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.

By John Ruberry

“They’ll turn us all into beggars ’cause they’re easier to please.
“The Rainmakers, Government Cheese.

“I am sick and tired of subsidizing crooks.”
Roger Keats, Toni Preckwinkle’s 2010 Republican general election opponent, announcing his move to Texas.

Last month in this space I wrote about Illinois’ bubbling soda tax rebellion in Cook County, where Chicago is. It’s where I live. Many people call it “Crook County.” I do.

After a lawsuit delayed its imposition for a month, a one-cent per ounce sweetened beverage took effect which covers not just soda–whether it has sugar or artificial sweetener–but also flavored bottled water, sports beverages, energy drinks, and sweetened coffee. But not expensive  sugary coffee purchased from a barista at a Starbucks or other high-end coffee vendors. Oh, how did that last one escape notice?

A penny-per-ounce doesn’t sound like much, but as you’ll see in my photograph on the left, a 42-ounce bottle of AriZona iced-tea on sale for a dollar at a Dollar Tree store near my home suddenly costs $1.42–that’s a 42-percent sales tax rate. A budget-minded family who purchases a 24-pack of store-brand pop (the word soda isn’t used much in the Chicago area) for $5.00 at the local big-box retailer has to dish out $7.88.

Of course the tax is “for the kids.” It always is that way with leftists.

Leftist? Who is a leftist?

Cook County Board President Toni “Taxwinkle” Preckwinkle, a Chicago Democrat, that’s who.

Proof? Do you want proof?

On my way to work on Friday I heard a clip from Dan Proft on WIND-AM Chicago of former Utah Republican politician Dan Liljenquist describing a “sobering experience” about the time he met with Preckwinkle when she was a Chicago alderman. Liljenquist was a law student at the University of Chicago and working for the Institute for Justice’s Clinic on Entrepreneurship. They were offering free legal advice to inner city Chicagoans who wished to start their own business. Liljenquist pitched his idea to Preckwinkle, who replied to him, “I’m opposed to self-employment. You give these people false hopes that they could ever earn a living on their own.”

Yes, Preckwinkle is a leftist. With leftists, government is their god. When there is a problem only government can solve it. Government, of course, is never the problem. So Preckwinkle has set herself up as Mother Preckwinkle, spending other people’s money on Cook County’s massive health care network. Perhaps private hospitals and health care institutions can do a better job, and there are plenty of them here. Sure, not all health care facilities accept Medicaid but plenty do. And what if–wait for it–instead of depending on county health care, county residents instead got jobs in the private sector and become eligible for employer-based health insurance. Or even better, let’s say they start their own businesses and hire people who become eligible for private insurance.

Oops, I’m giving them “false hopes.”

Cook County, not surprisingly, is suffering from negative population growth.

I mentioned Mother Preckwinkle. But sometimes a mother can’t do it all–she needs a nanny. Enter billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. “Nanny Bloomberg” is spending $3 million on radio and television ads supporting Taxwinkle’s tax. Opponents of the soda tax, the Can the Tax Coalition, led by retailers, are spending a lot on their ads too. Preckwinkle dismisses them as “Big Soda.”

Mother and Nanny say that the soda tax is a health care measure to prevent diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. But Taxwkinkle sued the retail group for delaying collection of the tax by for a month. You mean that the tax was not about health? After an uproar, the suit was quickly dropped.

Oh, speaking of uproar, 87 percent of Cook County residents oppose the soda tax.

Food stamp recipients, because of federal law, don’t have to pay the pop tax. There are nearly 900,000 people on food stamps in Cook County. That shoots the “for the kids” and “it’s for our health” argument to pieces.

Crook County has been living beyond its means for decades. Some of the soda tax money will go to woefully underfunded but generous pension plans. Mother Preckwinkle and her predecessors have been rewarding their public-sector union allies for most of my life.

But it’s not Preckwinkle’s money. It belongs to taxpayers such as myself.

In downtown Chicago

Taxwinkle hasn’t campaigned as a leftist. Amazingly, she originally ran as a tax-cutter. Preckwinkle eliminated an unpopular county sales tax. Then she brought it back. But Preckwinkle is governing as a leftist. Because of course she is one. It’s time for Cook County residents to wake up and think about what they vote for. And that includes the mostly lap-dog members of the Cook County Board.

And many more politicians as well.

Leftism is expensive but it’s profitable for retailers who live on the other side of the Cook County line. Pop sales are booming there.

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

By John Ruberry

Occupy Chicago activists with Palestinian flag in 2012

Even in Illinois this story was barely noticed, but the dropping of a socialist running mate by an Illinois gubernatorial candidate betrays a deep rift within the Democratic Party that deserves a close look.

Late last month State Sen. Daniel Biss, a candidate for governor, announced Chicago alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa as his running mate. Just as on the presidential stage, ticket balancing is a goal for Illinois gubernatorial hopefuls and lately white candidates have been picking minorities as their running mates. Incumbent governor Bruce Rauner’s lieutenant governor is an Hispanic. Biss of course chose that strategy too.

But his ticket was perhaps too balanced. Or was it too unbalanced? Six days later Biss dropped his running mate.

Not only is Ramirez-Rosa an Hispanic but he’s also openly gay. So he’s a two-fer, which covers a pair core Democratic constituencies. That is almost certainly why this 28-year-old with scant experience was selected, not because he’s qualified to serve as governor. C’mon now, 28 years old? Illinois is burdened with declining population, $14 billion in unpaid bills, and one of the worst-funded public pension systems among the 50 states. And at one time Biss thought Ramirez-Rosa was good enough to be a heartbeat away from being in charge of fixing this debacle?

But Biss clearly didn’t dig very deep into the background of Ramirez-Rosa. Biss is Jewish but his running mate for that brief time is a supporter of BDS, that is, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. Biss’ mother grew up in the Jewish state. When a Jewish Illinois Democratic congressman retracted his endorsement of Biss over the BDS controversy, the chain reaction began.

Ramirez-Rosa was elected to Chicago’s City Council–that inept legislative body that sees a member graduate to a federal penitentiary every 18 months or so–two years ago. Earlier this year he joined the Democratic Socialists of America. It’s more socialist than Democrat.

Just as in 2004, when since-disgraced John Edwards claimed there were “two Americas,” there are two Democratic parties, the old guard, which is still trying to recreate the Franklin D. Roosevelt coalition, and the new wing, which is channeling the spirit of five-time Socialist Party candidate for president, Eugene V. Debs. Or to put a contemporary label on these factions, it’s Hillary Clinton versus Bernie Sanders.

Last month the DSA, which is not formally a political party, held its biennial convention in Chicago. Two things of note occurred. The Democratic Socialists voted nearly unanimously to support the BDS movement. Yes, Sanders is Jewish, but like most leftist Jews he’s secular. Secondly, as Salon noted, an online kerfuffle broke out during the DSA shindig when old guard Democrats complained that the socialists were “hijacking the party.” Perhaps they are. And even though the champion of the hijackers is a septuagenarian, energy and youth is with the socialists’ side, not the stalwarts.

Young against old. Gee, I wonder who is going to win?

Blogger at the border

By 2020, the Democratic Party, which was founded by Andrew Jackson, may be America’s socialist party. With it will come the anti-Israeli and yes, anti-Semitic baggage of the far-left. Except the far-left could be the center-left by then.

As for Jewish Democrats, especially those who support Israel, they will wonder what the heck happened to their party. Actually, it’s occurring now. Early this year in a poll Pew discovered Democrats’ loyalties are almost evenly split in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.

Perhaps Biss was too hasty in dumping Ramirez-Rosa.  A pro-Israel Democrat paired with a BDS Democrat? Now that’s a balanced ticket!

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Of America’s largest cities only Chicago has a declining population. So far this year–as it was for all 2016–more people were murdered in Chicago than in New York City and Los Angeles.

Combined.

On the surface it seems that Chicago has the best government that money can buy. The Watchdogs of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that one-third of municipal workers of America’s third-largest city banked over $100,000 last year. Meanwhile, just 11 percent of Cook County workers–Chicago is the county seat–earn more than $100K. The numbers are similar for state of Illinois employees.

Thirty-six Chicago payrollers collected more than Mayor Rahm Emanuel last year.

Overtime run amok partially explains the problem. Generous campaign contributions from public-sector unions to politicians explains much more of it.

The median income for Chicagoans according to the US Census Bureau in 2015–the most recent year that is available–$63,153.

In Chicago it’s great to be part of the ruling class. But Chicago’s roads are crumbling, barely one out of four of its students in its government schools read at grade level, its bond rating is the lowest among major cities, and businesses lack confidence in Chicago and Illinois as a whole. If you are part of Chicago’s ruling class you might view high taxes as a downpayment on your next paycheck or your retirement, but Chicagoans endure the nation’s highest sales tax rate and they were slugged with the highest property tax increase in the city’s history to fund public-worker pensions.

Blogger on Chicago’s Northwest Side

Yet Chicago’s public pensions are the worst-funded among America’s biggest cities--at a rate of just 25 percent of its obligations. But the cruel joke may be on these well-compensated public-servants. Despite the strong pension protection clause in the Illinois constitution, a pension “haircut” seems unavoidable for retirees. Michigan has similar wording it its constitution, yet Detroit municipal retirees saw their pension checks cut after the Motor City declared bankruptcy.

Chicago’s decline and fall continues. But hey, at least some people for now are making a good buck off of the rotting corpse. Let the good times roll.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

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

Could it be that the deep-blue residents of America’s second-most populous county, Cook County–Chicago is the county seat–have had enough?

Probably not, at least yet. But serious dissent may be bubbling as the effects of Cook County’s unpopular soda tax sink to the bottom of the glass.

Cook County Board President Toni “Taxwinkle” Preckwinkle, a former Chicago alderman who represented the University of Chicago area–the Obamas were among her constituents–touted that tax as a public health measure. The new tax covers not just soda but also many other sweetened beverages including those with corn syrup, such as diet sodas, some iced teas, and bottled sweetened Starbucks coffee–but not, for instance, cavity-causing Frappuccinos prepared at a Starbucks location by a barista. Even “free refills” are taxed now. But Preckwinkle, a hardened leftist, exposed her true colors by suing a retail association that delayed collection in a legal challenge of the tax for a month for $17 million of what she claims is lost revenue. That is how thug states such as Venezuela and Russia are run. Dissent will not be tolerated–enemies will be punished.

Preckwinkle defeated a Democratic incumbent in a 2010 primary election vowing to repeal an unpopular one-percent county sales tax. She phased it out, yes. But last year Preckwinkle brought it back.

And the soda tax was never about health. If it was, then why the lawsuit? Taxwinkle is a liar. Besides, federal law prevents taxing food stamp recipients–there are nearly 900,000 of them in Cook County–on their sweetened beverage purchases. Poor people consume larger amounts of sweetened beverages than wealthier folks and the health problems blamed on these drinks, such as diabetes and obesity, are more prevalent among the less wealthy.

The soda tax is a penny per ounce. That doesn’t seem like much, but the cost of a case of Diet Coke, as you seen in this Tweet, soars by 5o-percent after the Taxwinkle tax is figured in.

My friends and co-workers–and yes, there are some liberal Democrats within that group–are furious about the soda tax, even the ones who don’t drink what most people here call “pop.” Yesterday one man told me, “I live just south of Lake County, I’m going to buy all my Coke there,” adding, “There is a big sign outside the Target there, ‘No county sugary drink tax here.'” And of course he won’t only buy soda there–he’ll probably buy most, maybe all of his groceries there. Why wait in two long check-out lines? Grocers on the wrong side of the county line not only will face lower sales, some may be forced to close down and of course lay off their employees. Oh, I forgot to tell that new Lake County shopper that he should top off his gas tank up there, as there is also a Cook County gasoline tax.

And there are so many other taxes Cook County residents, particularly Chicagoans, have to endure. In an example provided by the free market Illinois Policy Institute, the base price of a two liter bottle of pop is $2.49. But when the 67 county soda tax is added, on top of the nation’s highest 10.25 percent sales tax, and an additional 3 percent Chicago soda tax, the true cost of that soda jug is $3.49. And if you accept a bag, paper or plastic, when you buy that sugary drink in Chicago, there is an additional 7 cent per bag tax. Unless you are paying by food stamps, formally known as SNAP–the “N” stands for nutrition–with your Illinois Link card.

When was the last time you devoured a grocery bag?

Keeping track of all of these taxes are a nightmare for retailers. That extra cost of course is passed on to consumers.

Last month Illinois’ income tax rate was hiked by 32 percent. Illinoisans are burdened with among the highest property rates in the nation. Yet, Illinois, Cook County, and Chicago are functionally bankrupt, which exposes another left-wing lie–fiscal stability in Democratic-run sinkholes is always only just one more tax hike away.

Why does Crook County need the soda tax, and yes, the next tax, what ever that one is going to be? To pay for lavish but woefully-underfunded county worker pensions and the Cook County Health System.

Chicago is a sanctuary city and Cook is a sanctuary county–Cook County health facilities are often the health care provider of choice of the area’s large population of illegal immigrants. No, I’m not saying we should cut off care to illegals with health concerns, but as a Cook County taxpayer, it’s fair to know what that care costs me.

Liberalism is very expensive.

Blogger in downtown Chicago

Next year Taxwinkle will face voters. She’ll probably be reelected. Rebellions take time to build, after all, it took ten years from the passage of the Stamp Act until the first battle of the American Revolution to be fought.

How did Preckwinkle fare in her last election? She ran unopposed.

Shame on you, Cook County Republican Party.

Meanwhile Illinois, Cook County, and Chicago continue to lose residents.

Quietly, the rebellion has begun.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Graphic courtesy of the Illinois Policy Institute

By John Ruberry

On Thursday the Democratic-dominated Illinois House, with aid of ten Republicans, overrode Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of a 32 percent income tax hike. The corporate rate jumped by 35 percent.

Apologists for the income tax increase love to point out that many states have higher income tax rates, but last week’s override places Illinois within the top 20 of the 50 states. And these tax lovers always leave out some painful facts. For instance, while sales tax rates vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, Illinois’ sales tax rates are very high across the board. Chicagoans, at 10.25 percent, pay America’s highest sales taxes. And depending on who you talk to, Illinoisans suffer under America’s largest property tax burden–or they are near the top. Chicagoans deal also suffer with nuisance taxes such as a seven-cents-per-bag tax at grocery stores, and had a judge not temporarily struck down a Cook County–where Chicago is–a penny-per-ounce sugary drink tax would be in place right now. Food stamp recipients don’t have to pay those last two. And those nuisance taxes add up, of course.

As a lifetime resident of Illinois, I can assure you that the services we receive from the state are terrible. Last year the Chicago Tribune phrased it more eloquently, “As a result, Illinois government is a massive retirement system that, during work hours, also offers some services.”

Illinois’ personal income tax rate is now at 4.95 percent and the corporate rate is now 7 percent, but because of a local only-in-Illinois 2.5 percent state personal property replacement tax, the corporate rate is really 9.5 percent, which makes the overall rate the fourth-highest in the nation.

And before these tax hikes Illinois was one of the few states losing population.

So ends the Prairie State’s national record two-year span of operating without a budget.

“Shake Up Springfield, Bring Back Illinois”

Governor Rauner, a Republican, was elected by voters to, as his campaign slogan vowed, “Shake Up Springfield.” While never averse to a tax increase, Rauner, who never held public office before, said he’d approve one as long as it included such items as term limits, redistricting reform, workers’ compensation law changes, and property tax freezes. House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), who has held his job for 32 of the last 34 years, of course views term limits as anathema to him, and this master gerrymanderer created legislative maps that gave the Democrats supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly in the first two years of Rauner’s term. The Dems still have a veto-proof majority in the Senate.

One of the reasons the Republican General Assembly members who sided with Madigan gave for their votes was that Moody’s and S&P warned that if Illinois didn’t have a budget in place for fiscal year 2018 its bonds would be rated as junk. Guess what? Moody’s says it might downgrade Illinois’ bonds anyway. The new taxes don’t address how Illinois will tackle its $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Pension payments already consume a whopping one-quarter of the Illinois budget. And even assuming enough funds are there for Illinois schools to open in the fall, more legislation is needed for allocating that cash. The state has over $15 billion in unpaid bills-which is over 40 percent of the ’18 budget. That backlog will take years to pay off. Adding to the debacle is a late June ruling by a federal judge for Illinois to pay $586 million per month to bring down its past-due Medicaid bills. Which means that other vendors will have to wait even longer to get paid. How many of them will go out of business waiting for their bills to be settled?

Didn’t I mention that Illinois is losing population?

Blogger at the border

At best, the Illinois budget deal is a band-aid for much more serious problems.

Rauner is a candidate for reelection in 2018. That task was made more difficult by the manner that the tax hike was passed. In the first go-round 15 Republicans–the Madigan 15–voted for the tax hike. That allowed Boss Madigan, who has been chairman of the state Democratic Party since 1998, to allow, yes, allow 11 Democrats in vulnerable districts to vote “No.” In the override vote, four of the Madigan 15 voted “No.” Another one missed the roll call. Of course Madigan “found” the other five votes among his caucus.

Democratic candidates for governor are of course calling the tax increase “bi-partisan.”

But already one Madigan 15 member has announced he’s not running for reelection.

In my opinion bankruptcy, even though it will be called something else, is still coming to Illinois, despite this budget “fix.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

As this post goes live, the 48th Chicago Pride Parade is taking place on the city’s North Side. The event is still commonly called the Gay Parade, “Pride” is of course a much more generic term. On the Yahoo home page today, next to the rainbow colors, is this message, “Be proud of who you are.”

In Chicago there are many people who should be ashamed of who they are and what they’ve done. Which got me thinking. America’s third largest city–for now–really needs a Shame Parade, something along the lines what Queen Cersei suffered, in the buff, in Game of Thrones two years ago at the hands of the Sparrows sect.

But please, shameful ones, keep your clothes on.

Participation is limited only to brigands who live in Chicago.

Attendees are encouraged to chant “Shame…shame….shame.”

Chicagoans, now let me present to you the 2017 Shame Parade participants!

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley: The son of Mayor Richard J. Daley, the younger Daley inherited his father’s talent in creating a powerful political organization. But while the first “Hizzoner” was a whiz at public finance, Number 2 was clueless about about it–clearly Richie is bad at math. Chicago has the worst-funded municipal worker pension plans in the nation. The city prospered in the 1990s, it’s easy to see why. The pension obligations were shorted to create an illusion of prosperity, a Potemkin Chicago.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel: The Tiny Dancer inherited a mess from Daley, and he’s responding as any liberal Democrat would to any problem–raise taxes. But Chicagoans are responding with their feet–Chicago is the only major city losing population. Most of the West Side and much of the South Side is a killing zone. More people are murdered in Chicago than New York City and Los Angeles–combined.

The leaders of every street gang: “Chicago is the gang capital of the United States,” CBS News reported a few years ago. There are roughly 600 gangs in Chicago and about 70,000 members in these criminal enterprises.

Shame…shame…shame.

Cook County Assessor and Cook County Democratic Party Boss Joseph Berrios: The assessor’s office has long been a campaign fund cash cow for the Chicago Machine. But in a fantastic series from the Chicago Tribune, Berrios’ reign has been shown to favor the wealthy residents of Cook County while cheating poor ones. Boss Berrios has also been accused of rampant nepotism. Do you mean the Democrats aren’t for “the little guy?”

Edward Vrdolyak: A onetime boss of the Cook County Democratic Party, “Fast Eddie” is one of the many former members of the Chicago City Council who is a convicted felon. Roughly once every 18 months a member or former member of that shameful legislative body takes up residence in a federal prison. Vrdolyak became a Republican in the late 1980s. Seven years ago he served a ten-month prison sentence for participating in a kickback scheme with cronies of disgraced governor Rod Blagojevich. Last fall Vrdolyak was indicted again on tax evasion charges.

Karen Lewis: The longtime president of the Chicago Teachers Union, a hardened leftist, was a pretty good high school chemistry teacher, a former co-worker who was one of her pupils told me once. But she’s not that good at math. Or perhaps she is? For years members of her union have had taxpayers, in the name of Chicago Public Schools, pay what is supposed to be the teachers’ contribution into their still woefully undercapitalized pension funds.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett: While the aforementioned Chicago Public Schools was headed into the financial sewer, its CEO, “BBB,” participated in a kickback scam. Byrd-Bennett will report to prison later this year.

Ayers and Dohrn’s Chicago home

Shame…shame…shame.

Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn: Barack Obama began his political career in the living room of these unrepentant Weather Underground terrorists. After their terror career ended they moved on to academia, where they learned that it’s easier to destroy America by indoctrinating youngsters with leftism than by bombing buildings.

Rod Blagojevich: Can President Donald Trump arrange a furlough for the onetime “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant? While Colorado is the jailbird’s home for now, the rest of his family still lives in Chicago. The hair-brained former governor inherited a fiscal mess, as did Rahm Emanuel, but he made it worse, particularly with his 2005 pension payment “holiday.”

Former Gov. Jim Thompson: Look! Another Republican! In 1989 Thompson signed into law the compounded interest pension raises which of course were never properly funded. An astute pol, yes, but like the younger Mayor Daley and perhaps Karen Lewis, math is not the strong suit of “Big Jim.”

Chicago’s Power Corruption Couple, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson and former US Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr: They’re undergoing a nasty divorce right now, but in happier times they looted Junior’s campaign fund. Both are ex-cons. The couple that steals together doesn’t necessarily stay together.

Lifetime Lack-of-Achievement Award, Jesse Jackson Sr: Decades of race-based shakedowns enriched himself and his family. Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH organization placed his son and daughter-in-law into positions of power. But what tangible achievements can he show other Chicagoans?

Who will the grand marshal of Chicago’s Shame Parade?

State House Speaker and Illinois Democratic Party Boss: Michael Madigan: Since becoming speaker in 1983, Madigan has nominally served with–or over?–six governors. But you can find the 13th Ward Democratic committeeman’s fingerprints on every piece of pension and fiscal legislation enacted into law since then. Illinois’ public pension plans are among the worst-funded among the 50 states. Illinois’ bond ratings are just one step above junk–the lowest ever for a state. And if a budget isn’t passed by the end of this week S&P and Moody’s warns that junk status will be declared.

Blogger in downtown Chicago

Shame.

Oh, why isn’t Barack Obama in the Shame Parade? Chicago is so bad even Obama has bailed on it. The former president lives in Washington now. Obama served in the Illinois Senate, from 1997-2004, while the state’s pension disaster festered. Obama is so smart, right? But why were there no warnings from him about Illinois pensions?

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Blogger at the border

By John Ruberry

Illinois isn’t at the crossroads. It’s on a collision course after driving off a cliff. It’s that bad here.

The Land of Lincoln faces what is likely its most pivotal two weeks in its 199-year history.

Last week Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican who never ran for political office before, called for a special session to pass an annual budget, which is something that the Illinois General Assembly hasn’t done in over two years. And it’ll be tougher to do so now, as a supermajority will be required to pass a budget because the 2017 session of the legislature ended on May 31. Getting a budget on the governor’s desk theoretically should be easy, thanks to the gerrymandering skills of state House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), as there is a supermajority in the state Senate and a near-supermajority in the House. Madigan, who has held his job for 32 of the last 34 years and is also the chairman of the state Democratic Party, enjoyed a supermajority in the lower chamber for the first two years of Rauner’s term.

The Senate passed a budget bill this spring, one that was way out of balance, but Madigan’s House didn’t even consider it. And while Illinois’ constitution has a balanced budget requirement, none of its budgets have met that standard since 2001.

So why no budget?

I view Madigan’s strategy as an early manifestation of the national Democratic Party’s “Resist” strategy regarding Donald Trump, even though the political boss is a soulless creature who has no manifesto other than maintaining power for himself. And Madigan doesn’t want, at least yet, to have Democrats in the House vote “Yes” on a big tax hike. Yeah, they did so in a lame-duck session in 2011, but there was a Democratic governor in Springfield then to help shoulder the blame.

Rauner offered an extensive “turnaround agenda” as a candidate and he demanded it be included in any tax hike bill once he took office. He’s scaled back on that agenda since then, but the rump of it is still anathema to Madigan and his campaign contributors. Rauner is asking for pension reform, education funding changes, more business-friendly workers’ compensation laws, and a five-year property tax freeze.

So how bad is it in Illinois?

Here are some headlines from just the past week:

That last one is the most ominous news as Illinois’ comptroller, Democrat Susanna Mendoza, is warning that Illinois, because of court orders, will soon have to pay out more each month than it receives in revenue. “The magic tricks run out after a while,” says Mendoza, “and that’s where we’re at.”

Illinois has $15 billion in unpaid bills, which is over 40 percent what the state collects in revenue annually. It has over $100 billion in unfunded public worker pension obligations. Its bonds have the lowest rating of any state ever. It is one of only a few states, and the only one in the Midwest, that is losing population.

Pretty horrible. So much so that a “grand bargain” between Rauner and Madigan might end up being too little or too late to prevent the Land of Lincoln from collapse.

The end of Illinois as we know it will arrive by the end of this month. If no deal is reached it’s hard to imagine the Prairie State not ending up in a quasi-bankruptcy situation, even though Congress will need to get involved first. An austerity budget will likely hasten the population exodus, as will a massive tax hike without any reforms.

Another Illinois-style temporary fix will only delay judgement day. And that judgement will only be harsher when it comes.

As Ben Affleck’s character in Argo phrased it, “There are only bad options, it’s about finding the best one.”

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

Illinois Policy Institute caricature of Michael Madigan

By John Ruberry

“I can’t stop the revolution, but until it comes, let’s have some fun.” Prince Felix Yusupov to Rasputin in the film Nicholas and Alexandra.

And with the revolution of course came the collapse of Czarist Russia.

The beleaguered state of Illinois set a couple of futility records last week. It became the first state since at least the Great Depression to go two straight years without passing a budget. In response, Standard & Poors and Moody’s dropped Illinois’ bond rating to one level above junk–the lowest ever recorded for a state. And both agencies alluded that a junk rating may be coming very soon.

The 2017 Illinois General Assembly session ended on Wednesday. It can still pass a budget, but it will require a three-fifths majority to do so. To be fair, the state Senate, which has a supermajority of Democrats, did pass a budget that included a huge income tax release–with no Republican votes. But the real legislative power in Illinois lies with House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), who has held that job for an unprecedented 32 of the last 34 years. Madigan is also the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party–and if you are a Democrat in office in the Prairie State you almost certainly owe multiple favors to Madigan, who is also a prodigious fundraiser and jobs provider, and of course those jobs include seats on the General Assembly and the state attorney general’s office, which his daughter holds. Madigan, an adept gerrymanderer, draws Illinois’ legislative districts, which is why Democrats have that supermajority in the state Senate and until this year had one in the House.

Nothing gets passed, heck, nothing even gets onto the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives without Madigan’s approval. And if a bill can’t make it out of the House it can’t move on to the Senate, let alone to the governor’s desk.

Illinois’ governor is Bruce Rauner, a Republican who is a first-time public office holder. Rauner is willing to sign a budget bill that includes an income tax increase, but only as part of a grand bargain that also contains reforms such as term limits, a property tax freeze, workers compensation law changes, and tort laws that are more business-friendly. Is Rauner completely blameless? Of course not. Perhaps he should bolster his negotiating chops or remove an item or two from his Bring Back Illinois agenda. But Rauner, who three years ago became the first Illinois governor to win a majority of the vote since 2002, was dispatched to Springfield to battle the status quo of failure.

Madigan of course has the votes to pass a budget in the House. But he is only interested in maintaining his speakership and of course his power–even though Illinois is circling the drain. It currently has over $14 billion in unpaid bills and at least $130 billion in unfunded pension obligations. The Boss doesn’t want his minions in the House to face voters next year after voting for a tax increase. Madigan would rather rule a collapsing Illinois than share power in a prosperous one, which is the same governing philosophy Russia’s last Czar used.

That’s not to say that the General Assembly hasn’t accomplished anything this year. It passed a $15 minimum wage bill that is seen as a jobs killer by businesses. Why do I say that? Because Cook County, where I live, recently passed a $13 minimum wage bill that suburb after suburb–and it’s important to note that suburban Cook is heavily Democratic–is opting out of because of fierce opposition from small business owners. Rauner is expected to the veto minimum wage bill. The GA also passed a bill allowing for an elected Chicago school board. While I normally support more direct democracy, an elected Chicago board of education will quickly, if not immediately, become beholden to the well-organized and hyper-leftist Chicago Teachers Union, which refuses to compromise on issues such as having teachers pay more into their woefully underfunded pension funds. And the General Assembly passed legislation that will make it easier for Illinoisans to change their birth certificate gender if they have not undergone gender re-assignment surgery.

Meanwhile the 800-pound gorilla in the room–Illinois’ dire financial situation–is growing bigger and becoming more malodorous every day.

Illinois has become 1916 Russia. The collapse is coming. Perhaps it has arrived.

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