Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Cronies and Tumbleweeds

Not long ago, a friend of mine was grousing about the state of affairs in Chicago. He works downtown, not in a suit, but in work boots, with tools and sweat. Yes, it was about the taxes - he carries his lunch and bottles his own water. And the fees - he spends over four hundred dollars a month to park. He can't take public transportation - he needs to haul his tools. He won't be getting a newer, more fuel efficient car, he says, because the would-be car payment is drained away by taxes and parking garages.

He listens to the gripes of building owners, about their tenants' threats to move to the suburbs. Or out of state. He 'gets' that - he wants to move, too. Business is getting slower. He says that he and the guys he works with no longer believe that democrats, "progressives", are looking out for the interests of the 'little' guys. And, he says, he's "fed up".

In his article in, Steve Bartin makes the same argument, from a wider perspective - he argues that Chicago itself is in decline. Some may disagree, in part because it's not declining for everyone:

"The largest employer in the city of Chicago is the Federal government. Followed by the City of Chicago public School system. Other major employers are the city of Chicago, the Chicago Transit Authority, the Cook County government, and the Chicago Park District. These thousands of government workers provide the backbone of the coalition for higher taxes, generous pensions and “political stability”.

Chicago’s political system is inefficient and costly. There are no term limits in Chicago. The Democratic Party has controlled the Mayor’s office since 1931(a big city record). There’s no opposition: Democrat’s control 49 out of 50 seats on the city council. Corruption is everywhere. Barely a month can go by without a major scandal. The FBI has the largest public corruption squad in the United States located in Chicago . Chicago voters don’t seem to care. Those who care about high taxes, good public schools, and low crime are a small minority in Chicago."
What is the reason for that small minority? Yes, maybe it's related to the number of Chicagoans on the government payroll. Maybe some believe that candidates of a different stripe will simply be removed from the ballot, and have given up, and maybe some just don't give a damn. But it's also possible that many of "those who care about high taxes, good public schools, and low crime" are no longer in Chicago.
Recently, the Web site Real Clear Politics listed two Chicago area Congressional districts among the country’s ten fastest-shrinking districts, in terms of percentage of population lost between 2000 and 2005. Jan Schakowsky’s district lost 7.9 percent of its population. Congressman Rahm Emanuel’s district lost 5.1 percent.
Unless the goal is to have 100% of the remaining (democrat) population employed by the government, the "progressive" idea that businesses should be treated like a rat infestation doesn't seem to be working out very well. (Now that I think about it - maybe rat infestation was a bad example. Sorry.) Again, from Steve Bartin's article:
Chicago’s high tax life style has driven businesses and jobs to the suburbs. Chicago is one of the only towns in America with an employee head tax on employment. Companies with over 50 employees must pay $4 a month per employee to the city. Most of the major corporate headquarters in the Chicago area are located in Chicago’s suburbs. Motorola, Walgreens, All State, Kraft, Anixter, Illinois Tool Works, McDonald’s, Alberta-Culver, and Abbott Labs all have their corporate headquarters outside city limits.
According to the Ask Illinois poll, commissioned by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, individual taxpayers are also understandably angry about incessant tax increases:
Even as many taxpayers scramble to pay their federal taxes, a new poll released today shows widespread dissatisfaction with the Chicagoland tax climate which has burdened the region’s taxpayers with more than $1.2 billion in higher city, county and state taxes in the past six months. Among the most astounding findings: more than 92 percent of Cook County residents polled said the latest tax increases will affect who they vote for in future elections, while nearly 76 percent said the pending 10.25 percent sales tax rate will change their purchasing behavior and cause them to travel outside of Cook County to avoid paying higher sales tax.
Raise the cigarette tax, revenue decreases. Raise the bottled water tax, revenue decreases. What part of raise taxes and revenue decreases do they not understand? But, as Abraham Maslow said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” Short of revenue? Increase government and raise taxes.
“This poll confirms that there is widespread anger and dissatisfaction about the current tax climate in our region and voters plan to hold their elected officials accountable at the ballot box,” said Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jerry Roper. “Despite raising taxes by $1.2 billion within the past six months, we continue to hear officials at every level of government threaten to raise taxes again, but we’re reaching a tipping point where our region’s economic competitiveness is at risk. Our elected officials must recognize that enough is enough.”
Well, we'll see if that happens. If you live in Chicago, I'll bet you think it isn't likely. Not unless the graftily employed get a sudden ethics-attack, and those who are too cynical or don't care are suddenly filled with awareness and hope. My hard-working friend doesn't think it's likely, either. He says, "These guys won't be happy 'til there's nuthin' downtown but cronies and tumbleweeds."

Cronies and tumbleweeds. And flower pots. Let's not forget the flower pots.

(H/T Illinoize, who is also discussing Steve Bartin's article here)


El Rider said...

Flower pots indeed but let's not forget wrought iron fences and boulevards! When Michelle Obama went on about how people shouldn't work in the private sector I wondered what she was on but I should have realized that she is just another one of the useless people in our town. I love it when my liberal friends and reltives complain about taxes that effect them yet they get indignant if the subject turns to lowering taxes on others.

Pat said...

You're right - I forgot the fences!

Funny thing, how some folks treat taxes like the ultimate moral good - until it's their own ox that gets gored.

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