percent of the income scale--at rates up to seven times higher than the wealthy. Middle-income families in these states pay a rate up to three times higher as a share of their income as the wealthiest families."

Of course, the closing of the Illinois State Museum is just the latest in a long list of public services and programs that Republicans & Tea Partiers are trying to destroy, e.g., public education, libraries, post offices, national parks & forests, etc. To them, everything (with the possible exception of the military) should be dismantled or delivered into the hands of millionaires & billionaires - the holy "JOB CREATORS" (the people who can't seem to create anything these days but low wage, stingy benefit, no future jobs).

Amazingly, many citizens of Illinois want to pay more taxes than the wealthy, and want to have their services and programs cut to finance even more tax breaks for the rich, as evidenced by the fact that they voted for a Republican governor (the modus operandi of all Republican politicians is to cut taxes for the wealthy, cut beneficial public programs, and then impose regressive taxation on the middle-class and poor). It's hard to understand why people vote a tax increase on themselves--especially as the super-wealthy keep raking in more and more money and benefiting from more and more tax breaks, loopholes, and gimmicks--but it's a phenomenon that's been repeating itself all across America for many decades now. As America increasingly votes Republican (or doesn't vote at all), the billionaire class is laughing all the way to their tax-evading foreign bank accounts.

(The Audubon Museum in Henderson, Kentucky, and the surrounding state park, were WPA and CCC projects. Like many New Deal projects, the museum and park still serve the public today - although Republican politicians are no doubt trying to close, privatize, or open them up for strip mining & oil drilling. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and New Deal Network.)

New Deal policymakers had a different view towards museums. Instead of closing them, to please right-wing millionaires & billionaires, they strengthened them. For example, WPA workers built, repaired, or improved museums and young men & women in the National Youth Administration worked as guides, helped with exhibits, and cataloged over 1 million artifacts.

Unfortunately, the New Deal is over. And all the things we grew up with, and all the things we've grown to love--libraries, parks, museums, post offices, community colleges, etc.--are under constant attack by right-wing millionaires & billionaires and their loyal devotees. Further--as if that wasn't bad enough--we are also being forced to pay higher & regressive taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates to subsidize tax cuts and tax evasion by the super-wealthy.

Isn't that amazing? Is the public ever going to wake up and say "enough is enough"? Or are they just going to continue to let their wallets be vacuumed out, and their museums, libraries, and post offices be shuttered, by right-wing policies? Well, I guess the closing of a treasured 138-year-old museum, and the regressive tax system of Illinois, answers that question pretty firmly.

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