It’s a generally accepted principle that large market economies are not zero-sum games. When one gets rich, that doesn’t require other people to become poor; job gains in one state don’t require job losses in another. But Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner must have skipped that lecture in Economics 101.
In a remarkable interview with the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune, Rauner said his plan to revitalize his state’s flagging economy relies on trying to raid neighboring Indiana for good jobs. Rauner made no effort to sugarcoat his intentions, promising something that sounds more like explicit economic warfare than simple competition.
“I am going to try to rip the economic guts out of Indiana,” Rauner told the newspaper, going on to boast, “I am one of the baddest enemies anybody can have.”
Rauner promised that Illinois would “methodically and aggressively” move to help itself to the economic detriment of its neighbor.
“We’re actually going to get it done,” he vowed. “When I set a goal we do it. And we’re coming after Indiana big time. We're going to deliver jobs out of Indiana and into Illinois.”
There is, of course, a likely element of theater to the governor’s comments. First of all, there has been a long-running feud between the two states, which are both headed by Republican governors. In 2011, the Indiana Development Corp. started a campaign targeting Chicago-region businesses with billboards that asked if they were “Illinoyed by higher taxes.” Second, Rauner, a career private equity executive, was elected in November to run a state that has suffered from unemployment levels consistently above the national average. Its economy has struggled more than most to find a way out of the doldrums that followed the Great Recession.
Still, Rauner’s comments didn’t sit well with Indiana officials.
“We’ll stack Indiana's low taxes, Triple A credit rating and excellent business climate against those of any other state any time," said Christy Denault, communications director for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, in a statement to the Indianapolis Star.
“Our corporate taxes are going down, our workforce has been growing, and we will continue to aggressively recruit new companies and new jobs to our state. Illinois will find tough competition here in Indiana,” Denault added.
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