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Monday, October 15, 2007

Do they really think voters are that dumb?

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Isn't there some way for fed-up citizens of Illinois, Cook County and Chicago to force their governments into receivership?

After all, when a corporation is as stunningly incompetent as are Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, legislative leaders, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and his toady City Council, creditors can force it into bankruptcy in which a court-appointed trustee straightens out the mess or, if necessary, shuts it down to preserve the remains.

If the city, county or state were corporations, their creditors long ago would have forced their operations out of the hands of the bunglers and turned it over to a court-appointed executive.

So, why shouldn't we citizens and taxpayers have the same right to protect our publicly held assets from Blagojevich, Daley, Stroger and the rest of the clinkers who have so miserably failed to govern in the interests of the governed?

I make this suggestion with tongue only slightly in cheek. Look at the shambles that our "leaders" have given us: A state run by a governor who thinks we should cough up our money for every cockamamie giveaway and tax-increase scheme he hatches. Legislative leaders whose personal animosities have turned the state capital into a preschool playpen. A Cook County government, so wildly mis-, mal- and non-managed by Stroger and his cronies that they want to hit us up with a huge sales tax increase to bail them out.

Now comes Daley with a $293 million bundle of tax, fee and fine increases, including the city's largest-ever property tax increase, to finance an operation stinking with corruption and looting. Daley says blame the aldermen knocking on his "side door" for the goodies. Well, blame whomever; Daley is giving it away to somebody.

His 2008 budget would increase expenditures by more than 5 percent, and over two years by $700 million or 12 percent. Daley laughably suggests that Chicagoans should be happy with the higher taxes because they'll get some new neighborhood libraries. More likely, the taxes will pay for such deplorable decisions as the 10-year labor contracts handed to 33 trade unions representing 8,000 city workers. Building-trade workers will continue to be paid the costly "prevailing wage," while others will get annual raises averaging as much as 4 percent. Just coincidentally, the contracts would guarantee labor peace through the 2016 Olympics, in effect, imposing a hidden Games tax.

This piano-load of new taxes lands on Chicagoans and their visitors as they already are paying some of the nation's highest taxes and fees. That's thanks to the current $5 billion budget that imposed increases of about $75 million in taxes and $11 million in fees. How tempting it is to observe that the people who have driven the city, county and state governments into their worst financial smashup in memory are Democrats, raising the question of whether Democrats are congenitally incapable of governing. Are they mathematically challenged, having been denied the basic adding and subtracting skills by the touchy-feely education they so love? Are they so insecure that they can't say no to anyone who wants a touch of our taxes, because they might be accused of lacking compassion?

Republicans, if they controlled everything, might not do any better (or worse), but that's moot isn't it, because the GOP has aced itself out of every important city, county and state office in sight.

John McCarron, one of the city's most insightful columnists, raised this issue in this space last summer, when things in Springfield looked like they couldn't get worse. Why, he wondered, when Democrats run it all, can't they win the war for their own agenda: "progressive taxation, for equal access to jobs and educational opportunities, for a semblance of social justice."

Good question, and I don't have the answer, having surrendered my liberal allegiances, as I did in my adolescence, years ago. Maybe it's a matter of greed: now that they control the pot of gold, too many hands want to dip into it. Or purity: every "program" or "service" on the agenda must be fully funded.

Or, maybe Daley himself provides the answer when he takes Chicagoans for dopes by saying they "know that if I propose raising taxes it's because we've exhausted every other option ..."

He could be right. Perhaps voters are dumb enough to knowingly elect incompetents. Maybe we don't need a trustee to fix things; maybe just smarter, more responsible voters.


Anonymous said...

Matt Doran said...

While I agree with most of this article, the quote,"Building-trade workers will continue to be paid the costly "prevailing wage," while others will get annual raises averaging as much as 4 percent.", disturbs me. Why should workers get paid less than prevailing wage? Prevailing wage is based on what the private sector is paid. If you truly want to treat government like the private sector, why not it's workers?

Anonymous said...

GREAT column/blog. However, apparently we are judging by how often we re-elect them.

Stephen Schade said...

Mr. Byrne:

One reason governments at every level are strapped for cash is that health care costs are rising at double-digit rates, far faster than taxes. The best way to control medical costs is through a nationalized system, which people like you will not support.

Another problem with the county hospital is that a large portion of patients are not residents of Cook County. As a taxpayer, I think DuPage County should build its own hospital or pay up.

Please note that only Daley actually raised taxes. Blago and Stroger so far have failed to get support for a hike.

When a corporation's costs rise, it passes them along to the consumer. Why shouldn't government do the same?

Voters make mistakes, but they eventually get it right. After all, they elected Bush not once, but twice. When they finally wised up and sent a message last year, he ignored it. Who's really dumb here?

Anonymous said...

I could have written that article (maybe not as well)! I was just wondering if there is some way we could impeach all three of these idiots. Stroger is the worst. While Blagojevich has always been horrible, now w/ Daley thrown in, this state & city are on a fastrack downhill.

No one could keep a private job and run things like they do; yet they are leading the entire state and city. I don't think the CTA fiasco is mentioned here either.

Daley is the only one I supported in the past, but no more. The city should be outraged.