When barbers employed by the state earn an average annual wage of nearly $66,000, compared to the average Illinois private sector barber’s $27,600, something is amiss, says the increasingly visible Illinois Policy Institute, which bills itself as a nonpartisan research organization attempting to bring specific ideological solutions to public policy.
The example, meant to show a disparity between public employees and their private sector equivalents, is one of 17 job titles the Institute used in its “Mind the Gap” report issued early last month. The report is prime material for stirring taxpayer anger, provides fuel for an anti-tax debate and exemplifies part of the Institute’s ideological bent – the state spends too much money, taxpayers are overburdened and government interference pushes out businesses, jobs and prosperity. Formed in 2002, the Institute backs “free-market” or “free enterprise” principles, which argue that the economic laws of supply and demand govern more effectively than any coercive bureaucratic entity.
With eye-popping reports like “Mind the Gap,” a $2.2 million budget and scores of angry taxpayers looking for something to stand behind, the relatively young Institute, with its established perspective, has the means to become a major voice in Illinois public policy. Whether that voice can be both compelling and worthwhile – truly nonpartisan and backed by comprehensive data – is a question that is now, and will likely remain, on the minds of those in Illinois’ political arena.