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Do they really think voters are that dumb?

Monday, October 15, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Dennis Byrne

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.


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