by Don Washington on 2011/07/03
When someone with lots of money tells me that they have a plan for financial stability I know that the stability they are talking about is their own. The Civic Federation is a band of millionaires and billionaires who worship Milton Friedman and believe that the only role government should play is to enforce contracts and keep the peasants in line. When they offer up “solutions” for the public sector, which they do not believe in and only want to do harm to, you need to be clear on what motivates their “help” before you take it seriously. What they are interested in is maintaining and increasing the existing and growing inequality gap, decreasing the capacity of government to deliver services and expanding the capacity of organized money to influence/control government's ability to regulate/interfere with their activities.
The Tutorial spends a lot of time desperately trying to create the context that our media friends forget. For example, Mayor Rahm Emanuel made his personal and political fortune by helping millionaires and billionaires get more powerful and less accountable to government and society. Now the very people he's spent his entire political career helping are “suggesting” to him how he can help them garner more money and resources from us and gain more control over us; now that he's in charge or us. Man, that sounds scary because isn't the government supposed to be looking out for the common public good, not personal/private gain?
Virtually every suggestion in the Civic Federation's dubious115 page report; that keeps being pushed by the Sun-Times and the rest of the press is designed to bust unions, transfer funds from the public trust into private hands, weaken government's capacity to provide services or oversight and balance twenty years of underfunding government on the backs of the poor and middle class. This is because there is nothing civic or democratic about what the Civic Federation have in mind. These people are not on some high minded mission to save society. They don't like society, democracy gets in the damn way of their stated project which is corporatism. What is corporatism? It's the collusion between government and big business that transforms government into an ATM machine to transfer wealth to their friends in the private sector.
One of the touchstones of this blight on the public/common good is the revolving door between government and corporate businesses. One way to tell if your politician is an active force of evil is when they go through that revolving door and come out say... $11 million dollars richer after helping the corporate world make billions... That would be the very description of our present Mayor. Understand that the idea here is that politicians cede control of public resources in return for personal riches and that defines Rahm Emanuel to a tee. Now he can't do this without deploying the same divide and conquer routine they've been using on teachers.
Mayor Emanuel is not fielding suggestions from the Civic Federation, he's taking cover behind them because they are on the same team. He can “compromise” with their positions which are his preferred positions rather than addressing the structural problems that got us into this, we have given too much damn money to the members of the Civic Federation and need to get it back. Think I'm calling for class warfare or something? Don't think that what they are asking for sounds like what I'm describing? Let's take a look and tell me that I'm crazy.
They suggest we cut the City Council in half and turn the clerk and treasurer into mayoral appointees. All this really does is create less direct democracy eliminate the checks and balances on power. Having Miguel del Valle in the Treasurer's office created some real transparency in City Hall. If money is speech I want the Civic Federation, For a Better Chicago and Mayor Emanuel to have to spend money in more places not less to maintain control. You think the poor are getting ignored now, give Aldermen a chance to write off the half of their wards less likely to vote and watch how much worse their lives get.
All of the “consolidation/efficiency” suggestions have nothing to do with saving money. In order to find those savings you would need a process that would start with a forensic audit and then look for fraud and corruption before you begin cutting or “consolidating” anything and they are not doing that. Instead they are dodging the question of are we raising sufficient revenues to provide adequate public services, while pushing for the firings of public workers and providing less public services under the guise of efficiency. In order to close city health clinics and drop thousands of salary bombs all over the city of Chicago by firing thousands of workers Mayor Emanuel is going to have to do a lot of union busting or count on the unions to make those cuts for him. That's what the UAW did up in Detroit and where did all those partnerships and concessions get them? our unions here had better take heed of those lessons because they are trying to find common ground with a Mayor who doesn't think they should exist ABOVE ground. He is also going to have to deploy the same divide and conquer routine he's been using on teachers. This time it will be pitting older workers against younger ones and the public against greedy policemen and firemen. Sounds far fetched, who'd have thought they'd get you to hate ultra-rich, lazy teachers... ring a bell? This is especially true in regards to consolidating pension funds, increasing contributions by the city and its employees, reducing benefits, creating a tiered retirement system and creating a separate retiree health care trust fund.
As bad as all of the above is it is nothing compared to the real prize. The following ideas, privatizing Midway Airport; developing a “water management plan” to accurately determine all expenses, including infrastructure needs and dividing the city into “franchise areas” to hire a private waste hauler for each to service residential buildings and businesses are all straight up gifts that turn Chicago into an ATM machine for private industry. How much does it cost to create, service and manage a water system, a school system, a park system, an airport, a sanitation system, roads, water treatment and delivery services or a public health system? The answer is tens of billions and as to what each of those assets is actually worth over time to the entity that owns these assets... trillions does not cover the answer over time. These resources are public goods. Their social, political and economic worth is priceless. Our corporate friends know this. They also know that owning these assets is an endless goldmine and will give corporations even more control over the daily circumstances of living breathing citizens.
The Civic Federation is not “offering Mayor Rahm Emanuel a road-map to financial stability” it's providing him cover to do exactly what he wants and that's break unions, transfer wealth from public hands to private hands and reduce government's ability to hold corporations accountable.