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U.S. Senate
Quick Hit
by Micah Maidenberg
3:28pm
Tue Aug 31, 2010

Durbin And Giannoulias On Debt, Stimulus, And Timing

Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic candidate for Illinois' U.S. Senate seat, gave a speech in Chicago today focusing on fiscal policy and the federal budget. According to a write-up of the address by Crain's columnist Greg Hinz, Giannoulias said that cutting the national debt "should be our No. 1 fiscal priority when we arise out of the current recession."

Note the timing contained in that statement. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently argued, it's not that government debt isn't a concern. Rather, Congress and the president should wait to prioritize the issue. A premature move toward fiscal austerity, before GDP rises and unemployment drops, could send the economy tumbling.

We heard similar notes from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin last week when he told the City Club of Chicago the federal government must consider "careful" spending cuts (he singled out defense and agriculture as two potential areas for cuts) after further debt-financing of unemployment aid, infrastructure projects, and education. The timing issue is worth keeping in mind as debates about the national debt, the last Bush Administration's tax cuts, and stimulus programs continue to dominate headlines.

PI Original
by Micah Maidenberg
10:23am
Sat Aug 28, 2010

The PI Week In Review

The week that was in Illinois politics and government (August 21 - August 27, 2010). 

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
12:25pm
Thu Aug 26, 2010

The Wrong Way To Protect Illinois Farmers

Yesterday, Illinois' major statewide candidates discussed agricultural policy at a forum hosted by the Illinois Farm Bureau. U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, whose website boasts that he "will fight for Illinois farmers and expand opportunities for our state’s agriculture industry," advocated for several policies that could end up hurting small farmers in the long-run.

For starters, Kirk reiterated his support for a budget-busting estate tax repeal, which he said could lower taxes on some family farms. Like the GOP's gubernatorial candidate, Kirk is greatly exaggerating the impact of the estate tax on farmers. The Tax Policy Center found that just .003 percent of all estates both qualify for the tax and have significant small business or farm assets. The average farmer in Illinois won't have to pay more taxes if it's repealed ... except those needed to help pay down the debt the tax cut will cause.

Kirk also criticized the U.S. House climate bill that he helped pass last year, but has since dismissed as too costly. The legislation as written, however, was extremely forgiving to farmers. Not only was agriculture exempt from the cap-and-trade system but farmers were promised subsides to adjust to energy cost increases. On top of that, the bill would have provided a needed boost to wind and solar industries from which farmers could benefit while protecting Illinois crops from the worst effects of climate change.

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
1:31pm
Wed Aug 25, 2010

FiveThirtyEight Predicts Tight U.S. Senate Race

At his new home with the New York Times, FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver just released his latest U.S. Senate forecast. In 2008, the former baseball statistician correctly predicted all 35 Senate contests, so his algorithm is worth tracking. As of today, Silver is giving U.S. Senate Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias a one-point lead in the tight contest. But the blogger does write that Illinois is one of the states that "may determine whether Republicans indeed have a chance of taking over the Senate." Read the whole piece here.