Lately, the Effingham Daily News has been running opinion editorial columns from a source that calls itself “The Center Square,” which appears to be a rebranding attempt by a group called the Illinois Policy Institute. One of the prominent writers is Austin Berg.
Reading Mr. Berg always makes me think of Chicken Little. It seems that with virtually every column, the sky is falling on the State of Illinois and he seems quite anxious to run and tell everyone. The sky is falling because of taxes. The sky is falling because of Democrats. They sky is falling because of Madigan. For a long while I wondered if Mr. Berg ever got tired of writing of the imminent demise of Illinois and then he confirmed that he does by writing a column about the history of soybeans in Illinois. I read that column anticipating a conclusion that somehow Illinois Democrats led by Speaker Madigan were somehow nefarious plotters against soybeans, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.
In the latest column by Mr. Berg (“Documents expose ‘fair tax’ absurdity,” Sept. 7, 2019) he argues that the tax increases of recent years have all been major failures. Mr. Berg further argues that the fair tax proposal is a continuation of the same.
But I contend that it’s here where Mr. Berg reveals his true self in the Chicken Little story; Berg and his patrons at the Illinois Policy Institute are really Foxey Loxey. Those who recall the story likely remember that Chicken Little tells Ducky Lucky that the sky is falling in a sincere attempt at warning her friend of imminent danger. Then Chicken Little and Ducky Lucky together run down the path to tell the Lion of the danger, hoping that somehow the dire straits, which they fear, can be averted.
But who do frightened pair meet before reaching the Lion? They find Foxey Loxey on the path who promises to show them the way to the Lion.
“Come into my den,” says Foxey Loxey and Chicken Little and Ducky Lucky are never seen again.
Over and over Mr. Berg and the IPI argue that if only we cut taxes more and if only we cut the size of government more that we would be in the Promised Land. So-called conservatives have promoted this recipe at a national level since the election of Ronald Reagan and it has led to years of deficit spending and increasing debt under those so-called conservative leaders. The approach made its way to Illinois under the administration of Bruce Rauner and led to a crippling budget crisis that clearly exacerbated the problems of Illinois.
Am I arguing that all tax increases and proposals by the Democrats are good? Nope. But what I believe is that the answers to our problems have to come from sincere discussions about solutions. Saying no to virtually all proposals, as Mr. Berg, the IPI and others seem to do, should make us wonder about another agenda inside that fox den.
Editor’s Note: Veteran Chicago-area media reporter Robert Feder reported this on May 15, 2019: “Illinois News Network, which provides coverage of state and regional issues to media outlets across Illinois, has changed its name to The Center Square. The rebranding is intended to stake out a nonpartisan centrist position. But it also can be seen as a break from the organization’s controversial past ties to the Illinois Policy Institute. Since 2017 INN has been owned by the nonprofit Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. ‘For each of us associated with this project, our name serves as a reminder that we’re working with the highest journalistic ethics and precision in mind,’ said Chris Krug, president of the Franklin News Foundation. Krug previously served as publisher of the Pioneer Press suburban newspaper chain and as vice president of Shaw Media and editor of the Northwest Herald.”