Thursday, November 29, 2007
Beavers wrong to inject race in county tax debate
Cook County Commissioner William Beavers likes to call himself "the hog with the big nuts." We think he's nuts, all right,
especially for injecting race into the county tax debate.
Beavers Tuesday claimed Cook County Board President Todd Stroger couldn't get his tax increase passed "because he's black." That's hogwash.
Beavers' argument belittles legitimate claims of racial discrimination by irresponsibly raising the issue of skin color in a fiscal discussion. Mayor Daley raised taxes, and nobody liked that white guy's idea, either.
Taxpayers of all colors are fed up with overtaxation in Chicago, in Cook County, in Illinois. You name it. Even Stroger, when he was trying to sell this page his big tax plan, admitted he didn't like taxes: "Nobody ever wants to pay taxes. I don't want to pay taxes. I don't care what it is," he said.
But if Stroger gets his way, county taxpayers -- who are already paying three-quarters of a cent on every dollar spent in Cook County -- would have the highest sales tax in the nation. Chicagoland can't become a playground only for the filthy rich, the ones who can shrug off paying a combined 11 percent sales tax. Stroger's additional 2 percent tax scheme would ultimately raise almost $1 billion in 2009. The county's 2008 shortfall is $239 million. Stroger promises he'll give back what he doesn't spend.
We're not buying that.
This whole budget scenario conjures a horror flick. And to borrow from Beaver's imagery, Stroger has let the political hog run wild after our money. Beavers is like some Hogzilla threatening people with the racist label if they disagree with Stroger's budget. It's almost as if Beavers is trying to convince us that black people are in favor of more taxes.
"That's ridiculous. There's a big backlash against Todd Stroger. He came in and cut a lot of people then went back to the old patronage system and put in his own people," said Alan Holman, 40, who is black and from the South Side. "The duplicity of the whole thing has turned a lot of people off. What Beavers said, that was playing the race card."
Anyone advocating new taxes in this economic downturn is going to be met with strong resistance, no matter what color his or her skin is. Notice that no presidential candidate is running on a ticket of raising income taxes. There's a reason.
Stroger needs to stop letting Beavers be his mouthpiece. He needs to denounce racial rhetoric and be the political tactician the public needs. Stroger must stand up for all taxpayers -- black, white, and brown. He's got to be his own man and defend his own plan. Daley did it: He didn't get a rubber stamp on his tax plan. More than 21 aldermen voted against his property tax. Some of the dissenters were black, white and Hispanic. Neither tax plan is about race.
Stroger should listen to what Daley said. "A leader can lead -- and a leader can also hear."
Will Henderson, an online consultant manager who is African American from South Shore, called Beavers' comment "absolutely stupid" and "blatantly racist . . . I think the budget is more so about green, not black or white -- it's about money."
And so do we.