Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rahm Emanuel treading wrong path

By John Bachtell

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel summoned the Chicago Federation of Labor leadership to his office Wednesday and handed them an ultimatum: agree to certain "work rule" changes that he says will result in $20 million in savings or face 625 layoffs of public workers. The threat comes as a two year concession agreement between Daley Administration and organized labor expires.

Understandably, the threat didn't sit well with labor leaders. In a statement, CFL President Jorge Ramirez said,

"The current city budget deficit was not created by city workers. It was created by politicians unilaterally imposing added sacrifices in a complete disregard for the collective bargaining process and disrespect for workers’ rights. It is unacceptable to assign any cost associated with the expiration of the two-year deal to the current city workforce.

There have been absolutely no negotiations between the city and the unions representing the city’s workforce.

In an effort to address the larger structural deficit in the city’s budget, organized labor has been working to identify significant cost savings through efficiencies and best practices on behalf of taxpayers.

Mayor Emanuel has asked for our ideas and the city’s unions have taken his request to heart. We have contracted with an expert municipal budget analyst to identify logical and sound ways to save the city money. We plan to present this report to the Mayor in the coming weeks."

Even if this further concession is agreed to, the $20 million will hardly put a dent in an estimated $500 million city deficit. In any case, it seems like Emanuel expects the working class of the city to bear the brunt for this economic and fiscal crisis.

On the same day, Emanuel touted new jobs creation when he visited a Walgreens store in the South Side African American community. There the chain announced the hiring of 300 workers over the next two years for stores across the city.

In all likelihood, a substantial number of the public workers Emanuel is threatening to lay off are African American and Latino. Swapping unionized workers making decent wages and benefits with low wage service jobs doesn't seem to help economic development.

Just the other day, Emanuel's new Chicago Board of Education rescinded a wage increase for 32,000 CPS teachers and pushed to weaken pensions of state workers in the last state legislative session.

He has the chance to use his voice to speak up for America's cities and demand massive emergency federal assistance and new federal priorities. Instead, he very publicly decided not to vote on a resolution passed by the US Conference of Mayors calling for a speedy end to the Afghanistan war and redirecting the desperately needed money to our cities.

Instead Emanuel proposed in a speech to cut the tax rate U.S. companies pay on profits earned overseas — or “repatriated” — only on the condition the money is “guaranteed” to be used for infrastructure projects.

Instead of demanding corporations pay their taxes and sacrifice some of their profits, he remained silent when the Chicago Mercantile Exchange threatened to leave the state unless their taxes were cut.

He's also decided to remain silent on renegotiating the privatization of the parking meter deal that handed billions in revenue to Morgan Stanley Bank for a song. It was reported by Bloomberg,

"Chicago drivers will pay a Morgan Stanley-led partnership at least $11.6 billion to park at city meters over the next 75 years, 10 times what Mayor Richard Daley got when he leased the system to investors in 2008."

It's pretty clear which side Emanuel is on and it looks like the Mayor's relationship with organized labor and the working people of Chicago will be a rocky one to say the least.

Blagojevich lesson: take the money out of politics

By John Bachtell
“Politics is a dirty business,” remarked a juror after former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was convicted on 17 counts of corruption June 27. Blagojevich is expected to serve years in prison for attempting to sell Pres. Barack Obama’s US Senate seat among other crimes.

The media feeding frenzy is for the moment over. Left in its wake is the wreckage of Blagojevich’s family whose two children will now have to grow up without him around.

But the long-term damage also includes reinforcing deadly cynicism among voters about politics generally. A lot of people around here shrug their shoulders as if to say, “so what’s the big deal, what did Blagojevich do that isn’t done by them all?”

Dick Simpson, former Chicago alderman and current University of Illinois political science teacher, co-authored a study entitled “Curing Corruption in Illinois.” The study said corruption has been a fact of life for over 150 years in the state. In addition to 3 governors, over 1,000 Illinois elected officials have been imprisoned for corruption since 1970.

This is about more than sending a few bad apples to jail. Unfortunately, swept under the rug with Blagojevich’s conviction is the wider system of corruption rooted in the politics dominated by big corporate money that showers candidates with cash in exchange for bigger returns.

The history of capitalist politics and government has been riddled with corruption. Anytime you have money and greed involved in politics you will have corruption. The more money involved the more corruption.

And socialism historically has not been immune either, although for different reasons. This shows the need for checks and balances, transparency and grassroots democratic watchdogs.

After Blagojevich was impeached in 2009, public outrage was high and there was a lot of support for passage of far reaching anti-corruption reforms.

The General Assembly passed some limited reforms that were signed by Gov. Quinn. But they didn’t get to the crux of the problem and dismantle the system that gives rise to it.

Corruption is not only about an individual elected official benefiting. It’s about the wealthy and well connected benefitting and taxpayers losing.

The jury forewoman in the Blagojevich trial, Connie Wilson said the “veil of corruption in Illinois is one of the reasons the state struggles with solving problems,” she said.

Simpson tied the corruption to the machine patronage system that has dominated Chicago and state politics for nearly as long. Graft and the “pay to play” politics, a nice euphemism for bribery, is deeply endemic to the system.

Blagojevich’s father was a steelworker and he always had liberal inclinations later as a lawmaker. His populist appeal and refusal to always be a “team player” with the political bosses endeared him to a lot of voters.

But once he got introduced to the “Chicago way” through his father-in-law, Alderman Dick Mell, he was on a track that would eventually lead him to his day in court.

Political contributions by wealthy and big corporate interests demand some favor in return. Privatization of public assets widens the door for corruption. Big money pours in to determine who gets the spoils and represents a whole new system of patronage.

The potential for corruption is now far worse with the right wing dominated Supreme Court ruling in the Citizen’s United case. Unregulated and unlimited corporate money is flooding the electoral arena.

Even the best of candidates and elected officials are vulnerable. With the cost of elections at every level making it almost prohibitive for working people to run, raising money is a full time occupation. It’s almost inevitable that promises will be made.

The main solution to corruption in politics is to remove the influence of money through publicly funded elections. It would mean the election of reform governments at the local, state and federal level dedicated to carrying out such a reform.

In fact, the labor-led all people’s coalition that is fighting for jobs, equality, and a green, demilitarized economy that works for all, must make electoral reform a part of it’s program to limit and do away with corruption and to provide transparency.

And reform candidates who represent the labor-led coalition must stick to the grassroots coalition. Once elected, they need an active, mobilized grassroots constituency to ensure they are doing the right thing.

Fighting for our future » cpusa

Fighting for our future » cpusa