By: Mark Glennon*
Steel yourself. Don’t expect many laughs. This site is about economics, “the dismal science,” and something more dismal, Illinois government. Here are the most notable quotes for 2015:
Truer words never spoken: “Nobody here really gives a fuck. Everybody here is sleeping. The engineers, everyone that’s here on midnights. They are all fucking sleeping somewhere.” A security officer at a the water reclamation plant in southwest suburban Stickney. He accidentally left the microphone open on his radio as he showed the ropes to a new employee, and the conversation was recorded. It’s a perfect depiction of the cultural problem at the root of what’s wrong in Chicago area government at many levels.
What better reason to steal from schools? “I have tuition to pay and casinos to visit.” – Convicted former Chicago Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett in an email on why she took bribes for a contract award.
Drinking game for a Mike Madigan press conference: “Moderate” and “Extreme.” Watch a terrific video collage linked here of House Speaker Mike Madigan calling his own approach moderate and Governor Rauner’s extreme.
Please scratch that from the record: “We have allowed our police department to get fetal and it is having a direct consequence” – Mayor Rahm Emanuel making the case about Chicago police being too soft, before the Laquan McDonald video story broke.
Going out on a limb here, but I predict this won’t be enough: “In every budget over the past four years we have added money to the Rainy Day Fund. In this budget we will contribute another five million dollars.” – Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Five million dollars would be .000641 of Chicago’s budget.
Needed two commas: “So help me God.” – The end of Governor Rauner’s Inaugural Oath. Given the legislature he’s had to deal with, should have been, “So, help me, God.”
A horribly wrong number recklessly repeated: Illinois’ “$111 billion” pension deficit. Google that and you’ll find thousands of stories saying that over the past year. It’s far, far too low. Healthcare liabilities alone, which the Illinois Supreme Court ruled last year are a constitutionally protected right for Illinois government pensioners, bumps the number up by about 50%. Adjust for other phony assumptions that no serious financial person believes, and the number is more like $250 – $300 billion. Mindlessly repeating government-produced garbage is journalistic malpractice.
Best metaphor: “Arsonists complaining about how the fire department puts out the fire” -Sen. Matt Murphy (R. Palatine) describing Illinois Democratic complaints about Rauner Administration budget cuts.
What’s a “metaphor”? “I find myself praying for a real storm.” Chicago Tribune Editor Kristen McQueary’s article about wishing for a Hurricane Katrina to shock Chicago into action. Never mind that she expressly said she found herself “relating metaphorically” to Katrina victims. It became a national story as if she meant it literally. Nobody was happier than Illinois’ political establishment to have that shot at McQueary, among its toughest critics. “I find it morally reprehensible they would use the unfortunate death of 1500 people – poor and colored people – that way,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Cheerleading for Katrina-like disaster to strike confirms paper’s bankrupt journalism,” tweeted state senator Lou Lang (D-Skokie).
Mom always said it was just the opposite: “People who have money don’t worry about money.” –Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims explaining her vote to raise sales tax to highest in country. Sales taxes, in fact, are horribly regressive.
Be loyal to the boss, even if you sound like an idiot: “We understand there’s a desire by some to insert politics into this discussion, but the mayor’s focus is not on his own personal politics,” -Adam Collins, spokesperson for the mayor, in response to questions about a bill to recall Rahm from office.
Two-faced: Governor Rauner’s reform proposals are “worth fighting for.” Crain’s, in the same editorial in which they said “It’s well past time for the governor to drop his ‘turnaround’ agenda.”
We never imagined such a thing: “We’re not calling for a tax increase. We’re asking [Gov. Rauner] to tell us how to balance this budget.” – Senate President John Cullerton.
Truth about pensions from an Illinois Democrat (yes, we have something this year): “I think its fair to say members of this this committee have genuine concerns that when we created Tier 2 it wasn’t designed designed in a way to be a genuine benefit that people could rely on to work.” -Rep. Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Chicago). The Tier 2 pension “reforms” may well end up crashing the whole system. By the way, both parties did nothing about pensions this year.
Out of touch: “He’s the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. I’m not as identifiable as a ‘Machine’ politician.” – Senate President Cullerton explaining why Mike Madigan is an easier target to pick on than himself.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time explaining this one: “I’m not going to spend a lot of time on that question.” -House Speaker Mike Madigan, when asked why legislators voted themselves a pay increase immune to a budget impasse.
Count on it: “When we look back at our public service, our individual names will be in the history book.” Rahm, addressing the Chicago City Council.
From last year but validated this year: “I ain’t going to be Mr. Popularity for a while.” – Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner in 2014. So be it. Keep going.
Dumbest headline of the year: “Want to soak the rich? Look at property taxes.” – Crain’s. No, look here, for example, at the mass personal tragedies high property taxes brought to Chicago’s south suburbs, which are mostly poor and working class.
Best quote of the year: “I’ll go ahead, I’ll fight, and thank God that it’s possible to achieve everything by working.” –Claudia Perez, 62-year old tamale cart vendor, who had her food dumped out by police trying to stop her sales.
*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints. Opinions expressed are his own.