Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Judy's announcement today in Cicero took place at Klas Restaurant on Cermak Road. Klas is the largest Czech restaurant in the nation and is one of the most ornate places I've seen in the western burbs.
As you can imagine, Al Capone frequented the place.
If you've never been, it's worth a visit. The website is here. And the mix of Mexican and Eastern European cultures is a nice American story as well.
(It's also an interesting contrast to Governor Blagojevich's announcement at A. Finkl Steel plant on the north side of Chicago where his father worked for years).
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
We don't really have a good name for our economic strategy.
The party of money has a great name in supply-side economics. That sounds so much better than enrich-the-rich economics.
I do think cutting taxes is a good idea if the people who get the tax cuts (and thus have more income) will spend that income in the United States. That will stimulate employment and economic activity, generating the multiplier effect of a dollar spent on tax cuts generating three or four dollars of economic activity.
Cutting taxes on wealthy people by lowering their marginal tax rate to 35% from 37% or cutting capital gains taxes does not have the same effect, since wealthy people don't spend their additional income. They invest it, and that means they buy equities or real estate or some other financial instrument anywhere around the globe. That does not generate economic activity in the United States. That's why enrich-the-rich policies are not as good at stimulating economic activity as demand-side economics.
I think demand-side economics is a better term than 'targeted tax cuts' that Clinton popularized. What's a competing term for the progressive economic agenda?
Monday, November 28, 2005
Having your beloved crutch kicked away before being dragged backward by your heels through hell is not an experience designed to make one giddy at life's rich pageant.
and then he, somewhat senselessly, mocks the concept of organic food.
I think what I like about his columns is the combination of revulsion and admiration they generate -- I'm impressed by his skill and befuddled by the targets of his disdain.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
I do have a confession to make: I was supposed to participate in October, but I had to beg off in the crush of veto session (and Jeff Berkowitz gallantly filled in at the last minute).
I'm feeling a bit partisan this week, but we'll see if the other pundits agree with me. Without further ado (and in separate posts for your linking leisure).....
Middle-class families in
President Bush is politically toxic. People don't trust him anymore. And it's hard to see how things get better for him.
The federal budget slowly burns away at the middle class, month after month. We're like a frog in a pot of water on the stove that gets hotter and hotter, never jumping out until it's too late and we're boiled alive.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Currently there are no countywide Latinos (with the exception of Frank Avila, Sr., a Commissioner of the Water Reclamation District). That's ridiculous.
The Sheriff has a chance to be a voice against the drug wars -- the huge waste of our dollars and lives to imprison people for choosing to use drugs and hurting no one but themselves in the process. Our jails are overcrowded with lots of non-violent drug users, and these people should either be in treatment or back home.
There has also been some horrible abuse of prisoners that has gone on (allegedly) over the last few decades in Cook County, and the Sheriff can be a voice for reform.
Tom Dart, a former state rep and the Chief of Staff to Sheriff Sheahan, is (in my view) a reformer. He's also (as far as I understand) well-liked my most regular Democrats who tend not to push so much for an end to the drug war or a ringing voice against the few abusive police officers who stain the profession for everyone else.
I wonder whether Dart's campaign will gather up reformers and progressives without alienating the regulars.
And the dynamics of two white reformers (Mike Quigley and Forrest Claypool) running for County Board President against a black regular (John Stroger) while the office of sheriff is open and, potentially, a black reformer of some type might run against a white regular, with Dart trying to be the candidate of all Democrats will be fascinating.
What will someone like Barack Obama do with a race like this? Could you imagine how much traction Quigley or Claypool might get in their race for President if the Barack Star endorses one of them? Remember, John Stroger endorsed Dan Hynes for U.S. Senate.
(And the really nice part about all this is that in a lot of ways, Cook County politics is not driven exclusively by race. Whites do endorse blacks over whites; blacks do endorse whites over blacks. That's social progress).
Filing deadline is December 19th and the Cook County Democratic Party leaders are meeting this week to make endorsements (or 'slating' candidates for those new to politics).
Open seats are so much more fun than re-election campaigns.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
I attended the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights convention today at Navy Pier.
This is a well-organized, well-funded, very diverse and very savvy organization.
And they are making Jim Oberweis into a pinata.
They ran his campaign ad during their convention where he demonized the 10,000 job-seeking immigrants who come to Illinois every day, and the bipartisan denunciation of Oberweis was strong and it resonated.
Then, when two immigrants, a man and a woman, told their story about working in an Oberweis dairy for far less than minimum wage....well, there wasn't much steam left in the Oberweis brand for this crowd.
Up next: Mark Kirk.
Representative Kirk comments that discrimination in customs and homeland security intelligence and enforcement against young, Arab men is the next target of the coalition. They are calling quite strongly for an apology. The Sun-Times may have already leapt to Representative Kirk's defense, but I think this is a weak spot for Kirk that the coalition is pressing.
Diverse coalitions coalesce best with an enemy. Oberweis has already backed away from this anti-immigrant positions, and although the damage is done for him on any statewide race, he isn't much of an enemy any more. If Mark Kirk isn't careful, he may be filling that role of the anti-immigrant villain, which is not a good place to be for an elected official in a swing district where lots of Tribune reporters and editors live.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Tune in on WLS 890 am from 6 pm to 8 pm for the live show, or check out the taped version (if we do a TV version) on WYCC Channel 20 at 10:30 pm.
What do you think we'll talk about? How about a Reverse Robin Hood budget that the DC Republicans insist on pushing? Any other ideas?
Thursday, November 17, 2005
That's what I take away from a new report released today (but not yet on the web as of 8:40 am) called The State of Working Illinois, featured in the Tribune today here.
Incomes are flat in Illinois. The anecdote behind the data is the $15-hour job at a manufacturing plant that used to keep puchasing power high for the middle class is now largely gone, replaced (if at all) by $7 an hour service jobs.
That's a major shift and a major problem.
Free trade agreements absolutely accelerate this bad-for-our-economy shift.
Maybe there's a bigger upside in increased exports from Illinois, but the numbers don't look bear that out.
What can the State do?
Since the structure of our economy is shifting to push incomes down on most but skyrocket them for the wealthiest, we should raise taxes on high incomes and cut takes on incomes below the poverty line.
We should make higher education free -- or at least, free to anyone from a working class family through much more generous financial aid.
We can not blame high incomes taxes in Illinois for our flat wages, since our three percent state income tax is the lowest of any state with an income tax.
We should raise that 3% state income tax to 6 or 8 percent and exempt all income below the poverty line from any taxation.
And since our sales tax and our local property tax are each so high (that hits lower income people harder), we should feel even better about raising the state income tax.
That's a tax system that better matches the structure of a free trade economy.
If corporate American and the party of the rich want to push so hard for NAFTA and CAFTA and GATT and strip away every other protectionist tarriff (that ultimately protect higher wages in manufacturing), then their end of the bargain should be to tax the higher incomes that are generated from free trade in order to raise the standard of living of the majority of people that lose income from the deal.
That seems fair to me.
(Of course, congressional Republicans want to cut taxes on wealth even more. But that's another story).
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
I'll just quote from the New York Times piece here on the lefty candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party).
I like it.
His main pledge has been to expand public works projects and to provide free health care and cash subsidies to the elderly, as he did in the capital. He has painted his opponents as captives of the same network of big business leaders and machine politicians who held power here for most of the 20th century. Rejecting an expensive media campaign, he has promised a grass-roots movement to galvanize voters from the lower and middle classes, from which polls say his supporters come.
Indeed, he has been touring the country by car, giving speeches in every town along the route, like the old whistle-stop campaigns in the United States.
"I think what's needed is a true purification of public life, a sharp renovation, and this has to take place from below toward the top," he said in a recent interview on Televisa. "That's why I do these meetings, these encounters with the people."
Former Texas Senator and Presidential candidate from the 'let them eat cake' (or alternatively 'leave no corporation behind' wing of the Republican Party Phil Gramm is scheduled to testify at the George Ryan trial this week according to CBS's fantastic blog on the trail here.
Apparently, when Gramm was running for president in 1996 (the year that Bob Dole eventually won the GOP nomination), then-Secretary of State George Ryan decided to endorse him. In return -- well, that's what the trial is partially about, I guess, so I should say, at the same time, Ryan's daughters and two supporters were put on the campaign payroll. As the CBS blog puts it:
Ryan endorsed Gramm in March 1995 and prosecutors have alleged some $32,000 in consulting fees were funneled to two Ryan staff members and the governor's daughters until the senator dropped out in early 1996. The fees were allegedly laundered through a Republican management consulting company.So somehow, Phil Gramm is coming to Chicago to talk about George Ryan and the 1996 primary campaign. How bizarre. That this man might have been president. And that he's testifying in our former governor's criminal trial.
Did you see in Crain's, by the way, that Ryan's lawyers at Winston and Strawn are taking the case on pro bono? I hope they don't count that $10 or $15 million in legal fees that they waive for Governor Ryan as one of their good deeds to ramp up the firm on pro bono rankings like this one -- I always thought pro bono cases were supposed to be for poor people or the severely disenfranchised. I don't think white collar criminal defense really counts.
First, on December First, the Latino Caucus Foundation is having a huge public policy conference open to the public. The link is here and the conference is in Rosemont. The Latino Caucus Foundation is the non-profit arm of the members of the Latino Caucus in the Illinois General Assembly, and this is one of the more innovative moves by a group of legislators in the nation (at least, that I am aware of). If you'd like an introduction to policy and politics in Illinois, this conference is a good place to start.
That night, Chicago PAC (a John Fritchey committee) is having an annual party at Cabaret, 15 West Hubbard, from 5:30 to 8:00 pm. It's $40 in advance, $50 at the door, and this one usually sells out. If you'd like tickets, call Fritchey's political line at 773.477.VOTE or just show up. This is a fun party.
Senator Hillary is in town on Saturday, December 3rd and she's speaking at a free event for politically involved young people under the age of 35 from 9 am to 11 am. The host is the American Democracy Institute, a new non-profit. If you'd like to go, email Rebekah (my former partner in crime on the Obama campaign in 42 and 43) at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will hook you up.
Got some other Democratic Party or progressive policy related events? Post them in comments.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago also has a few bloggers, one of the Midwest Economy and one on Economic Education. They are hosted here.
Thanks to Nathan Kaufman and his eclectic blog here for showing me the latter.
That can't be the most efficient way to do things.
There should be easier transferability between colleges, and we should probably be importing thousands of students from around the world to our campuses. I'm sure we get a bigger economic bang from a non-Illinois student choosing to live and learn in our state for four years than from an Illinois student going to one of our colleges.
Seems like we should be increasing the number of non-Illinois students at our schools. And then figuring out a way to develop more businesses from our universities. Urbana is one of the world's leading research universities (Netscape was created there ... I was using Mosaic back in the day before there was a Netscape), but we don't really create a ton of start-up companies with all that brain power. Why not?
It can't just be the weather.
And it can't be our super-low income tax either, as California has higher taxes than we do. So does Massachusetts (two states that do a better job at generating business from universities than we do).
Thursday, November 10, 2005
You can go to a neighborhood premiere and see the movie for free.
Click here to find a premiere or to buy the DVD or even to host your own premiere.
I'm glad that the Illinois General Assembly has again shown leadership on this issue by requiring that employers report to the state how many of their employees are on public assistance. Mary Flowers, with help from Speaker Madigan, got that into law. My archive on the issue is here.
It's good to be in Blue America!
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
It's unlikely to get much better for the Republican Party in 2006, as the Iraq occupation isn't getting any better (that's what happens in occupations -- people tend not to like having a foreign army, liberators or not, setting up permanent bases), the economy doesn't seem to be getting any better, the corruption around D.C. isn't getting any better and still, still, still the radical wing of the GOP pushes for even more tax cuts for wealthy people.
So, if the national Republican Party is not much help nowadays, how are they going to be in a position to help Judy Baar Topinka?
I can tell you this: George Bush won't be campaigning with her.
Neither will Dick Cheney.
Those are two unpopular people in Illinois.
The Republicans will likely have a lot of money (because they are the party of money), and I guess they can throw some of it at Topinka for Governor '06.
But I have to think that the downward spiral that the D.C. Republicans are in will be more of a cost to Topinka than the money they can throw at her campaign.
Too bad we don't have gubernatorial elections the same year as presidential elections. We'd never lose the governor's office.
(And Speaker Madigan said a few years ago that he wishes the same thing....he cited that move to create 'off-year' gubernatorial elections as one of the mistakes of our state constitution -- he was a delegate to the 1969-1970 constitutional convention known as con-con).
But back to the fun stuff: who will be our newest statewide Democrat?
The filing deadline is December 19th, and I'm betting that in the next 40 days, there will be at least one other candidate for Treasurer besides Paul Mangieri. And as of right now, Representative John Fritchey is "not out" of the race.
That's not a good sign.
The Bush Administration is pushing hard to break up or bankrupt Amtrak, which would put our economy even deeper into the hands of the oil producers, as we'd have to drive or fly for most intercity transportation.
News reports like this AP story mention that "Amtrak has never made any money" but that's like saying O'Hare has never made any money or that Interstate 94 has never made any money. The point in transportation is to get good public investment. Trains are a good investment, but the cut-taxes-for-the-rich crowd that runs the Bush Administration don't see that.
It's too bad that David Gunn has been fired. He was very good for Amtrak.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Today, however, I'm intrigued by the only open statewide seat for Democrats: state treasurer.
The last Democrat to hold the seat was Pat Quinn.
The Democratic Central Committee has slated Knox County State's Attorney Paul Mangieri for the slot, believing that it's time a Downstater had some representation on the statewide ticket.
Latinos were a bit unhappy, as they believe it's time for some Latino representation, whether from Chicago or Cairo.
Representative John Fritchey, a potential statewide candidate, blogs here that the calculation to put a Downstater on the ticket should be reconsidered based on Topinka leaving her seat, and now the best candidate, regardless of region, should be selected.
With the office now way in play, it is hard to believe that Paul Mangieri is going to be the best that the Dems put forward. And I mean that with absolutely nothing against Mr. Mangieri, whom I've never met. It's just that I think that in a blue state, with an open statewide seat up for grabs, the race is now begging for somebody with legislative experience and a broader perspective of state issues than one would get in his present position.
Plus, having successfully navigated the med mal bill through the Legislature, the Speaker is likely not as concerned as he once was about the vulnerability of some of his downstate members. As such, the Dems best bet is to put the most qualified candidate forward regardless of geographic or other considerations. And that means that there are now a lot of people that are going to give this race a fresh look.
I think Fritchey is correct, in that the Office of the Treasurer should be a top-tier target for the Democratic Party of Illinois. If Mangieri is the best candidate, great. But I suspect there are probably better candidates, and we should advance our strongest candidate for the race.
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Tickets are $35 and a few legislators will speak as well, including Kathy Ryg, Sara Feigenholtz, Mattie Hunter and John Cullerton.
The money goes to the state Sierra Club political committee, which is actively involved in electing environmental candidates, so if you are free Sunday night (short notice, I know), come on out.
For more, check out Jack Darin's Sierra Club blog here.
I think we tend to send too many dollars and other resources to D.C. to essentially complain about the Republican extremists running the show and play defense, when we could be supporting the progressives helping to run the Democratic governments in states and cities across the nation (especially in the Capital of Blue America), so this state Sierra Club funder is consistent with that thought.
And please forward this one around.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Who thinks our presidential election system is totally broken?
And who thinks that, while there are a few less-than-perfect features, basically our presidential election 'works'?
If you are among the latter, check out this report: www.fairvote.org/whopicks
FairVote (a D.C.-based non-profit) crunched the numbers on the number of campaign visits by the four candidates (Kerry, Edwards, Bush and Cheney) and the numbers of dollars spent on TV advertisements by state for the last six weeks of the 2004 presidential campaign.
How bad would it be if a few states had absolutely nothing in either category? That would be a sure sign of something wrong if people who happen to live in a particular state didn't get a single TV ad or a single visit related to the most important political decision for four years.
Well, it's not just a few states that were completely ignored. More than 30 states were ignored completely, representing almost 60% of the population.
That's screwed up.
Of course, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania sucked up a ton of attention. So if you happen to live in those states, you matter in deciding the fate of the Republic. If you don't, sorry. I guess that democracy concept doesn't really apply to you.
And so much for the Electoral College protecting the voices of small states. Last time I checked, those three states were considered big.
I think the report is excellent (I didn't write it at all, so I can say that) and proves the case that our presidential election is broken.
I'd ask anyone who thinks otherwise to read the report and defend the status quo.
And then we'll see if the private landlord wanted to charge the White Sox rent or just give it away.
And it would be nice to collect property tax there as well.
Maybe then we could pay off the bonds for the Chicago Bears' stadium in Soldier Field and not pay interest.
Who else likes that idea?
That is, I liked that song.
Now, it might as well be Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey Good Bye.
The Welfare Sox have ruined a good rock ballad by adopting it as their own.
I heard it at a Hallowe'en party and almost wanted to leave.
And now Ozzie Guillen and Jerry Reinsdorf are coming to Springfield tomorrow to dominate the day.
I know Rich Miller is excited about it, and congratulations to Gabe Lopez and anyone else who worked to make this happen.
But enough already!
Then again, it is entirely appropriate that the Welfare Sox come to the General Assembly, since we state taxpayers are basically part owners of the club.
We built their stadium and we don't charge them rent, unless they sell enough tickets.
Yes, a privately-held partnership (the Chicago White Sox) gets a rent-free stadium. Rent free! Unless they have a good year. Then they are good enough to pay something.
And if the Welfare Sox (owned by a bunch of rich people) won't pay nearly enough rent to cover the cost of constructing the stadium, who pays for it?
$37 million a year from the state budget goes to the landlord, the Illinois Sports Facility Authority. (According to this site from the Illinois Policy Institute -- those corporate-funded think tanks can do some good research. . . .)
And a 1.97% tax on Chicago hotels, which makes our region less competitive for tourism and for conventions that generates around $23 million a year.
For a good breakdown on the Illinois Sports Facility Authority that hosts the Welfare Sox, check out this brief from the Metro Chicago Information Center.
At least the White Sox' lease is up in 2011. So we can say it's time to charge $10 million a year in rent on a ballclub worth $350 million. And if that's too much, I'm sure some other team would love to play in Chicago for that price.
Will Jerry Reinsdorf thank the taxpayers tomorrow in his General Assembly speech for making he and his partners far wealthier? Don't Stop.....Believing......
Today, the Senate Democrats led by Harry Reid and our own Dick Durbin, pushed back hard, forcing the Senate into a closed session.
That's what an opposition party is for.
Great move. Keep it up.
Bush voters should be especially embarrassed this week for giving these people another term. I can understand not knowing how radical and unethical the Bush team was in the 2000 campaign (I certainly underestimated them). But anyone who voted for Bush/Cheney in 2004 should be embarrassed.