EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – JANUARY 30, 2008
By Rich Trzupek
There are, to be sure, some things in the state’s mass transit bill that suburban taxpayers can be happy about. It breaks the log jam on funding transit projects and, hopefully, we’ll see an improvement in state roads in these parts as a result. It also institutes some badly-needed reforms, particularly in the way that the CTA manages its pensions and insurance.
On the down side, of course, there is the sales tax hike. A tax hike was inevitable, since “more money” is government’s preferred answer to every question. And, of all the taxes that could be raised, the sales tax is probably the most palatable, and equitable.
So, all and all, not a bad job. We say that, not to disprove the false notion that you can never, ever read anything good about a Democrat in the Cheap Seats (and I do recall writing something complimentary about James K. Polk at some point), but in an attempt to put the criticism to follow in proper perspective.
For the goofiest part of this bill is the Guv’s “free ride for seniors” plan. It’s silly, it’s stupid and it’s about as blatant a job of grandstanding as any politician has ever attempted – and that’s saying a lot.
There was a lot of criticism, on both sides of the aisle, for Rod’s last minute, free ride bombshell. In some cases, that criticism was laced with disgust. “Today democracy is dead in Illinois,” State Representative Martin Sandoval, a Democrat, said. “There is no give and take. There is no compromise.”
That may be a little extreme, especially since my more liberal friends assure me that President Bush abolished democracy on a nationwide basis five or six years ago, but you get the point.
It’s a frequent complaint among legislators who deal with the Guv on a regular basis. If you don’t have the votes to over-ride a veto, you have as good a chance negotiating with the statue of Stephen A. Douglas standing outside of the capital building as you do negotiating with the Governor inside it.
And that’s a shame, in a lot of ways. In today’s political environment, a savvy Democrat can accomplish a lot, if he’s willing to give and take a little.
Bill Clinton, for example, managed to do something that a Republican President could never have accomplished: he reformed the welfare system. Had someone from the GOP done the same (and Republican Presidents did try), the press and the opposition would have ripped him to shreds with visions of starving babies.
For all of his faults, Clinton could compromise. Being a cynic, your humble correspondent would attribute that to political savvy rather than idealistic vision, but the motivation really doesn’t matter. The result does, and the cigar man understood that sometimes you have to compromise to get a result.
For Blagojevich, the art of compromise is about as appealing as an adult-film festival is at a convent. And though they probably wouldn’t use that particular analogy, you’ll find many reps and senators from both parties complaining about the same thing, over and over again.
Most of them shrug their shoulders these days, essentially saying that “Blago will be Blago”, before they get back to the business of government. There’s a bunker mentality that appears to have taken over the Executive Mansion, or wherever the Guv is calling home now.
That’s inevitable I guess. When you are elected as a populist, there’s no where to go when things go bad except back to the masses. Two thousand years ago, Rod would have probably been recruiting gladiators to keep the people entertained. It being modern times, he did the modern thing: he pandered to a large voting bloc.
Unfortunately, for him, this particular voting bloc has been around the block a few times and is least likely to be fooled by a bribe. Many of them, one suspects, are downright insulted by it.
Not that suburban seniors will see any benefit from the Guv’s free ride anyway. A four-fingered pressman could count the number of seniors who use PACE in the burbs on a regular basis, and strong township transportation services for seniors make the freebie superfluous in these parts in any case.
The Guv summed his case by saying: “I think the wait was well worth it because the result is very, I think, significant for the people in the Chicagoland area as well as for our senior citizens all across Illinois who are going to see an improvement in their quality of life.”
Uh-huh. It’s really hard to offer the usual sarcasm, because that statement is so jaw-droppingly cynical that it’s just plain depressing. It’s sad that the leader of the state is so isolated that all he’s left with is snake oil to sell, in an attempt to salvage his reputation, and it’s sadder still for the taxpayers who have to endure such leadership.