Saturday, October 21, 2017

Do knee-jerk pols put any thought into votes they cast on govt. business?

One of the things that dismays me as a reporter-type person observing various levels of government is that our elected officials are the equivalent of sheep.
Daley's 'rubber stamp' council not odd, even today

The rank-and-file aldermen, commissioners and legislators (Congressmen, too, if you want to be honest) are supposed to be the bodies that give their approval to the proposals put forth by the chief executives (mayors, governors, etc.) they’re supposed to monitor.

YET LET’S BE honest. They usually do whatever they’re told to do. They “get with the program,” so to speak. The occasional public official who actually makes a point of trying to study the details and think for themselves on each and every issue winds up being regarded as a troublemaker – if not a downright huge pain in the derriere.

It is something I have seen at so many levels of government that I don’t doubt its truth. Reading a recent analysis prepared by the Moody’s Investors Service only helped to reinforce it in my mind.

The analysis was meant to study the long-range impact of the recent debacle Cook County government went through in enacting, then repealing, that penny-per-ounce tax on pop and other sweetened beverages.

Those pennies do add up – to the point where people were outraged at the increased cost of a case of pop. Even the county admits it expected to raise some $200 million per year from all those pennies. It wasn’t cheap change!

THE ANALYSIS SAID that public outrage, stirred up by the lobbying efforts of the American Beverage Association with its “Can the Tax” campaign, is now intense enough that the public will be skeptical of any government proposing any kind of tax increase – regardless of the reason.

“The political backlash against the pop tax highlights the practical limitations on raising taxes, even if a government is legally permitted to do so,” Moody’s officials wrote.

“Any future tax hikes in the wake of the pop tax repeal will likely be met with some political opposition, exacerbating budget pressures for Cook County and other area local governments,” the service wrote.

Let’s be honest. When most of the officials who voted to implement the tax did so last November, they really didn’t think much about it. They just voted “aye” because they felt they ought to do so. Likewise, most of them were just as quick to want to jump on board the repeal effort made earlier this month.

I COULDN’T HELP but see some truth in the view of commissioner Deborah Sims, D-Chicago, who complained about being forced to vote to repeal. I think I would have respected her view if she had held her ground, instead of going along with the repeal.

It is the reason why the two county commissioners I gained some respect for out of the pop tax debacle were Jerry “the Iceman” Butler, D-Chicago, and Larry Suffredin, D-Evanston. They were the two who held their ground and voted for the pop tax – then against its repeal.

The others went with the whims of following the way the wind blows – and when it blew in ways telling them to suddenly change their stance, they did so; regardless of whatever it is they really think about the issue.

Although for all I know, they may be more than willing to go with the program – either putting their faith in the elected leadership so that they want to be part of the overall organization. Or maybe they’re really just that indecisive.

NOT THAT COOK County government’s behavior is unique. Aldermen and legislators are just as inclined to follow the whims of the mayor or the Democratic leadership of the General Assembly – who admittedly have staffs of analysts who can discuss the intricacies of any measure that goes before their respective governing bodies.

So are we now going to have knee-jerk “no” votes on anything that involves the revenue by which our government’s operations are funded? That would scare me, because we already have some people willing to act in such a manner on measures they have ideological opposition to.

Thinking they can get government out of its obligations to the people merely by cutting off the funding. Will similar people stir up trash talk against the Uber and Lyft transit fees being considered to help balance out the Chicago city government budget now under review?

It’s not high-minded or responsible government by any means. It’s more about being more interested in holding on to one’s elected office at all costs – even though the individuals probably don’t have anything in mind to do with the post once they have it.


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