S&P Downgrades Career Politician Bonds to Record Low, Near-Junk

It’s time to hold a funeral for the bogus claim that career politicians get better with time.

Yes, it was cute for a while. They said it ‘til they got blue in the face, while their budgets filled up with red ink.

But now it’s time to lay this claim to rest on the heels of news out of Illinois.

The Illinois General Assembly – one of the highest-paid, longest-serving, full-time, professional, non-term limited legislatures in America – just had its bonds downgraded to the lowest level in the history of any state.

Citing Illinois’ $14.5 billion backlog of unpaid bills, bond analysts from Moody’s and S&P downgraded the state to BBB-, the lowest possible rating for investment grade debt. The agencies also threatened to move Illinois to JUNK status if the state doesn’t get its act together by July.

Instead of being good stewards of tax dollars, Illinois’ lawmakers mismanaged state finances in their zeal to be re-elected. Now public services like universities are being cut to avoid a fiscal collapse.

Illinois offers its legislators one of the most generous compensation packages in the country, including a salary above median income, a “golden parachute” pension and generous per diem cash.

Much like Washington D.C., the state capital of Springfield is a place few lawmakers ever want to leave.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has been in office since 1971. Senate President John Cullerton is not far behind him in tenure, having joined the General Assembly in 1979.

Both men oppose term limits and believe decades in power actually make government better. Their own state is proof that careerism only leads to ruin. Too much time in office pushes lawmakers away from the people and into a web of corrupt Capitol power-mongering. Meanwhile, incumbents block fresh faces and ideas from rising up and making change.

When the people of Illinois collected 600,000 signatures in 2014 to put legislative term limits on the ballot, an associate of Madigan sued to get it removed.

That defiance is to be expected when politicians come to believe they are more powerful and important than the people they’re elected to serve.

Sure, long-serving officials have experience. But it’s the wrong experience. It forgets about the real world and puts self-interest ahead of public service. We need to term limit career politicians in Washington and everywhere else before they drive our country further into the fiscal ditch alongside Illinois.

Nick Tomboulides is Executive Director of U.S. Term Limits

About Nick Tomboulides