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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Of God, Taxes, and Corruption

There's a smell test that I usually use when a politician invokes the deity into a political debate. Does it seem out of place? Is this something that the politician does consistently or are they suddenly invoking the deity? For instance, Bill Clinton could be found at church only when there was political heat on him. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, evokes the lord a lot and so if she were to evoke the lord I wouldn't be quite as skeptical. (though, I understand that this would give her more license)

Last summer, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger orchestrated a massive sales tax increase on Cook County. It was widely criticized in the press. In fact, the Tribune has a continual running clock that tracks the number of days since it was passed and the number of days until the primary election, where presumably we can remove Stroger. Ever since, Stroger's opponents on the Cook County Board were constantly attempting to try and roll back some or all of that sales tax hike. All seemed to finally come together for a partial roll back.

First, there was the issue of Robert Maldonado. He was a Commissioner that recently left to become a Chicago City Councilman. County rules give ward bosses the power to choose a replacement and in this case that power laid with powerful City Councilman, Richard Mell. (and yes, the father in law of former Governor Rod Blagojevich) At first, Mell appeared to be dragging his feet. The vote was scheduled for yesterday and it initially appeared as though Mell wouldn't get around to holding the necessary vote to choose a replacement. At the last minute, Mell scheduled a meeting for last week and Edwin Reyes was chosen.

Second, was the issue of the draconian rules necessary to override a veto. In the County government, there needs to be 80% of the votes to override a veto. Yet, it appeared as though opponents of the sales tax appeared to have 14 of the 17 commissioners on their side. Then, at the last minute, Commissioner Deborah Sims went from their side to siding with Stroger. How did she justify her sudden switch a day before the vote?

we have so many unanswered questions


This is a decision I made talking to my God, whether I fall on the sword or not this is the decision I made and I will live with it.

Now, I don't know Commissioner Sims and so I don't know that she didn't consult with God before voting to continue the nation's highest sales tax. All I can say is that I hope she is being disingenuous. That's because if God advised her to allow the citizens she represents to continue to pay the largest sales tax, we're all going to be disappointed in the after life.

The history of corruption in Cook County is long and well documented. Todd Stroger has been linked to a series of patronage jobs, most at six figures and more, and the latest scandal involves one Tony Cole. Cole is a basketball playing buddy of Stroger. Cole was hired to work for the County despite having a criminal record. He was even promoted nearly immediately. While he worked for the County, he was arrested twice. On one occasion, Stroger's cousin used her own credit card to bail Cole out of jail. Cole wasn't removed until all of this reached the media.

Corrupt governments always claim that hospitals will have their funding cuts without tax increases. That's the M.O. That's exactly what's happening here. Stroger is threatening that if these taxes are cut, he'll have no choice but to cut crucial hospital services. That's what Sims is alluding to when she says that there are "a lot of unanswered questions". There certainly are. How long will the corrupt and bloated County government justify their incompetence and corruption by threatening to cut crucial services? How long will corrupt county governments be allowed to flourish with antiquated rules to require 80% votes to override a veto? How long will we cynically allow politicians to invoke God to justify bad policy?

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