If you are consuming your news from broadcast networks ABC, NBC, or CBS, or from cable channels Fox News, MSNBC, or CNN, you are arguably among the most misinformed, or under-informed, viewers in modern times. Not only is precious little of those outlets’ daily content composed of unbiased, need-to-know, evidence-based information; most of it is nothing more than guided speculation, therefore hardly reliable as relevant news.

I have warned readers many times that guided speculation is a sophisticated strategy to manipulate viewers and push us into predetermined conclusions. The Obama administration called it “nudging.” Cass Sunstein, the administrator of the White House Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs (RCReader.com/y/nudge1) from 2009 to 2012, co-authored a book on the subject titled Nudge, and its precepts were implemented throughout the executive branch, via executive order, to effect greater acceptance by the public of President Barack Obama’s policies and programs (RCReader.com/y/nudge2). It is doubtful the new Trump administration will disband this inter-agency behavior-modification department. The question should be: Toward what desired outcomes is the public being nudged now?

Democrats have been privately grumbling for a while now that Governor Bruce Rauner isn’t truly interested in good-faith negotiations on a balanced budget with economic reforms to end the two-and-a-half-year Statehouse stalemate.

But Senate President John Cullerton spent days and days negotiating the details of a four-year property-tax freeze with Rauner, only to have his spokesperson tell me last week that he hadn’t acceded to Rauner’s demand for a four-year freeze. So Rauner isn’t the only one to blame.

The thin-skinned Statehouse partisanship of the past two-plus years last week infected the annual fundraising gala of the Illinois Conference of Women Legislators (COWL).

COWL is a bipartisan organization that raises money every year to “assist mature women who wish to continue their undergraduate education,” according to its Web site. “The goal of the scholarship is to focus on deserving, qualified women whose educations were interrupted due to family concerns and economic problems,” the group says. Women who have shown “leadership promise through community service” are given preference.

Anyway, it’s a good organization and it’s one of two events that I never miss each year – the other one being the House-versus-Senate softball game. Both events allow legislators to do things together without partisan or leadership barriers. They help build relationships and trust. Plus, they’re both a lot of fun. And after two and a half years of watching politicians fight each other to a draw on a state budget and economic reforms, we all need the occasional good time.

In a poll conducted a few days ago by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, a record 57 percent of Americans responded that they want more government in their lives, and that the government should be doing more to solve people’s problems.

That’s the highest percentage since they started asking this question in 1995.

In fact, 57 percent is nearly double what people responded in the mid-’90s.

Furthermore, the number of Americans who feel the opposite – i.e. responded that the government is doing too many things that should be left to private businesses and individuals – fell to a near-record-low 39 percent.

Bottom line: People want more government.

It’s hard to even know where to begin with this.

Illinois has elected just two wealthy people to major statewide office in the past 20 years: former U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald and current Governor Bruce Rauner.

Both candidates won because they ran as firm, anti-establishment outsiders. Fitzgerald was best known as a state senator in the 1990s for railing against the elders who ran his Republican Party, including many who had been supplying the GOP with loads of money over the years and who’d used their positions to handsomely profit from state business. Rauner also ran against his party’s insiders when he launched his campaign, dismissing them as bought and paid for by Springfield’s special interests.

What establishment-party support both men did receive mostly came at the end of their general-election campaigns. Their personal finances, which allowed them to self-fund, kept them free of establishment taint, and that independence gave both of them credibility as outsiders. As election day neared, some establishment GOP figures decided they’d better swallow their pride and get on board. The establishment needed the insurgents more than the insurgents needed the establishment.

Billionaire Democrat J.B. Pritzker isn’t following this pattern as he campaigns for governor.

In normal times, a 40-minute late-April meeting to talk about the budget between a governor and the House speaker would be so routine that it would likely go unnoticed by pretty much everyone under the Statehouse dome. These ain’t normal times.

A funded, full-year state budget has not passed during a spring legislative session since 2013, almost exactly four years ago. We’ve had partial-year or “stopgap” budgets ever since.

And House Speaker Michael Madigan hasn’t formally met with the governor since December 6, about five months ago. Governor Bruce Rauner announced at the time there would be no more similar meetings until the Democrats were prepared to offer up a balanced budget with specific reforms – something that the governor hasn’t done since, either.

I have to admit: I don’t normally read the e-mails from the Farm Bureau. I probably should pay more attention to rural politics, but I’m really just in it for the car insurance. And I’ve selected that provider for the most Iowan of reasons possible: My agent goes to church with my family back home. But when I read in one of their updates that U.S. Representative David Young (R-Iowa) had gotten a bill through the House to devote a portion of our nation’s Homeland Security efforts to something called “agro-terrorism,” I perked up. The Securing Our Food & Agriculture Act passed the House last month and its Senate companion – S. 500 – is pending before the Homeland Security Committee.

Illinois now has five public universities with junk-bond credit ratings. That has to be some kind of record.

Last week, S&P Global Ratings lowered the credit score of both Southern Illinois University and Western Illinois University into junk-bond status. Eastern, Northeastern, and Governor’s State were already in junk-bond territory, and their ratings were lowered even further last week. The University of Illinois, the state’s flagship, was also downgraded to just three notches above junk status and put, with the rest of the universities, on a “credit watch with negative implications” – meaning it could be downgraded again within 90 days.

The income tax is enshrined into law but is an idea that stands in total opposition to the driving force behind the American Revolution and the idea of freedom itself. We desperately need a serious national movement to get rid of it – not reform it, not replace it, not flatten it or refocus its sting from this group to that. It just needs to go.

Although I appreciated the observation about cherry-picking studies to confirm a conclusion, in an essay (“Iowa’s War on Government-Worker Unions: Attacking Organized Labor Is Good, Divisive Politics on an Issue That Deserves Better”) devoted to the state’s alleged war on government-worker unions, the choice of an “unbiased view” was flawed.

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