By John Ruberry

“And it was inevitable that some of these people pushed back…”
Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles.

Overtaxed residents of Cook County, where Chicago is, are finally waking up. After decades of being slapped by tax after tax–folks are fighting back.

Last week the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted to repeal a hated penny-per-ounce sweetened beverage tax, one that until the repeal takes effect on December 1, places a 39 percent tax on a $4.88 12-pack of soda pop.

“The pop tax is dead, but the issue is bigger than the pop tax,” Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey (D-Chicago) told the Chicago Tribune’s John Kass last week. “The issue here is that the people of Chicago and Cook County are not used to having their voices heard and making a difference, with public outrage forcing an elected body to reverse course. This is something.”

Cook County Board President Toni “Taxwinkle” Preckwinkle (D-Chicago) last year had to issue a rare tie-breaking vote last year to enact the soda tax, which took effect two months ago. Last week commissioners voted 15-2 to kill it.

Over the years Cook County imposed with little pushback a 0.75 percent sales tax, along with tobacco, gasoline, and liquor taxes, as well as an additional one-percent sales tax. Okay, there was a rebellion with that last one. Taxwinkle defeated her unpopular predecessor in a Democratic primary on the promise to repeal it–and she followed through. Then five years later she led the effort to successfully bring it back.

Chicagoans pay the nation’s highest sales tax rate.

Meanwhile Chicago residents have been pulverized by repeated property tax hikes to mainly pay for underfunded municipal worker pensions. Illinoisans just got socked with a 32 percent income tax increase, much of that money will go to pension obligations. And Taxwinkle has said that some of that soda tax money is needed for county worker pensions.

Taxwinkle dismissed criticism of the pop tax, which she ludicrously claimed was a public health measure, as the message of Big Soda. Yes, the American Beverage Association’s Can the Tax Coalition did pay for television, radio, and internet ads calling for a repeal. But Taxwkinkle enlisted the aid of “Nanny” Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York City mayor, to pay for pro-soda tax ads. And after the Illinois Retail Merchants Association delayed imposition of the soda tax, Taxwinkle quickly sued the group for $17 million in lost revenue, exposing her “it’s for our kids’ health” argument as a lie.

Toni “Taxwinkle” Preckwinkle

No figures are available, but anecdotal evidence is abundant that Cook County residents in droves have been driving to collar counties and Indiana to purchase pop since collection of the soda tax began. And does anyone think they were only buying soda on these grocery runs? And gee whiz, do you think they noticed that gasoline, and well, a whole lot of other things are cheaper outside Crook County?

Fill ‘er up. Oh, grab a case of beer too! Oh, and buy that stuff as long as we are here. And this stuff too!

Democratic office holders–and not just county ones–heard the sharp message from ordinary citizens: get rid of this tax!

The repeal of the sugary drink tax repeal is a big victory for long suffering Cook County residents such as myself. Cook is heavily Democratic. Hillary Clinton won nearly three-quarters of the vote in last year’s presidential election. Cook County hasn’t had a Republican president of the Cook County Board in nearly five decades, which is when the county’s population peaked.

Yet people in one of America’s bluest counties screamed “Enough” and they pushed back.

But this victory is only partial. The soon-to-be-canned soda tax is only a symptom. Voters need to understand why Taxwinkle needs to spend so much. Pensions for unionized retirees are only part of it. Taxwinkle has been building a massive “free” public-health care network that caters to the jobless and Cook’s burgeoning illegal immigrant community since taking office seven years ago.

Chicago is a sanctuary city and Cook is a sanctuary county. And last month our state’s Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, signed a bill making Illinois a sanctuary state.

These may be the type of governments that Illinois voters want. If it is, then so be it. But prepare to pay dearly for it too.

John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Cook County resident, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Sign inside Niles, Illinois supermarket

By John Ruberry

I’ve written a couple of columns at Da Tech Guy, one here and one here, about Cook County’s hated one-cent-per-ounce soda tax championed by County Board President Toni “Taxwinkle” Preckwinkle, a left-wing Democrat. But the question I’ve been only alluding to here and on my own blog is this one: Why is this money needed?

And the soda pop tax is only the latest outrage. Like other counties, Cook levies property taxes, but it also mugs residents and anyone who buys something here with a 1.75 percent sales tax, along with gasoline, liquor and tobacco taxes.

(Those cheers you just heard come from retailers with shops on the other side of the Cook County line.)

Toni “Taxwinkle” Preckwinkle

County government in most places means the operation of a court system and a jail, providing law enforcement, particularly in unincorporated areas (Cook has few of those), and road maintenance. But in Cook County–Chicago is its seat–county government means building a massive health care network, the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, paid for by long-suffering taxpayers such as myself, and one that caters to the estimated 300,000 illegal immigrants living here.

Chicago is a sanctuary city and Cook is a sanctuary county.

A DNA Chicago article about plans for a new county health facility on Chicago’s Northwest Side that will replace a much smaller one, contains a revelation on where all of that tax money is going.

Once it’s running at full capacity, Carey [a county official] expects the site — one of 17 free clinics [emphasis mine] operated around the county — to host about 37,000 doctors’ visits annually, she said.

Keep in mind, this is just one clinic.

More…

The proposal has been brewing since at least 2015, when doctors told newly elected Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. that they had “outgrown” the Logan Square facility, Arroyo said.

Instead of expanding it, county health officials began looking for a new location, where more immediate neighbors could take advantage. They landed in Belmont Cragin, whose estimated 12,000 undocumented residents [emphasis mine again] has one of the largest clusters of uninsured people in the city, Arroyo said.

Leftism is expensive. Sure, some of what is spent on county health care for illegal aliens is reimbursed by another arm of government. Emergency visits at county-run Stroger Hospital come to mind as does the expensive state-funded All Kids program. Hey, they get me coming and going in Illinois, that’s for sure. But who pays for the salaries and generous benefits for the county doctors, nurses, dentists, and administrators? Not Kim Jong Un, that’s for sure.

Princely but underfunded county worker pensions are another reason “Taxwinkle” needs her taxes.

As a political blogger I natural follow current events. But I don’t recall the conversation about the need for Cook County to transform itself into a welfare state, particularly for illegals, as well as a retirement program for not-working-so-hard county employees. But that’s what county government has evolved into here.

And taxes and spending keep soaring, even though the population of Crook County, oops, I mean Cook County, peaked around 50 years ago, when the county last had a Republican running it and when none of these taxes existed.

Yes, leftism is very expensive.

John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Cook County resident, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Latvian camp, Three  Rivers, Michigan
Latvian camp, Three Rivers, Michigan

By John Ruberry

Mrs. Marathon Pundit and I will be attending at party tonight in Chicago’s northwestern suburbs–a birthday celebration for one of her closest friends. Like my wife, her friend is an immigrant from Latvia. Both are in the country legally, Mrs. MP is a US citizen.

I imagine there will be about 50 guests there, of those, about a dozen of them are in the United States illegally. Most of them have shadow-jobs–caring for the elderly, for children, or cleaning homes and offices.

They’ve come here to work and if their hopes are realized, live here as Americans.  Even if a million more Latvians arrived in America. they would not dramatically change the national character. The same can be said of most other Eastern Europeans–or Koreans or Chinese.

That’s because these ethnic groups aren’t demanding bilingual education, nor are there institutionalized civil rights groups demanding it on their behalf. While these nationalities often seek to keep ties to the culture of the old country–my daughter used to attend Latvian school every Saturday–they usually immerse themselves in American way of life.

Last week President Obama issued an executive order that will prevent deportations of five million illegals–those  dozen guests at the party I’ll be socializing with tonight will likely be covered by that decree.

Obama eloquently spoke in his speech announcing the order about the travails of what he and his fellow liberals call “undocumented” Americans. But he left out two items that most Americans have always expected of immigrants–that they learn English and they accept American culture. It’s what Newt Gingrich calls “patriotic immigration.”

That’s what this nation needs.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

by baldilocks

Die Mauer
Die Mauer

I wrote the following in 2007, back when then-President George W. Bush and the Republican Party were considering blanket amnesty for illegal aliens. It seems so quaint now to think that there would have ever been a real security fence built along what used to be our southern border. And in the wake of President Obama’s Thursday speech where he said openly that he intends to grant amnesty to [insert number here] million illegal aliens via Executive Order, it’s interesting to look back and see that neither he nor his party is alone in the desire to sell out the American people.

He and the Democrats are merely less polite about it. And my conclusion seems not so tin-foil hattish anymore.

Previously, I made an analogy using the already-mandated but yet-to-be built wall on the southern US border to the unlamented Berlin Wall, saying that such a US border wall should have “the ease and efficiency of surveillance which the architects of the Berlin Wall would have envied.” However, I hope that no one would read it and make the erroneous assumption that the two barriers would have the same purpose.

It seems that Jeff Jacoby, however, would have readers believe that the builders of the two had/have identical intent and, for this reason, that President Reagan–were he alive and whole–would be an advocate of the Illegal Immigration Compromise (my coinage).

Twenty years ago this week in Berlin, President Reagan uttered his memorable challenge: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Conservatives who extol Reagan’s legacy might ask themselves what he would have thought of the idea that our response to hard-working risk-takers so eager for a piece of the American Dream that they endanger life and limb to come here should be a Berlin-style wall of our own.

(Emphasis mine.)

But for the analogy to make sense, a US border fence’s main purpose would be to keep US citizens from escaping to a freer country, not the other way around. (To be fair, I suggested here—borrowing the idea from Victor Davis Hanson [God comfort him]–that a secondary purpose of a border fence would be somewhat similar to that of the Berlin Wall; that it would make it more difficult for Mexican nationals living in the US to travel back to their country of origin, and thus, be one of the prongs which could force them to at least try to assimilate to their new home’s culture and society.)

Here’s another area in which the analogy breaks down. The Federal Republic of Germany’s (then known as West Germany) pre-1989 policy towards its Soviet-controlled brethren to the East was always geared toward reunification (Articles 23 and 146 in West Germany’s Grundgesetz; roughly translated as ‘Constitution.’*)–especially after the 1960-1961 Soviet construction of the Berlin Wall between French, UK and USA-controlled West Berlin and Soviet-controlled East Berlin. Therefore, any escapees from the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and from East Berlin specifically were treated as West German citizens. Additionally, West Germany’s legendary Chancellor Willy Brandt (previously mayor of West Berlin during the construction of the Berlin Wall and, subsequent to that, West Germany’s foreign minister) was the architect of Ostpolitik–a policy to normalize diplomatic, economic and cultural relations with the Soviet Union, Poland and, most importantly, East Germany—something which was very controversial at time, to understate things. However, today the policy is viewed as another important step in the path toward the subsequentpolitical reunion of the two countries.

With that history in mind, Jeff Jacoby’s idea that Ronald Reagan would view the intent of a proposed US border fence on either or both borders the same as the intent of the Berlin Wall makes plausible the idea that our betters have a plan similar to that of the rather tin-foil hattish North American Union—a political union between Canada, the USA and Mexico. Is that what he is suggesting is being prevented? Probably not; though I’ve been wrong before.

*A more accurate translation: ‘Basic Law.’ IIRC, my German language teachers said that the difference between a Grundgesetz and a Verfassung (Constitution) was that the latter could only exist in a country that was whole. However, the Grundgesetz remains in force today.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2009; the second edition in 2012. Her second novel, tentatively titled, Arlen’s Harem, will be done in 2015.

Please contribute to Juliette’s Projects: Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

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