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In Case You Missed It: Bashing Business 101

Chicago Daily Observer: Bashing Business 101

Tuesday, May 27, 2008  •  Press Release

Chicago Daily Observer

Bashing Business 101

May 23, 2008

By John Tillman, Illinois Policy Institute

With oil topping $130 a barrel, pump prices over $4.00 a gallon and the media promoting—er, reporting on—the slowing economy, oil companies aren’t the only ones taking abuse from pundits, policymakers and politicians. Businesses all over America are really taking it on the chin.

This must stop. Vilifying business is a terrible trend in American cultural and political discourse. And while I have come to expect it from the Democrats, the Republicans aren’t immune either, including the putative presidential nominee.

I often ask my liberal friends to name one good social program that is not paid for by a business. The conversations are usually quite amusing. First, they often enthusiastically name a variety of programs such as social security, welfare and food stamps. Once it is pointed out that every single one of those programs is funded by tax dollars that are generated from business—either directly, or from employees who pay taxes—we usually move on.

The next stop in the discussion: a new category of good social works. Common suggestions include Habitat for Humanity, food banks, women’s shelters, and, of course, the gold standard in selfless giving, the work of the late, great Mother Teresa.

Of course, the food, clothing and shelter that Mother Teresa gave to the poor were paid for by business, either directly or via charitable donations that trace their roots to a for-profit enterprise in some form. For those working in the non-profit or government sectors, those wages are also all paid for, directly or indirectly, by a business (via charitable contributions or taxes paid by the business or workers).

The simple truth is that every tax dollar paid, every good government program implemented (all two of them), every charitable contribution to a church, to a food bank, to a women’s shelter, to Katrina relief, to help the victims in Burma and China—every single dollar traces its roots to an entrepreneur willing to make a bet on a business.

Some succeed, but many more fail. Thank God for the optimism of our entrepreneurial class, for without them there would be no Katrina relief or food shipments to those struggling to survive in Africa.

In Illinois, it is good sport for Governor Blagojevich to lambaste businesses for not paying their “fair share.” Every ill befalling the state apparently stems from greedy, selfish business owners who care not a whit for their employees, their customers or their communities. The abuse pouring out of this governor’s mouth directed at business is relentless, and yet he wonders why so many are tripping over themselves to leave the state. Over 727,150 people have left Illinois over the past 10 years alone.

Contrast this sentiment with that of Governor Rick Perry in Texas. At a speech I attended in Austin this past January, Governor Perry made it clear where he stood. He stood on the border of Texas with open arms, a hearty handshake and a spirited welcome. In remarks directed at Texas legislators, he said that if they sent him legislation that would make Texas less competitive with the other 49 states, he would veto it. But, if they sent him legislation that would make Texas more competitive in attracting and retaining businesses for Texas, he would sign it.

In Texas the welcome mat is out. In Springfield the baseball bat is out. Business leaders had better duck, or get out of Illinois.

As we move past the fall election and Illinois begins to focus on 2010, aspiring governors can win with a simple message to businesses: We welcome you, we appreciate you and we will pass legislation to make Illinois the best place in America to do business.

Senator Brady, Leader Cross, Chairman McKenna, Mr. Gidwitz, are you listening? Ah, to dream.

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