Taking The Chicago Way to Washington DC
“The Chicago Way”-a method of bamboozling and backstabbing-is leading to disillusionment by significant portions of the Left with Barack Obama, the man it hailed as supposedly the most inspiring Democrat since Bobby Kennedy. Here how The Chicago Way works.
Hiding the Truth.
Hiding true facts from voters is a hallmark of how Mayor Richard M. Daley runs this city supposedly “The City that Works” and which has been adapted by the Rahm Emanuel-David Axelrod-Valerie Jarrett team for Obama.
This from an outstanding reporter who has done great work uncovering the story of TIFs, Ben Joravsky…aided by his colleague Mike Dumke…of The Chicago Reader:
Last Oct. 15, Daley held a news conference to give the city what he said was bad news. He said he would have to erase a $500 million deficit for 2010 by cutting jobs, services and tapping the reserve funds generated by leasing the Chicago Skyway to a private company, the 8.7 mile toll road connecting the south-side Dan Ryan Expressway to the Indiana toll-way. But privately he and his aides were involved in sneak-thief politics: keeping from the public the fact that they were hatching a plot to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on a rehab of Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) and subsidies for privately-run hospitals and Fortune 500 companies, not included in the city budget.
These special projects would be funded by the mayor’s private piggy bank, funded by property taxes diverted into the city’s tax increment financing program (TIF). It involves property tax dollars in designated areas squirreled away in special accounts which are supposed to eradicate blight and promote development but which are often used instead to reward big shots for investing in Chicago. A portion of Willis Tower, the tallest building in North America on South Wacker Drive, has been leased by Willis Group Holdings, a London-based insurance broker when Sears moved its HQ to the suburbs.
Part of the dough will be used to paint the gloomy, 108-story (1,460-feet) tower silver. Already some of the money has gone into building a futuristic all-glass box on the 99th floor which enables visitors feel they’re standing on air while gawking at one of the most magnificent skylines in the world. Daley opened the glass box last July 2. I haven’t been up there (stratospheric heights make me queasy) but as a lifelong Chicagoan, I’m told it’s really something: a tremendous tourist attraction.
All that may be well and good. It can even be argued (though not by me) that while the money is used to reward the rich it could eventually trickle down to assist the poor. Could be argued but a tough sell. Still, that’s immaterial: what is material is that for years details like this have been kept off-budget in a second budget: a shadow budget. Daley and his allies in the Squid-controlled city council have fought like tigers to keep the shadow budget secret.
Squid bureaucrats offer selected aldermen peeks at city-wide TIF projects which are marked “for internal use only.” Of the 11 aldermen who sat in on the sessions, none have seen the whole TIF plan. And the public is largely in the dark on the entire TIF concept.
The two newsmen from The Reader filed a Freedom of Information request for the info. The city has been fighting it steadily. It has somewhat relented and posted everything on the Internet but the maze of numbers and terminology is so complicated, you have to be a CPA and Ph.D in math to understand it. The major news media shake their heads and go to sexier issues. But the best guess is this: of the total $6 billion city budget, Daley’s TIF kitty contained $1 billion at the start of 2009.
The Same Number-Fudging in D. C.
Now take a look at how Obama’s biggest project, ObamaCare is being worked through the Congress. It bears all the earmarks of the Chicago Way’s hiding the truth from folks who are expert at doing it: Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, graduates of The Chicago Way.
Consider the outlandish claim that 640,000 jobs were either produced or “saved” through the $787 billion stimulus. When Republicans asked for a breakdown, the administration produced one by congressional districts. There were several districts invented out of whole cloth that don’t exist-and in one town that does exist, 64 jobs “saved” were credited to a power lawnmower that was provided by the stimulus.
The next example is far more important for the country.
Almost everyone knows that for a country in recession, with 10.2% unemployment, piling another huge entitlement on top of a huge debt is folly: except that the Chicagoans want to nationalize health care. Almost everyone knows that doing so would be a huge mistake for the country and health care: 8 out of the 10 latest medical innovations ranging from MRIs to hip replacements have come from the U.S…. that Americans have access on a per-capita basis to 3 times as many CT scans as Canadians, 4 times as many as Brits…that in Canada the average wait for a treatment by a specialist is 18 weeks…that British women face an 88% greater risk of death from breast cancer than U.S. women…that British men face a 604% greater risk of death from prostate cancer than U.S. men.
All of these things mean nothing to Obama and his Squid-trained Chicago operatives (51 of whom work in the White House alone). because Obama must have something to point to in the off-year congressional races of 2010 and his reelection contest in 2012. So enter the Squid way of hiding the truth.
Just as Daley hides TIF and rewards for big corporations in a shadow budget, Emanuel and Axelrod juggled the Harry Reid bill to look like it will actually reduce the deficit-by $127 billion over 10 years. To accomplish this rabbit-out-a-hat trick, they took out the money for the “doctor fix” and moved it to another bill. The “doctor fix” requires $215 billion to be borrowed to keep doctors who treat Medicare patients from experiencing severe cuts on their patients’ reimbursements. Their “doctor fix” landed an endorsement from the AMA for ObamaCare.
But not told to the public is this: Over the long haul it will add nearly $2 trillion to Medicare’s long-term liabilities, now estimated at almost $40 trillion. So thanks to Axelrod’s influence with the mainstream media, all we hear is that the bill will save $127 billion-not the $215 billion it will cost that’s in a separate bill.
Next they jiggled the numbers so they’re back-loaded. The tax meter starts ticking with passage but the benefits don’t kick in until 2015-so in the early years there won’t be deficit increase but after 2015, every succeeding 10 years will see $1.5 trillion added to the deficit. They figure the Congress will cut $400 billion in Medicare cuts (which if politics continue as they have since FDR, the Congress won’t).
Call it the delicate art of personnel removal by destroying the employee’s reputation.
The Democratic Squid here gets rid of embarrassingly honest public officials in a slightly more decorous way than dumping them in the river. Take the case of Paul Vallas. An outstanding Democratic public official he served as chief budget adviser to the president of the state Senate, chief budgeter for the city of Chicago under Mayor Daley. Daley took over the job of running the city’s public schools by legislative fiat to replace a system where the schools were run loosely by a board of education not directly under the mayor’s control.
The Chicago public schools had been called the worst in the country by William Bennett, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of education. This led Daley to name Vallas, a no-nonsense administrator, as superintendent of schools. Vallas decided to let nothing stand in his way to improve the condition of the schools. During his tenure from 1995 to 2001 he led the way to reform the school system, his work being cited by President Bill Clinton for hiking test scores, balancing the out-of-kilter schools budget, developing new programs including mandatory summer school, after-school programs and expanding charter, alternative and magnet schools. Devoutly Greek Orthodox Vallas favored vouchers but was powerless to implement them. Nevertheless he achieved a national reputation for his reforms.
He was particularly welcomed by African Americans who were enthusiastic that their kids were showing all kinds of improvement. He was a veritable pop idol in the eyes of many blacks.
But in trying to improve teaching standards, he trod on the toes of the powerful teachers’ union, a key source of voter nutrients for The Squid. The union commanded that Vallas had to go. It passed the word to Daley and The Squid. Daley was mum-and stayed mum.
But the next thing Vallas knew, he was being nibbled to death by ducks-wounded by unfavorable anonymous leaks to the compliant media which seemed to be coming from various directions including City Hall. But all the while, Daley was mum. Sly leaks that said that Vallas was hard to get along with, then that he was “insensitive.” The leaks turned into a gusher. They insisted Vallas was on the verge of resigning. All through this, Daley stayed mum. Then Daley allowed himself to murmur publicly that while Vallas was outstanding, he might need to improve his disposition. Vallas called Daley; Daley laughed it off. But the leaks continued. Vallas couldn’t fight the leaks that seemingly came from nowhere nor now could he get in to see the mayor.
When the election of the teachers’ union came up a candidate ran on an anti-Vallas platform. No defense of Vallas came from the mayor or his office. Unable to see the mayor, unable to respond to the leaks authoritatively, Vallas passed the word to City Hall’s 5th floor that he would resign. Daley was mum. Vallas resigned. Then suddenly the mayor’s office door swung open and he was taken by the arm by Daley, showering praise. He had invited the press to hear him extol Vallas as a great superintendent and administrator. Then Vallas was out on the street with Daley’s praise ringing in his ears.
Immediately, the mayor chose as his next superintendent Arne Duncan, Vallas’ assistant, who made a point of getting along with the teachers’ union. The reading scores went down, of course-but the teachers unions were happy. (For his fidelity to The Squid, Duncan is Obama’s secretary of education and plays bucket-ball with the president every week). Now as legacy from Duncan…and not improved by his successor…the graduation rate at Chicago public high schools is 54%. But the teachers’ union has been politically mollified.
With time to reflect, Vallas decided it couldn’t be true that Daley pushed him off a cliff. So as a private citizen, he went to see the mayor. Again, the mayor greeted him with open arms. Vallas said he was thinking of running for the Democratic nomination for governor of Illinois in 2002 and hoped Daley would support him. Daley said: That’s terrific: what a terrific candidate he would make! But no endorsement.
Vallas left Daley thinking that while there was no endorsement, things still looked good. The incumbent, George Ryan, was a Republican crook who was awaiting indictment for malfeasance as secretary of state and decided not to run. Vallas thought everything was okay with Daley in the weeks leading up to the Democratic primary-until a goofy congressman with a mop of black hair and the unpronounceable name of Rod Blagojevich entered the Democratic fray. Leaks sprung up from all over that Blagojevich, the son-in-law of a powerful Squid ward boss, Dick Mell, was the favored one.
Not a peep from Daley but the leaks resumed: Blago, not Vallas, is the one. Vallas was mad with Daley but not too concerned because he knew he could beat Blago who was an Elvis Presley-loving kid with no resume or beliefs at all. After all, Vallas had won immense good will from Chicago’s black community.
Then a well-known African American entered the race to suck up votes from the mammoth Democratic black voter pool. He was Roland Burris, a definite hack but still the first black to be elected statewide first as comptroller, then as attorney general. Burris was a buffoon who had ordered a tombstone for his cemetery plot with his resume on it. The state laughed at him not just for his egomania but his hyperbolic tendencies. Vallas still wasn’t all that concerned: Earlier Burris had even run against Daley for mayor but got zilch.
But then all of a sudden, the highly charismatic State Sen. Barack Obama endorsed Burris. Here was a formidable endorsement. The media had extolled Obama as a model “independent,” a man of the future-maybe even a future black president– a Harvard intellectual with a “mind of his own.” And Obama was thumping for Burris! Now Vallas knew the fix was in. It meant the Chicago Squid was deeply involved on the side of Rod Blagojevich and Burris was the pigeon to siphon off enough black votes to nominate Blago and Obama was running the siphon for The Squid. Still, Daley said not a word.
Even with The Squid on Blago’s side, in the March, 2002 primary Blagojevich eaked out a bare 37% of the vote against Vallas’ 34%. If Burris hadn’t been in the race, Vallas would have won easily. Daley turned surprisingly enthusiastic about Blago, said Blago was a very fine young man and he’d back him in November.
That was all she wrote. Vallas packed up and moved to Philadelphia to become its school chief. He scored a national reputation there. Then after Katrina, he moved to New Orleans, first as city schools superintendent, then becoming Louisiana state schools chief reporting to Gov. Bobby Jindal. Vallas is now a Republican.
Thus thanks to The Squid, Illinois…
1. Lost a chance to elect a Democrat who would probably have been the greatest governor in the past 100 years…
2. Got the second worst governor in its history (Republican Len Small of Kankaee was the worst, having taken bribes from Capone to pardon his buddies and bribed the jury that acquitted him)…
3. Suffered the humiliation of seeing its governor impeached and
removed from office for the first time in its history, a governor who may well go to jail: becoming the fourth Illinois governor be convicted.
4. Was handed, along with the nation courtesy of Blago’s appointment, U. S. Senator Roland Burris who lied to the legislature to get where he is now recognized as one of the most devious liar- senators in modern times who only due to the compliant Ethics Committee was spared from being ousted (as he should have been) in the same way Republican Billy Lorimer was in 1909.
All of which demonstrates that The Squid cares not a fig about government: it cares about The Squid. That’s all.
Now Emanuel and Axelrod have taken The Squid’s Chicago Way to Washington.
Greg Craig is a non-Chicagoan…and because he didn’t fit in with The Chicago Way got skewed with the Chicago Squid: Emanuel, Axelrod and Jarrett. Obama made Craig White House counsel and gave him the tough job of closing down Gitmo to square with the pledge Obama made during the campaign. When the unpopularity of that move caught on, it was decided that somebody had to pay– and the Chicago trio decided it wouldn’t be them. Craig was picked as the tar baby…the guy who was all thumbs on Gitmo’s handling. Immediately a torrent of leaks sprung up in the media that the transfer from Gitmo was being bollixed up by Craig.
In true Chicago Daley style, Obama turned mum and took on a thoughtful air, his forefinger stuck in his cheek to look deep, Greg Craig found he was the heavy. After a fountain of leaks maintained that Craig was inept, incompetent and “insensitive,” which doesn’t help his future legal career, Craig decided he had to resign.
Last week, upset with the shabby way Craig has been treated by the Chicago Squid in the White House, iberal journalist Elizabeth Drew, wrote that she herself is finally getting wise to The Chicago Way. And she didn’t level her criticism on Emanuel, Axelrod or Jarrett: but on the Dear Leader Messiah himself.
“A critical mass of influential people who once held big hopes for [Obama's] presidency [have begun] to wonder whether they had misjudged the man,” she wrote. She added this:
“The Craig embarrassment gives these people a new reason…to conclude that he wasn’t the person of integrity or even classiness they had thought, and, more fundamentally, that his ability to move people and actually lead…is not what had been promised in the campaign.”
Elizabeth Drew has figured it out. Also last week, Chris Matthews of MSNBC discovered that he no more feels the same tingle up his leg anent Obama.
Stay tuned. More liberal dissatisfaction is coming.
Tom Roeser is the Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Chicago Daily Observer
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