Thursday, October 16, 2008

Chicago budget crisis - take it from the rich!

By John Bachtell

Here's a few random thoughts about Mayor Daley’s proposals to deal with the $469 million Chicago city budget deficit, the worst budget crisis in 20 years.

First, I think the budget crisis is real and will get worse given the deepening economic crisis, including the record jobless figures announced Oct. 1. I agree with his estimate that this crisis will last for several years.

Mayor Daley acts as though Chicago is in a bubble. But Chicago is not alone in this crisis, and cities, counties and states across the country are in the same dire straits. But this is a crisis that could be solved were economic and spending priorities at every level different.

Secondly, every single funding or program cut and tax or fee increase Daley proposes impacts working families. The 1,080 layoffs and decision to not fill another 1,346 vacant city jobs will severely impact city services, especially streets and sanitation.

I’m not one who believes you can provide the same level of services when you fire nearly 2,500 workers. No amount of “efficiencies” can overcome that hurdle, unless of course you mean doing away with privatization and the skimming inherent with it. The well-timed Daley tirade against some sanitation workers who were found goofing off is a cover to convince the public the cuts won’t make a difference. Then there are the padded payrolls with friends and contractor cronies of Daley.

The cuts in services come at a time when we should be demanding an expansion of services to residents and we need far more money for that.

Every proposed fee increase – downtown parking tax, sporting event tickets, overdue library books, ambulance fee increases, residential guest parking permits, more cameras to catch drivers who run red lights, slapping the Denver boot on cars with two tickets – will impact working families more heavily.

In addition we will be paying more for a ride on the CTA. And basic costs are skyrocketing for education, health care, housing and food.

Our schools are severely under funded (we parents are expected to spend a lot of time fund raising from each other and pay school fees in a growing instances); our roads, bridges and public transit systems are in dire need of repair and will cost billions to fix.

What I was waiting to hear from the Mayor was an announcement he was abandoning the neo-liberal policies of privatization, forced gentrification and tourism as the economic engine that he’s been foisting on the city as a model of economic growth. It’s a loser and has gotten working class neighborhoods into a fine mess, but it’s made a few people very rich.

I was waiting for one word about sacrifice by the immensely wealthy of our city – the huge corporations, including the Board of Trade and the Mercantile Exchange. I’m still waiting and since the powerful corporate forces have Daley in their hip pocket, I suspect I’ll be waiting a long time.

Thirdly, nickling and diming working class residents who are already drowning in bills will, not solve this budget crisis and the one faced by the state. The costs to run the city are too steep, and rising. It will just force working families to cut back on something else.

There are some ideas to take some money from the Midway or Skyway privatization schemes and the TIFF accounts. I'm all for that. But I don’t think it will be enough.

The budget crisis will be overcome by reordering national spending priorities so our cities and states get an infusion of badly need funds. And we can only do that by ending the Iraq war, cutting wasteful military spending and taxing the wealthy and big corporations.

Mayor Daley and every elected official ought to be leading a movement to join with states and municipalities across the country to demand emergency aid for our cities from the Washington DC.

In addition, Daley should lead the fight for a new national economic recovery act to radically expand the purchasing power of working people, a recovery act whose centerpiece would be a jobs program to create millions of new jobs rebuilding our infrastructure and opening our closed factories by manufacturing wind turbines and solar panels, etc. That would bring in a lot more tax revenues.

Daley ought to be leading the charge for raising the minimum wage and a living wage. That would be good penance for vetoing the Big Box Living Wage Ordinance, which would have lifted the wages of all big box workers. Instead the Mayor sided with Wal-Mart to drive down wages. This would have provided millions more in annual spending in the city.

Daley ought to be getting on the buses like thousands of other trade unionists and Chicago residents and go to the swing states to turn ‘em blue! That will be the first step in getting a new national economic recovery act passed and ending the Iraq War.

Daley out to be demanding the rich and corporations pay more in taxes. But Daley won’t.

Daley ought to, but Daley won’t since his policies are driven by big business. It’s up to the rest of us to fight for a way out of this crisis that puts the onus on them.

No comments:

Post a Comment