November 7, 2013
For years, and much to the anger of Obamaites and media Hopium smokers, I've engaged in a corrosive and cynical exercise:
Comparing and contrasting Chicago politicians and Chicago gangsters, the Chicago Way.
But today I'd like to publicly apologize for my outrageous behavior.
Yes, it was stupid of me, and mean and cruel. Bad Kass, bad, bad, Kass. I'm sorry. Really.
This urge to apologize came upon me after reading "Broken Bonds," the outstanding and ongoing series in the Tribune.
The series deals with how Chicago bosses — mayors named Daley and Emanuel — have spent billions upon billions of dollars in the present by heaping debt upon Chicagoans of the future without the people's consent.
That's billions with a B, almost $10 billion, and that doesn't count other mountains of debt that the same bosses have put on the taxpayers through other agencies under their control, including Chicago Public Schools, parks and pension obligations, adding billions more.
Borrowing against the future is a trick of politicians to buy power in the present. It makes friends in the present, friends of the powerful interests, and those friends don't forget. Such power over cash flow from the future can sometimes give politicians leverage to secure great personal fortunes.
It's all technically legal, apparently, though profoundly immoral. But they're the bosses and this is Chicago.
According to the series, independent financial analysts consider how Chicago has done it to be a form of fiscal cancer.
Our bosses have injected bone cancer directly into the fiscal infrastructure of a city that, on the outside at least, appears quite beautiful and stable.
Some of the nearly $10 billion in general-obligation bonds backed by property taxes went to pay for doggy-doo bags. Some was spent on software for soon-to-be-obsolete Palm Pilots. Some bought spare parts for cars and trucks in the city's fleet. Some went for library books that are likely to be tossed out before the first debt payments are due. The list of reckless spending goes on and on.
Yet the Mayor Rahm Emanuel administration says it has no money to hire enough new cops to fight the murderous street gangs, no money for firefighter contracts and so on.
But "Broken Bonds" has shown me the error of my ways.
For years, my insensitive columns putting gangsters and politicians in the same paragraphs have angered many media colleagues. They are offended that anyone would think the Chicago Way runs under Pennsylvania Avenue.
President Barack Obama is many things to many people. Political messiah to some, and big fat liar to those with any brains left.
But he's also Chicago politician. He learned by smooching the rings of the Democratic bosses on his way up. And so, too, is former Mayor Richard M. Daley, the big boss for decades who was smooched by Obama and also spent Chicago toward bankruptcy.
Another Chicago politician is Daley's media mouthpiece, David Axelrod, who used his national media contacts to spin Daley as a visionary and elect Obama. These days, Axelrod opines on TV and runs the political propaganda directorate at the once-respected University of Chicago.
Let's also not forget Axelrod's buddy and Daley's caretaker, Emanuel, who served as Obama's first chief of staff. And Daley's brother Bill, who also was an Obama chief of staff and now serves as a political analyst at Walter Cronkite's old TV network.
All of them spun the national media on the fiction that Chicago was a success story, smoothly managed by fine public servants. The Eastern media establishment wanted to believe it because they wanted Obama to prosper, and so they smoked great bowls of Hopium and demanded more.
And I'd respond, foolishly, by comparing and contrasting Chicago politics to Chicago organized crime. Like I said at the outset, that was wrong and stupid of me.
So I'd like to apologize.
To the gangsters.
Sorry, you wiseguys.
Because when gangsters take your money, you usually did something to deserve it. You borrowed their money, you sold their drugs, you drove their cars, you used their juice to get a liquor license, and on and on. The point is, dealing with gangsters is usually about choice. Your choice.
But the taxpayers of Chicago didn't have that choice. And their children and grandchildren, who will pay for this outrageous borrowing — or watch Chicago become another Detroit — had no choice either.
Chicago bosses have a loophole. They don't need to ask taxpayers to vote on bond referendum measures. Taxpayers in most major cities and in many of our suburbs have a choice. They vote directly on bond issues. But not Chicago taxpayers.
When gangsters take, they take from people who live in the present. The gangsters take risks in the present, they live and go to federal prison in the present. And some are buried in lonely holes in the present.
But when the Chicago political bosses take, they take from the future.
Chicago Way bond deals are like time machines. The mayors get into the capsule and fly forward into the oncoming decades.
The time machine hovers lovingly over the cribs of grandchildren who haven't been born. And the money flows.
And once they take from the future, the political bosses return to spend it all in the present and make influential friends in the present.
So I was dead wrong to put Chicago politicians and gangsters in the same paragraphs.
It's almost criminal.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC