Political science professor discusses similarities between Illinois budget crisis, current government shutdown

Corryn Brock, Associate News Editor

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In 2015 Illinoisans began experiencing a 793-day-long budget crisis that lasted into 2017, and Ryan Burge, professor of political science, is seeing similarities between it and the 25-day-long government shutdown U.S. citizens are currently facing.

“This speaks to a larger problem. The reason that the Illinois budget stalemate lasted so long was because in order for a budget stale to resolve, you need pressure to build,” Burge said. “Illinois kept doing things to take the pressure off.”

Burge said he saw a likeness between how Illinois politicians and national politicians handle(d) their respective situations.

“I see so many parallels between the two things,” Burge said. “In a lot of ways they are exactly alike.”

The shutdown only has a strong impact on a fraction of citizens, “non-essential” federal employees.

“It’s only 800,000 workers. Which is a lot, don’t get me wrong, but our country is 300 million people,” Burge said. “Until more people are affected by it, don’t see a resolution happening.”

Similarly in Illinois, higher education was impacted heavily while a lot of Illinois was functioning with few issues.

“The Illinois shutdown was predicated on the fact that people weren’t being hurt by it. There wasn’t that pressure being built up,” Burge said. “The pressure was always (elsewhere). Like it was at Eastern, but if you don’t live in a county with a university or a community college, who cares?”

Another similarity Burge said he sees is in former Gov. Bruce Rauner and President Donald Trump.

“Trump is a businessman, Bruce Rauner was a businessman, and they come from environments where they were the CEO,” Burge said. “When you’re the CEO you don’t have to compromise. You tell people what to do, and they do it.”

Burge said when you’ve been in the position of being the one to make all decisions it’s harder to compromise, and compromise is what the budget crisis needed and what the shutdown needs.

“If you’ve gone your whole life leading by fiat, just telling people what to do, it’s hard to get yourself in the mentality of collaboration and cooperation and compromise,” Burge said. “I think that (we’re seeing the fruits of businessmen in government), and it’s not good.”

Rauner was a Republican in the executive branch that was working with a Democratic majority in the legislature that could not override his veto, which is the situation currently happening with Trump and the Democratic majority in the House.

Burge said it is going to take a large-scale impact to bring the shutdown to an end.

“We don’t think about something until it doesn’t work. When your car starts 99 percent of the time you don’t think about it, and the one time it doesn’t start that’s all you think about,” Burge said. “It’s the same this with government. There’s lots of things that happen that we don’t know about that keep the trains running on time, keep our food safe, keep the airlines working. As soon as one of those thing fail we’re going to get really aware of how much the government does.”

Burge said it is important to keep in mind the human aspect of politics.

“At the end of the day politics is people, and people are irrational and people do things based on emotion,” Burge added. “Eventually the dam is going to have to break.”

Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].