by Don Washington on 2012/07/25
Last week the US Conference of Mayors met to trade tips with each other on how to run things and how things should be run. Our Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, was one of the two rock stars of the conference, the other being the Michael Bloomberg of New York City. Two interesting things here; both of these men are thought of as CEO Mayors, men of means who are dedicated to bringing fiscal sense to an out of control public sector and most every other Mayor in that room thinks that these two guys know what they’re doing. Know what they're doing... just like our CEO President, "W" they haven't a clue and this is what happens when numbers mean nothing.
Numbers mean nothing and by that I mean results. Rahm and Mikey are supposed to be “financial wizards” capable of acts of business savvy and acumen that dazzle the media and set the minds of lesser men reeling. Mike is on his third term of setting things in New York City and his signature accomplishments to date are a Stop and Frisk policy that has redefined racial profiling, privatized city services that can’t remove snow, a charter school scam that Stand for Children, AUSL and UNO can only dream of creating and an adventure in privatization that should disqualify him from ever being trusted with someone else’s money. Rahm’s work thus far has given the city a 38% spike in the homicide rate as the secret policing plan appears to be falling apart, the improbability of a now probable teacher strike becoming a near certainty in spite of everything the Mayor has done to make such a thing inconceivable and the city’s bond ratings are getting beaten around like a tetherball. One would think that their fellow Mayors would run not walk away from anything these two geniuses would come up with but we live in a world where numbers mean nothing.
When I say that numbers mean nothing I mean it. The combination of organized corporate money and its unmatched greed has become so powerful that even in the face of massive and repeated failure elected officials still worship at its feet. This leads to absurdities. For example, we know from experience that the financial sector cannot be trusted with the public’s money. Bid rigging, infrastructure swindles and the like are not accidental or episodic they are the way that large scale commercial banking is done. These people are criminals and we have the settlements, court cases and broken economy to prove it. Yet Mayors, whose city’s bond ratings and pensions have been destroyed by the LIBOR scam and other financial shenanigans, not only flock to men like Bloomberg and Emanuel… they embrace their incredibly bad ideas. They do this because numbers mean nothing in a dysfunctional system that has captured by corporate interests and bent to its will.
Here’s HOW dysfunctional and captured our municipalities are. These Mayors, from all over the country endorsed Mayor Emanuel’s I-Bank. Here’s what the bank does, it borrows money to finance projects from the very entities responsible for cities having underfunded pensions and is presently hoodwinking, finagling and stealing from municipalities all over the country on… you guessed it… large municipal infrastructure projects. One cannot be sure how our Wall Street friends are going to steal from the public trust but that they are is the way to bet. We already know for example, that this is the most expensive way to finance any kind of project and it doesn’t fully fund it ever. This is all possible because ironically men who swear by numbers are not bound by them in terms of results.
Here in Chicago, facing a budget deficit of about $600 million and billions of dollars in underfunded pension liabilities Mayor Emanuel is shoveling tax breaks to corporations and public money into private coffers as fast as he can scheme up legislation to get it done. So far nothing he has done raises money from the only entities in the city that have it… major corporations or restores the money that some of his closest friends stole from our pension funds. (Yes, manipulating LIBOR is stealing from pensions. Yes, inflating the housing bubble and the mortgage fraud that went with it was and is still is stealing from pensions. The “banking collapse” was not some act of God it was the penultimate act of a long range swindle that has us paying for the FIRE sector stealing from us by eliminating public services. Sadly, Rahm is trying to get the same corporate criminals paid for delivering the reduced services we’re going to get, get the picture?)
Right here in Chicago we are already beginning to get some idea of how Wall Street ethics mean the death of honesty, transparency and effective/decent public policy. In order to deprive teachers of an already negotiated 4% contractual raise last school year Chicago Public Schools (CPS) diverted about $70 million, largely from teacher salaries and unemployment benefits and then told the media that these payments were “owed” to CPD, and that CPS “had no choice” but to make these payments. This is what we call a straight up robbery and it should be remembered that Chicago did not get into this financial mess by paying teachers and paraprofessionals, it got into it by not taxing the CME Group and investing public pensions in the private markets. Someone should pay for what’s gone wrong but apparently it won’t be the people with the money because numbers don’t matter.
Want to talk real nonsensical? Our Mayor made a lot of promises about policing and crime prevention. To even begin to get into how hard he has either lied or failed to get his little paws around this human problem is a thousand word exercise; in and of itself. Maybe we’ll write about it tomorrow but here is an emblematic example of how Wall Street ethics lead to bad public policy with oxymoronic reasoning being par for the course because numbers don’t matter. Our Mayor and perhaps the next Superintendent of Police, First Deputy Superintendent Wysinger announced the Violence Reduction Initiative 2012. This possibly penny idiot, dollar insanely dumb idea requests that the most aggressive police officers work on their off days for overtime pay because as we all know quality policing is about writing more tickets, citing more drivers, rounding up curfew violators, arresting more people and handing out more contact cards…. Well you could make a hell of an argument for contact cards in the right context but the recent homicide spike lends one to believe that said context may not be operant. The point is that this program is about spending a boatload of cash to generate policing stats by initiating activity instead of focusing cash on programs that build relationships in communities to generate resources and trust to address crime.
This idea is both costly and likely to create more conflict in neighborhoods in need of less conflict. It has the makings of an epic, frick-frackin’ public policy fail on the face of it but maybe I’m wrong. In fact let’s hope I am but don’t bank on it because the numbers already say that this is a bad idea… it’s too damn bad that they don’t mean anything. So as the other Mayors toast Rahm and Bloomberg I find myself trying not become so enraged that I look for a legal way to have Mayor Emanuel deported to whatever bad Ayn Rand novel he got his moral compass and fiscal expertise from and I wish that numbers would finally begin to mean something.