By John Ruberry
Democrats, particularly Chicago Democrats, love political dynasties. Before Mayor Carter Harrison Jr. there was Carter Harrison. Before Richard M. Daley there was Mayor Richard J. Daley.
In Mike Royko’s indispensable study of urban machine politics, the Pulitzer Prize columnist wrote, “The Dan Ryan is the expressway that [Richard J.] Daley takes to City Hall. Daley named the expressway after Dan Ryan, another big South Side [Democratic] politician who was named after another big South Side politician.
Lisa Madigan, Illinois’ four-term attorney general will leave office next year. Her father is state House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago, he is also the state Democratic Party chairman and the most powerful Dem in Illinois–even when there is a Democratic governor.
You get the idea.
The younger Daley’s brother, William, is a candidate for mayor of Chicago. Normally such a notion would be a stupendous joke. After all, Chicago’s financial mess, centered on an unsustainable $42 billion in pension debt–$35,000 per household–is Richie’s creation. “Elect the younger brother of the guy who made Chicago bankrupt in all but name” is not a compelling campaign slogan.
You’ve heard of Bill Daley. He was commerce secretary for Bill Clinton, chairman of the 2000 Al Gore presidential campaign, and chief of staff under Barack Obama. Daley has had a lot of private sector experience too, including a stint as president of SBC Communications. Okay, if you are a Democrat, then you’ll say, “Well, his resume looks pretty good. ” And Chicago Dems love political royal families.
But what about the pensions?
On Fox 32’s Flannery Fired Up on Sunday, Daley promised a plan to fix the pension debacle soon. Well, part of his plan came out yesterday during a speech to the venerable City Club of Chicago. Daley is open to a commuter tax.
Time for some history. Businesses and residents were fleeing Detroit in the 1950s and the early 1960s. The solution, Jerome Cavanaugh, the Motor City’s liberal mayor reasoned, was a municipal income tax and a commuter tax. The version of the decline and fall of Detroit you are familiar with is that the deadly 1967 riots fostered the city’s collapse. While it surely hastened it, the seeds of Detroit’s failure, which culminated in the historic 2013 bankruptcy, was planted by Cavanaugh’s income and commuter taxes. Even today Eight Mile Road, the northern border of Detroit, is the demarcation line for poverty and prosperity.
To be fair, Daley is not suggesting a Chicago income tax and he favors amending the pension clause–great idea–in the state constitution that forbids cutting pension benefits.
But if Daley’s commuter tax becomes law, look for the 14-lane Dan Ryan Expressway to be one of the thoroughfares out of Chicago for a multitude of residents and businesses.
There is one Detroit example Chicago should follow–declare bankruptcy. The Motor City is on the rebound. But Illinois law currently prevents bankruptcies for municipalities.
That law needs to be changed.
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.