by Don Washington on 2012/06/27
Yesterday our City Council gave Mayor Rahm Emanuel one more building block in his monument to crony capitalism. It is an edifice worthy of the Robber Barons from which he is descended and of the financial forces that he serves and his hoping to one day join as an equal, instead of well-treated, if not special servant. I am referring to the soon to be ordinance, which will allow the Mayor to grant contracts, based on… factors other than cost. All by itself, this terrible idea will give Mayor Emanuel even less transparency and accountability to work with but it’s not all by itself… no it’s part of a pattern of practices that exemplify crony capitalism at its worst and would make Jay Gould turn green with envy.
Thus far our Mayor has secured the right to spend as much money as he wishes, on whatever he deems necessary, with whomever he wishes, with no oversight, in regards to special security events like NATO… but really it could be any event he so deems demands special security. He could be spending that money right now and we would never know unless he bragged about it like he did with NATO. He will continue to meet in private with the same major corporations he is contracting with and selling the city to and he has made it clear that you and I do not get to know a damn thing about it. He has created an Infrastructure Bank that is run by corporate friends of his, overseen by corporate shills of his and is about as transparent as black bowling ball, wrapped in a black out curtain and locked in a man-sized safe. His Board of Education is populated by people whose animosity to public education and commitment to transform public schools into private concerns that they directly profit from is the sort of conflict of interest not seen since foxes were approved to watch henhouses. And of course there is the endless and ongoing monkey dance around TIF funds in his hands. These relationships, how he uses them on whose behalf he has been employing them is nothing but naked crony capitalism or to put it a better way legalized theft of the public trust.
When you put all of these things together what you are really seeing is how the Marmoset Machine brushes aside conflicts of interest, legalizes the transfer of billions of public dollars into the hands of private entities and insulates itself from public scrutiny all at the same time. It’s a feat of legerdemain worthy of Houdini, Machiavelli or Woland. (Extra points for anyone who remembers who the hell Woland was and why he was so partial to huge cats with forked tongues.) What he is doing is the very definition of crony capitalism and what the financial collapse of 2007, the bank bailout of 2008 and the impending calamities around student loan debt should tell us is that if anything true it’s that crony capitalism rewards the greedy by socializing their loses and privatizing as much of their profit as they can still before the whole thing collapses into a black hole. When you look at what our Mayor is up to that is exactly what’s happening to Chicago and you heard it here first sports fans. Maybe at this point a definition of crony capitalism is in order.
Crony Capitalism is a condition wherein there is no delineation between the government that regulates and/or prosecutes business and the interests of said private businesses. Its primary manifestations are as follows:
• A small clique of wealthy corporations and individuals who have an interest in being less regulated.
• A large tranche of public money not in private hands that provides a service that is essential to the state’s life.
• An interlocking set of relationships between government and corporate interests.
• The wholesale looting of the public treasury by the privatizing of its public programs.
• The pursuit of profit over the common public good.
• A lack of transparency in how public funds are spent or accounted for.
• The insulation of private interests from legal sanction and inquiry via legislation.
So let’s take a moment to remember exactly who our Mayor is. He began his career by building the bones of Mayor Daley’s pinstripe patronage machine and all the graft that flowed from that. That graft by the way, would help him one day become a Congressman but I digress. He went to work for the Clinton Administration where he was the hatchet man for NAFTA, GATT and the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act. All of which are gateway drugs to full blown crony capitalism. In return for this service he got a cushy job at Freddie Mac where he either didn’t know about epic corruption because he was never really at work or did know about epic corruption and said nothing about it and then he went to work for an investment bank while knowing nothing about investment banking. Then he became a Congressman whose top investors were… the financial sector before returning to the White House where he protected the interests for banks and insurance companies. Like I said before, his entire career is a testament to the power and pervasive reach of organized money and crony capitalism.
So this ordinance simply creates more of the legal underpinning for our Mayor to set up an unaccountable, opaque crony capitalism system. If you think about it he already has everything he needs to make it work. With just his campaign investors at the Infrastructure Bank, World Chicago Business, For a Better Chicago and the Civic Federation he has the kind gravity-distorting capital that would make Scrooge McDuck dizzy trying to imagine how much money that is. Just the shameful examples of Tim Cawley/AUSL and Mark Angelson/Fortune 500 CEO should tell you everything you need to know about inappropriate people running places that they should probably burst into flame upon entering because I always heard that vampires can’t cross into a church or home uninvited… wait a second… the Mayor invited them… frick-frackin’ figures.
The point here is that there’s all this public money to legally steal. Sure, Mayor Emanuel says the city is broke and there is a deficit but the Chicago city budget weighs in at $6.3 billion dollars that private corporations want because that money is guaranteed by the taxpayers. Also, if they have control over who pays for that budget via their control of contracting and financing, then they, corporations and rich people, will never have to pay for the taxpayer money being given to them. So for say JP-Morgan Chase of the Infrastructure Bank or other hungry predators like the CME the public sector is a lot of guaranteed sweet, sweet cash.
I know; you heard that he was creating the most accountable, transparent and open government in the city’s history. Well, he lied to you because if he said: “I will be setting up a system where really powerful people will meet in secret, rewrite the rules to open new markets and extract billions from the public trust to place in their private hands.” You’d probably take to throwing rocks at his house and burning him in effigy on street corners. So let’s just say this, Mayor Emanuel is engaged in crony capitalism and our City Council is helping him. Mark my words kiddies when the chickens come home to roost they will be the size of aircraft carriers and they’ll be looking for a meal… which will be us the taxpayers.