By: Mark Glennon*
On October 16, 2015 I wrote an article here, The Shock and Awe Budget Address Rahm Should Have Given. It outlined the drastic steps Chicago should have taken to avoid doom.
In the batch of personal emails of Mayor Emanuel recently released is an exchange between Rahm and Henry J. Feinberg in which Feinberg included a copy of my article to urge him to consider serious reform. I don’t know Feinberg but know of him: He’s a very accomplished guy in finance and evidently spends some time advising Rahm.
The exchange puts Rahm’s character on full display. Denial, closed mindedness, arrogance, deceit, smugness. It’s all there. The full copy of the email exchange is linked here.
Feinberg starts just by sending a copy of the article.
Rahm responds saying, “Usually I read your email I am very proud Civic Federation endorsed my budget as has Crain’s and Sun-Times. Major restructuring of our finances. You may want to look it up.”
Feinberg tries again saying pensions are the “1,000 pound gorilla in the room” that “could/would sink Chicago even if you made progress across many other fronts…. Massive tax hikes without pension reform is fiscally insane….. Surely you have noticed the self fulfilling prophesy of long term irresponsible fiscal policies (starting pre-Rahm) emigration of the best and the brightest that puts the larger burden on the fewer and fewer.”
Rahm answers, “You obviously have not read the Supreme Court decision…. Their view is pretty clear. No reform allowed.”
Feinberg wisely then tries to appeal to Rahm’s sense of omnipotence: “Since when did Rahm Emanuel let a judicial ruling get in his way and not find a creative workaround solution?”
Rahm answers, “Never, which is why I eliminated retiree healthcare. Only elected official to eliminate not cut or reform a benefit. Thank you very much. A 175 million saving.”
A few observations. Yes, Rahm, we know what the courts said about pension reform and the article is predicated on what they said. No, you did not eliminate healthcare as a pension benefit. The courts have chopped away some of that, appeals continue, and even if you had saved a full $175 million that’s no fix for a city that has consistently been over $1 billion in the red per year. Every word of that 2015 article applies today, though it’s probably too late now to avoid doom.
Hat tip to Feinberg for trying to politely and diplomatically get Rahm to face the crisis. Shame on The Civic Federation, Crain’s and Sun-Times for backing up Rahm on budgets that continue the madness.
Rahm will continue to claim Mission Accomplished — that he has “put Chicago on path towards long-term financial stability after decades of mismanagement.” That the facts that say otherwise doesn’t matter. We wrote about the blatant silliness in his 2015 budget address here.. Those who confront him with reality will get the same response as Feinberg got.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints. Opinions expressed are his own.