Saturday, May 9, 2009

Chicago budget crisis can't be solved on workers' backs

Mayor Daley has once again decided the best way out of the Chicago budget crisis is to demand concessions from the city's workforce. The yawning budget gap has grown to $300 million with no end in sight, as the economic crisis deepens.

Daley ordered all non-unionized city personnel to take 17 days of unpaid furloughs, all of the formerly paid holidays. Now he's focusing on the 33,000 unionized workforce for the same concessions. Otherwise, he says, 1600 city workers and the services they provide will have to go.

Mayor Daley has painted himself into a quandry because he's an ardent believe in the power of the "free market" and neo-liberal policies to drive economic development. Capitalist investment will pull the city and country out of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Someone forgot to tell Daley these policies got us in this mess and they lie in a heap of rubble.

By privatizing the Skyway, parking meters and parking garages, Daley is sacrificing short term gain for long term loss of revenues. The crisis of revenues will only deepen in the years ahead.

Attacking the purchasing power of working families through furloughs and layoffs will only deepen the crisis and accelerate the downward spiral.

An immediate solution is to tap the "rainy day" fund, as the city's labor movement has said, we are living through an "economic hurricane." That includes the estimated $2.1 billion from the sale of the Skyway and the parking meters and money hidden in the various TIFF accounts. Let's open the books!

What about the city's well heeled financial kingpins? Where's the sacrifice being asked of them? Not a word! What about an emergency tax on the wealthiest families? Oh, it would drive them from the city. The largest financial institutions? The Chicago Board of Trade? Their investment provides the jobs.


Daley should be leading the charge to get congress to pass an additional federal bailout for the cities and states and another stimulus package to put the growing army of unemployed Chicagoans back to work before he asks for more concessions.

Daley should be howling about the need for a single payer health care system to relieve the city of the full cost.

Putting Chicagoans back to work is the best way to restore a steady revenue stream, but government action is essential. And the best way for that is the stepped up intervention of the federal government.

The people should rally around the labor movement and forge a new course for the city.

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