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Henryk A. Kowalczyk Headshot

What Can One Learn in Springfield?

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This is my question for Thomas F. Roeser, in response to his critique of the political inexperience of Adam Andrzejewski, a candidate for governor who has not worked even one day in Springfield.

I have to disclose that I am biased in my views of Adam Andrzejewski. I emigrated from Poland almost a quarter century ago, and made Illinois my new home. A friend pointed Adam out to me as a politician of Polish decent. As a result, I read his political platform twice, followed his campaign and had a chance to meet him in person more than once. I am subjective, not because in his ethnic background Adam is 51 percent Polish, but because I made an effort to educate myself on what he wants to do as a governor.

Behind Tom Roeser's objection is an unspoken assumption that holding a top public office requires some knowledge and skills that are beyond the reach of an average citizen. If the people of Illinois agreed with Mr. Roeser, they would have written in the Constitution of Illinois a provision requiring from the gubernatorial candidates some time of apprenticeship in Springfield. They did not. On the other hand, the objection of inexperience is reasonable in the light of a practical observation: that every power transition or reform goes easier, smoother and with fewer surprises if a new leader grows up within a system. In other words, an experienced candidate gives a better guarantee of stability in the existing political system.

With the state -- practically -- financially bankrupt, and with a long list of top politicians charged with corruption, one should ask how much of the current "stability" of the Illinois political system we want to keep. To find a pragmatic answer to this question "we do not need to discover America again," as a Polish saying goes. Quite the opposite: we need to return to the fundamentals of our political system.

The Founding Fathers noticed that every political system has a tendency to create a political caste of bureaucrats that are inclined to abuse political power for their personal benefit. For this reason, we have constitutional provisions allowing outsiders like Adam Andrzejewski to run for political office. Therefore, instead of complaining in this time of crisis that outsiders are running for top office, we should praise the political system we have and be thankful for people who are willing to risk their own well-being for the good of the state.

At the high point of his critique of inexperience of Andrzejewski, Roeser writes, "Do you want a brain surgeon to remove your tumor who's chief claim is that he isn't burdened by past surgical mistakes? Do you want an airline pilot who is a citizen pilot, willing to take a crack at the controls if somebody hands him a manual?" At first glance, this argument sounds logical. However, on second thought, one can see one more unspoken assumption: that the government and its bureaucrats do everything that is good and important within our society. This is a purely socialistic concept of a big government.

I can almost see the smirk on Mr. Roeser's face at me calling him a socialist; I know he is a hard-core Republican. However, everything depends on one's perspective. I grew up in a socialistic system, and in my youth I tried to find out how to make it work better, only to find out that it would never work at all. In the process, I learned how socialistic thinking is deeply embedded in the minds of people regardless of where they live. I have been shocked many times that the majority of Americans formally support limited government, the freedom of individuals, entrepreneurship and the free market, while at the same time, on the issues of their concern, they favor to give the government extra powers and money to do things the way they prefer. I call this "kitchen door socialism," as on its face this country is very capitalistic. However, when it comes to the nitty-gritty of political decision making, socialism sneaks in through the back door and dominates the cooking of political decisions.

As a result, in the last 10 years, the budget of the state of Illinois grew 48 percent, when the population grew only 4 percent. This increase of government spending cannot be justified by the growth of wealth, as today we are not about 40 percent richer than 10 years ago. Having hung around Springfield for years, Mr. Roeser knows that gentlemen do not talk about money. He knows that it is impossible to talk seriously about a 40 percent budget cut. Soon it could be as unthinkable as the bankruptcy of General Motors. However, this is not what one can learn in Springfield.

One can find many points to criticize Adam Andrzejewski. However, no one can take away from him that he is trying to grab a bull by its horns. Overblown government spending puts a burden on the whole state. Without addressing this issue, no improvement is possible. Adam set the bar high for all other potential gubernatorial candidates. Can we just agree that whoever wants to join the race should have at least a better plan to put state finances in order?