Two Chicago Tribune Columnists. Which one is clueless?

Here are excerpts from two articles that appeared in today’s Chicago Tribune. One of the authors has proved time and again he is a Trump conservative and clueless about economics — a redundancy.

Here are excerpts from the two articles.

Fed bailout for state akin to aiding bust-out gambler
John Kass

If you’re a taxpayer from a well-run state with low public worker union pension debt, you may be watching in horrified fascination as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushes the political buttons for the new CARES Act 2 federal coronavirus relief bill.

People and businesses need help. The government shut down the economy to deal with the pandemic. There are serious coronavirus costs and federal help is needed.

But what’s worrisome is this: politics could morph necessary relief into a massive no-strings-attached bailout for Illinois, New York, New Jersey and other poorly run states to pay down their unfunded public worker pension debts.

And who pays? You do.

It’s like watching your grandma take your college fund to pay off her brother’s gambling debts.

OK, you guessed it. John Kass, whose column appears on the coveted page 2 of the Tribune, writes a good column about local government, but he is Trump-dumb when it comes to federal finance.

I have corresponded with him numerous times about the difference between the federal government’s (Monetarily Sovereign) financing vs. state/local government (monetarily non-sovereign) financing.

I have explained to him that unlike state/local taxpayers, who do fund state/local government spending, federal taxpayers do not fund anything.

Their tax dollars are destroyed upon leaving their checking account, and the federal government creates brand new dollars, ad hoc, every time it pays a bill.

So it is nothing at all “like watching your grandma take your college fund to pay off her brother’s gambling debts.”

That might be a decent analogy if Kass were talking about state/local government taxpayers, but it simply is wrong when talking about federal taxpayers.

But (and I’m sure you have learned this), Trump-dumb people are Trump-dumb stubborn, especially when it comes to learning something Trump or Fox has not told them.

So Kass continues on his merry way, spreading Trump-ignorance to the masses, with the able assistance from such learned scientists as Russ (“It’s the common cold.”) Limbaugh and Sean (“There is no crisis.”) Hannity, and the boobs at Fox & Friends.

More excerpts from the Kass article:

The Democratic governors have their talking points. This isn’t a bailout, they say. Instead, it’s all about “fairness” and “donor states.”

“As you know, we are a donor state to the federal government,” Illinois Governor Pritzker said the other day. “We pay more in federal taxes in Illinois than we get back from the federal government.

“The states who are being bailed out, year after year, are the states who take more out of the federal dole than they put in.”

The Democratic talking points sound reasonable, until you realize the states Pritzker says are being “bailed out, year after year,” are in the main, extremely poor states, with many poor people who need federal assistance programs.

These “extremely poor states, with many poor people who need federal assistance programs” also, by strange coincidence mostly are “red” states that gather nice, big, fat surpluses from the federal government.

Perhaps Kass was being compassionate, right? Uh, not really.

The political class in each of these states, mostly Democrats but with help from a few local Republican handmaidens, had put taxpayers on the hook for unsustainable public pension deals for government workers.

Now in Illinois, the unfunded public worker pension debt is estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The state’s bond ratings are just above junk status. Illinois state Senate President Don Harmon, D-Chicago, has asked Congress for a $41.6 billion bailout.

Taxpayers are on the hook and the pension burden shifts to property taxes. The property taxes rise, and their home values fall. Taxpayers are now the servants of public servants.

Coronavirus didn’t do this. Trump didn’t do this. Local politicians did this.

“Compassionate” Kass is concerned about the “many poor people who need federal assistance programs” in red states, but far less concerned about public workers whose pensions are in danger in blue states.

He also is far less concerned about Illinois (blue state) homeowners whose already high property taxes will rise again and whose homes will lose value. After all, they mostly are anti-Trump Democrats.

And Mr. Jack (Trump shill) Kass, thank you for making sure we understand that Trump wasn’t at fault.

But then, he never is at fault for anything, is he?

So why should taxpayers of “well-run and prudent states” be asked to bail out the politicians of Illinois and elsewhere for decades worth of bad decision-making?

The politicians and mouthpieces will prattle on about “fairness” and “donor states.” But they want someone else to pay their debts.
And the bill is due.
Twitter @John_Kass

Now let’s get to the facts, which the Trump-dumb always ignore in favor of scorn tossed at some non-Trump group.

The states having big cities with large, minority, poor populations are the ones having the worst financial problems, because these large, minority, poor populations need the most government financial assistance — which liberal blue states provide and conservative red states avoid (like paying for health-care).

Blue, progressive states are more likely to help the poor. The red, conservative states are the ones that do the least for the poor.

That’s an important reason why the red states appear (to Kass) to be “well-run and prudent states.” In Kass/Trump world, “prudent” means: “Screw the poor.”

It sure isn’t that the red-state governments are less crooked, or more “well-run and prudent.” (Lousiana, Missippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kansas — well-run and prudent? Really?)

Those red-neck southern politicians are no less slimy than the blue state grafters.

Of course, all the phony moralizing by Jack Kass is a “look-the-other-way” digression.

Federal spending costs federal taxpayers nothing. It would take $0 from any taxpayer’s pocket if the federal government simply gave billions to every state and didn’t take anything from any state.

And now we come to a second article that appeared in today’s Tribune:

Turnabout’s fair play: Illinois has been ‘bailing out’ other states for decades
Gov. J.B. Pritzker responded Monday to a tweet by President Donald Trump, saying Illinois pays “more in federal taxes in Illinois than we get back” from the feds.
Eric Zorn

President Donald Trump took to Twitter midmorning Monday with an aggressive question : “Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help?”

Trump was amplifying a complaint April 22 about “blue-state bailouts” by U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as well as South Carolina’s former Republican Gov. Nikki Haley’s tweet on Saturday singling out Illinois when making the case that federal pandemic relief funds “should not bail out states that have recklessly spent and taxed their way into oblivion.”

Gee, I wonder where Jack Kass got his talking points.

They sound just like Trump and Trump toadies Moscow Mitch McConnell and the Republican former governor Nikki Haley.


According to a January analysis by the State University of New York’s Rockefeller Institute of Government, in the years 2015 through 2018, Illinois sent an average of $5.6 billion a year more to Washington than Washington sent back in such forms as grants to state and local governments, wages to federal workers, safety-net programs, contracts, and Social Security, veterans’ and Medicare benefits.

Haley’s home state of South Carolina? That red state received an average $21.8 billion more from Uncle Sam than its taxpayers remitted, according to the Rockefeller data.

McConnell’s red state of Kentucky? A whopping average of $37 billion more.

The Rockefeller study identified 10 other states along with Illinois that pay more in federal taxes than they get back.

On that list are only two “red” states that voted for Republican Trump in the 2016 presidential election: No. 8 Nebraska ($752 million) and No. 10 Utah ($595 million).

A similar analysis by the New York state comptroller’s office that focused just on fiscal year 2018 found Illinois had a negative federal balance of $11.4 billion.

In that study, Illinois was one of just seven donor states, all of which voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.

South Carolina, for reference, came out $26.1 billion ahead in 2018; Kentucky came out $29.9 billion ahead.

Odd how Jack Kass failed to mention those numbers.

Illinois residents “bailed out” other states to the tune of $863 per person, the New York comptroller’s report shows.

Each South Carolina resident, in contrast, came out $5,139 ahead on average, while each Kentucky resident came out $6,694 ahead.

According to “ States Most Dependent on the Federal Government ,” published in 2019 by SmartAdvisor, Illinois is the 45th most dependent on federal dollars with 29.4% of its annual budget coming from the feds. South Carolina is 28th most dependent with 33.2% and Kentucky is sixth at 41%.

I guess they are what is known as “well-run and prudent states,” so long as the federal government is pumping billions of dollars into their treasuries.

This sort of imbalance is nothing new.

Data in an old Tax Foundation study, “ Federal Taxes Paid vs. Federal Spending Received by State, 1981-2005 ,” shows that on average, Illinois had a $16 billion annual negative balance over those 25 years, with taxpayers getting back an average of 74 cents in federal spending in the state for every dollar they sent to the IRS.

The Tax Foundation has not updated that study, and the Illinois governor’s Office of Management and Budget does not track these figures.

Numerous factors influence how federal dollars are acquired and distributed at the state level, including poverty rates, the age of the population, the location of military bases, universities and major businesses and prevailing wages.

O.K., so that should take care of the Trump/Kass “bailout bullshit.

But then, oh dear, save us from our friends. It looks like even the more intelligent writers still are ignorant about federal finances. Eric Zorn’s article continues:

But no matter how or why the money flows where it does, the bottom line is that Illinois and other donor states are helping prop up such recipient states as South Carolina and Kentucky.

Our taxpayers in effect funnel money into their economies, money that props up their businesses and keeps their taxes and government spending lower than they would otherwise have to be.

No, Eric, Illinois taxpayers do not funnel money to South Carolina or Kentucky.  All federal tax dollars are destroyed as soon as they leave a taxpayer,s checking account.

The fact that Illinois taxpayers pay more, and Kentucky taxpayers receive more gives the illusion that Illinois taxes pay for Kentucky’s largess.

(Just to be fair to Eric Zorn, he did say “in effect,” so perhaps he does understand that federal taxpayers do not “funnel money” to anywhere or any thing. Those dollars immediately are destroyed.)

That is like the railroad crossing illusion in which the blinking lights individually turn off and on, but look like they are bouncing back and forth.

Train Crossing, Flashing Red Lights, Railroads

The railroad crossing lights are an analogy for Monetary Sovereignty. Think of the left light being taxpayers and the right light as the Treasury.

The left light going off is equivalent to dollars in the checking account of a taxpayer being instantly destroyed as soon as the check is cashed.

The right light going on is equivalent to an internal, accounts receivable, balance sheet credit.

Then, the right light going off is equivalent to a debit to that accounts receivable account, and the left light going on is equivalent to a credit to a private-sector checking account — new money being created.

The lights and the dollars do not flow back and forth. They are alternately created and extinguished.

It only is instructions that tell each party what to do, just as instructions tell each railroad light to turn on and off.

There is no back-and-forth flow of money or light.

The U.S. government has the unlimited ability to debit and credit (light and extinguish) its balance sheet at will.

But that does not affect its ability to send instructions to a creditor’s bank, which debits and credits a private sector account.

But if Illinois had gotten back even close to what its taxpayers had put into the federal system over the years, its public pensions would be fully funded and the treasury would still show a surplus of literally hundreds of billions of dollars.

And that is the key. Blue state residents send billions of dollars to a federal government that destroys every dollar it receives and creates new dollars for spending.

Of course that’s not how it works. Not in a city, where taxes from wealthier neighborhoods support services in poorer neighborhoods.

Not in a state, where taxes from prosperous regions support residents in struggling areas.

And not in a nation, where, in the end, we’re all supposed to be in the fight together.

The answer to Trump’s question about why the people and taxpayers elsewhere should be bailing out states particularly hard hit by this pandemic is simple: Because we’ve been bailing them out for years.
Twitter @EricZorn

Not quite. We (Illinois et al) needlessly have been tossing dollars down the federal toilet.

That is a huge reason “we” need money from the federal government.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Monetary Sovereignty
Twitter: @rodgermitchell
Search #monetarysovereignty Facebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell



The most important problems in economics involve:

  1. Monetary Sovereignty describes money creation and destruction.
  2. Gap Psychology describes the common desire to distance oneself from those “below” in any socio-economic ranking, and to come nearer those “above.” The socio-economic distance is referred to as “The Gap.”

Wide Gaps negatively affect poverty, health and longevity, education, housing, law and crime, war, leadership, ownership, bigotry, supply and demand, taxation, GDP, international relations, scientific advancement, the environment, human motivation and well-being, and virtually every other issue in economics.

Implementation of Monetary Sovereignty and The Ten Steps To Prosperity can grow the economy and narrow the Gaps:

Ten Steps To Prosperity:

1. Eliminate FICA

2. Federally funded Medicare — parts A, B & D, plus long-term care — for everyone

3. Provide a monthly economic bonus to every man, woman and child in America (similar to social security for all)

4. Free education (including post-grad) for everyone

5. Salary for attending school

6. Eliminate federal taxes on business

7. Increase the standard income tax deduction, annually. 

8. Tax the very rich (the “.1%”) more, with higher progressive tax rates on all forms of income.

9. Federal ownership of all banks

10. Increase federal spending on the myriad initiatives that benefit America’s 99.9% 

The Ten Steps will grow the economy and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and the rest.


One thought on “Two Chicago Tribune Columnists. Which one is clueless?

  1. Of course the vast majority (approx 95% ) of current-cy is electrons. The paper we see on TV (because it’s an attention getter) in large denominations in suitcases or rolling off the presses is only a tiny percentage of the money supply. Yet, media doesn’t dare explain this fact to the viewer. If the announcer told people the truth about money, or even hinted at our sovereinty over its creation, (s)he would be out of a job.

    From the NY Times… “Only the news that’s fit to print,” i.e, better to let sleeping dogs lie…. and be lied to.


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