<![CDATA]>COUNTRY'S LIBERAL SHIFT
ANALYSIS & OPINION BY RUSS STEWART
Should the Republican Party become part of TARP – the federal Troubled Asset Recovery Program? As of now, being a Republican is a liability, not an asset.
In Illinois, where corruption is epidemic and a major income tax hike is imminent, Republicans are as yet unable to exploit and capitalize on the sordid situation. Democrats control all the levers of state, Cook County and Chicago government. A recent Rasmussen poll indicated that 64 percent of respondents blamed "politicians" in general for "corruption," but none specifically. There may be a developing anti-incumbent trend, but not necessarily an anti-Democratic trend – and definitely not a pro-Republican trend.
"Change we need" was Barack Obama's national mantra in 2008. That may materialize in Illinois in 2010, but won't benefit Republicans. Here's why:
First, in the past year, America has lurched significantly to the left. Over the past three centuries, since monarchies faded, it is accurate to say that, ideologically, the liberal philosophy has grown increasingly more liberal, and the conservatives' increasingly less conservative. There is a constant ebb and flow: A decade or more of liberalism, meaning an expansion of governmental power, countered by a couple of decades of conservative retrenchment, and then another liberal spurt, and more government growth. There is never a rollback to a previous era.
America has always been a center-right country, more pronounced since Ronald Reagan's election in 1980: it's been basically conservative, capitalistic, and encouraging of entrepreneurs and wealth accumulation. No longer. Like much of Europe, America is now a center-left country, and government is viewed as the "solution," the so-called "safety net," and not the "problem" articulated by the Reagan Republicans.
Second, the recent economic collapse has precipitated the evaporation of trillions of dollars of personal and institutional wealth, in investments and in real estate. Baby-boomers and others, who have spent thirty or forty years accumulating a nest egg of a million dollars or more to support them in retirement, have seen that effort come to naught. IRA's and 401(k)'s have lost half their value; real estate values have plummeted by a third or more; houses can't be sold. There is economic stagnation and personal paralysis.
No amount of immediate effort can recover that lost wealth. The "greed is good" philosophy that motivated entrepreneurs is now inoperative.
Of course, the housing market may recover within the next five or six years, and the stock market may reach 2007 levels again by 2012 or 2013. But, in the interim, the prevailing philosophy is "government is good." Government subsidies and payouts, be they bailouts to employers or banks, extended unemployment, or social security, are the new "wealth." The enduring Republican philosophy of less government has no current relevance.
Third, social issues don't matter. In tough economic times, voters care only about Number One, and their family. Abortion, gay rights, gay marriage, gun control, or who sits on the Supreme Court are irrelevant matters.
Fourth, Republicans took a calculated risk in opposing President Obama's recovery program, which includes a $3.5 trillion budget, $210 billion in tax hikes over the next decade, a $1.2 trillion deficit in 2010, bailouts of banks and auto manufacturers, and the $787 billion "economic stimulus package." Obama ran for president to restore peace, but now he is compelled to restore prosperity. Yet the debate is not about how much is being spent, but instead about how soon it will be spent.
Quite simply, the Republicans' success depends on Obama's failure. Gas prices, mortgage foreclosures and unemployment (8.9 percent) are up. But there are inklings that the worst is over: Jobless claims are declining; job losses – 5.7 million since December 2007 – were 539,000 in April, less than March's 699,000; the "bear" market seems to have bottomed out at 8,400, and is actually up during 2009; consumer spending has spurted, but not by much.
Economically, the Republicans are in a no-win position. If the economy continues to tank, the majority of voters will demand further bailouts and spending, not less. What can Republicans propose? Do less? Do nothing? If the economy rebounds, Obama will get the credit, and Republicans will be dismissed as opportunistic and stupid.
Fifth, Obama's administration is perceived as being "centrist," not excessively liberal, because the country has moved leftward. Obama has not solved the Afghanistan and Iraq situations, and supported additional war funding; he did loosen stem cell research funding restrictions and proposed a mammoth, expensive health care expansion. On the environment, he asked for $42 billion in energy-renewable projects. Obama's upcoming U.S. Supreme Court pick, if not an ardent abortion supporter, could infuriate that faction.
In some liberal circles, Obama's Administration is already being castigated as the "New Republicans," due to his lack of stridency on certain issues. They want to fight "global warming"; get out of Iraq and Afghanistan now. By 2012, the most vituperative Obama criticism may be coming from the left. And that, just possibly, could portend a serious political realignment.
Congressional Democrats are more liberal than Obama. The "Green Party" has been attracting support for a decade. If Republicans lack a coherent message, then future political campaigns may revolve around those advocating spending-and-taxing more and those seeking spending-and-taxing much more. Obama's stance will be the conservative stance. A leftist third party could soon emerge.
And sixth, me-too Republicanism may be resurgent. The country lurched to the left after Franklin Roosevelt (D) demolished Herbert Hoover (R) in 1932, with voters blaming Republicans for the Great Depression. Laissez faire, unregulated capitalism was thereafter harnessed by a plethora of federal regulative agencies, none of which has ever been abolished. For the next 40 years, until Barry Goldwater's ascent in 1964, the Republicans were the "me-too" party – proclaiming support for Roosevelt's New Deal government expansion, but promising to manage it better and more economically. They did not have the temerity to promise to abolish it.
The current congressional Republican leadership is not much different from their anti-government predecessors in the 1930s. In four Depression-era elections –1930, 1932, 1934 and 1936 — Republicans lost 170 U.S. House seats and 35 U.S. Senate seats, reducing their number to an irrelevant 17 senators and 89 representatives in 1937. Since 2004, Republicans have lost 54 House seats and 15 senate seats.
How much lower can they go? Republicans view 2010 as another 1994, when they picked up 53 House and eight Senate seats on a wave of anti-Clinton revulsion. But if voters continue to blame Bush for the recession/depression, then it could be a replication of 1934, when still-angry anti-Hoover voters ousted 12 Republican senators and nine congressmen, even while a Democrat was in the White House.
Normally, in mid-term, disgruntled voters opt for the opposition, so as to rein in the excesses of the incumbent president. But that is not the developing situation. There is no perception of Obama "excesses" or stupidity. Democrats could gain seats in 2010.
Which brings us to Illinois: A Democratic governor has been impeached, and exposed as chronically corrupt. An appointed Democratic senator is accused of perjury. The Democratic Cook County board president is a dunce. The county board wants to cut the sales tax by one cent, which Todd Stroger has pledged to veto.
New Governor Pat Quinn wants to increase the state's income tax to 4.5 percent on individuals, hike employee pension contributions, triple the $2,000 personal exemption – and fund a $9 billion capital construction plan, while enacting ethics' reform. At present, the state's budgetary shortfall could be as high as $12.4 billion for fiscal 2010-2011.
Where is the hue and cry? Why aren't voters enraged? Perhaps they see the taxes coming from somebody else, not them.
The 2010 Republican statewide field contains some credible names, but none are awe-inspiring: U.S. Representative Mark Kirk (R-10), state Senators Bill Brady and Matt Murphy, DuPage County board chairman Bob Shillerstrom and state's attorney Joe Birkett, or businessman Ron Gidwitz.. Their first problem is positioning: Do they run as "reformers," hammering corruption? Do they run against "higher taxes," aware that those taxes are necessary to pay the state's bills?
Their second problem is party label. Do voters really care about checks-and-balances? And if Stroger, or Roland Burris, or Quinn is ousted in a Democratic primary, then why vote for a Republican? There are just too many habitual Democrats in Illinois.
In the 2006 election, the Green Party got 10.4 percent of the vote for governor. That could balloon to 20 percent in 2010. And if the Republican vote, despite all the Democratic corruption, sinks to under 40 percent, and Democrats sweep every office, it will be the beginning of the end of the Republican party in Illinois.
E-mail email@example.com or visit his website at wwwe.russstewart.com.
Russ Stewart talks about Republican Irrelevance Video May 20, 2009
<![CDATA]>COUNTRY'S LIBERAL SHIFT
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Insiders may cash in on meter deal
SUBCONTRACTORS | Ex-Daley aide, firm once owned by Ald. Solis’ brother also got piece of Skyway
May 21, 2009
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org
Two of Mayor Daley’s former top aides — and a security company once co-owned by the brother of Ald. Danny Solis (25th) — are poised to make some serious coin from the $1.15 billion deal that privatized Chicago’s 36,000 parking meters.
Under pressure from aldermen to comply with the city’s minority set-aside requirements, LAZ Parking Chicago LLC has hastily assembled a team of subcontractors that includes former mayoral press secretary Avis LaVelle and Cortez Trotter, who was Chicago’s first African-American fire commissioner before being promoted to chief emergency officer.
» Click to enlarge image Two of Mayor Daley’s former top aides will make some serious coin from the $1.15 billion deal that privatized Chicago’s 36,000 parking meters.
Monterrey Security — owned by former Chicago Police Officer Juan Gaytan and once co-owned by former Chicago firefighter Santiago Solis — is in line for $1.2 million in 2009 and has already been paid $413,152, according to a document distributed to aldermen.
LaVelle, Daley’s 1989 campaign spokeswoman and first City Hall press secretary, said she watched aldermen lambast the meter deal Monday, even though she had not yet signed a formal contract.
LaVelle’s invitation to attend the hearing came from Trotter, who had an “existing relationship” with LAZ CEO Alan Lazowski.
It was only after the City Council hearing that LaVelle and Trotter were asked to join the team under terms yet to be negotiated, she said.
LaVelle said she has been asked to help reverse an avalanche of negative publicity stemming from broken, overstuffed and mismarked meters that have infuriated motorists and triggered a spike in vandalism and a drop-off in on-street parking.
Trotter refused to discuss his role in the parking meter contract. Although Trotter’s expertise is in emergency management, LaVelle said he has agreed to play an “external relations” role because of his “familiarity with political leadership.”
It’s not the first time that LaVelle and Monterrey have cashed in on Daley’s privatization frenzy. They also serve as subcontractors to the Spanish-Australian consortium that paid $1.83 billion to lease the Chicago Skyway for 99 years.
That transition went relatively smoothly. The parking meter takeover has been a fiasco.
“They’ve done a lot of things right. But I don’t think they’ve communicated what they’ve done well. They underestimated the extent to which small operational problems could blow up to become large public relations issues,” LaVelle said.
During this week’s hearing, LAZ insisted that minority contractors share 29 percent of the deal and that minorities comprise 70 percent of its work force.
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) still has her doubts and has demanded contracts and certified payrolls to back up the company’s claims.
As for the hiring of Monterrey and two former Daley aides, she said, “It’s a double-edged sword. You want people who know the lay of the land. But that also means new people don’t get an opportunity. There are new companies that have expressed interest. They were not reached out to.”
Monterrey has been at the center of controversy for nearly a decade because of its parade of government contracts, including Soldier Field security.
In 2001, the company was slapped with a $22,000 fine by state regulators — and placed on two years’ probation — for operating for 21 months without a state license. Current and former employees also accused the company of underpaying its workers on city jobs.
One year later, the Daley administration abruptly canceled Monterrey’s $2.9 million contract to secure city salt piles and equipment after admitting the deal violated the ethics ordinance that prohibits city employees from doing business with the city. Gaytan and Santiago Solis subsequently quit their city jobs.
Blast the Republicans Pat, while it is the Democrats who fired you and nearly destroyed your family. the Republicans are nothing in this state because Daley bought off that jagoff $hellander. Both parties suck. And Daley gave away the parking meters for his legacy. I can’t wait till his son goes to prison. I will be on the news shouting some rotten things at him as he enters the Dirksen building during his trial. I will keep my respect too, cause I am not an a$$hole like he and his father is.
Burke gets zoning break, special parking
Powerful alderman gets zoning break, special parking
May 25, 2009
BY TIM NOVAK Staff Reporter
Ald. Edward M. Burke has ruled the 14th Ward for 40 years.
He has used his clout to build himself a palace — right alongside the CTA’s Orange Line near Pulaski.
» Click to enlarge image The home of Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) has a flagpole flying the U.S. and Chicago flags, but no lawn. Burke received a zoning variation allowing him to set his house just 3 feet from the property line. Inset: He and his wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke, moved in nearly four years ago.
RELATED STORIESAlderman Burke’s partners
The house is part of a $4.6 million development that Burke and his partners built on a parking lot over the objections of Mayor Daley’s zoning administrators.
Daley’s zoning staff thought the development — one massive, three-story house along with 13 town homes — wasn’t “compatible” with the Archer Heights neighborhood, where it would tower over the surrounding bungalows.
But Burke, the city’s most powerful alderman, won permission from his colleagues on the City Council for the project anyway.
Then he got the city Zoning Board of Appeals’ OK to build the 4,400-square-foot house without having to leave space — as required by city ordinance — for a yard in the front or back.
The house does have an enormous rooftop deck, though, giving Burke and his wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke, a bird’s-eye view of the L trains that rush by all day between the Loop and Midway Airport.
They moved in nearly four years ago.
Burke declined to discuss the project, which couldn’t have been built without City Council approval. Instead, he gave the Chicago Sun-Times a copy of a June 24, 2004, letter that he sent to the Chicago Board of Ethics, assuring the city agency that he would abstain from voting on any matters involving the construction of his home and the rest of the project. And he promised he wouldn’t talk to any city officials about the development, either.
According to records obtained by the Sun-Times, Burke teamed with two of his campaign contributors — Anthony DeGrazia, a housing developer, and Eric Gonzales, a contractor whose company has worked on several projects for City Hall. They became equal partners in a new company — 51st Street Townhomes LLC — that paid $300,000 in late June 2004 to buy a little-used parking lot in the 3900 block of West 51st St. They bought it from someone who’d been a client of Burke’s law firm.
The triangular lot, about two-thirds of an acre, was zoned for businesses. Burke and his partners hired a lobbyist — Marcus Nunes, a law partner of Mayor Daley’s former chief of staff, Gery Chico — to get City Hall’s permission to build.
The city’s Zoning Department deemed the project “not recommended.” But the City Council went ahead and approved the project on Sept. 1, 2004 — with Burke abstaining.
On Sept. 10, 2004, Burke and his partners got a $480,000 construction loan from Cole Taylor Bank. They were free to begin building the town homes.
But they still couldn’t build Burke’s new home unless the Zoning Board of Appeals agreed to drastically reduce the required size of the front and back yards. If the board wouldn’t agree, there wouldn’t have been enough room to build the house.
“Due to the unique shape of the property, it is impossible to place a home on it and meet the requirements for front, side and rear yard minimums,” according to documents Burke’s group gave the appeals board. “In the absence of such a variation, the property is likely to remain vacant or underutilized.”
Shortly before Thanksgiving 2004, the appeals board gave Burke what he wanted: His house could be set back just three feet from the lot line, rather than the normal nine feet. And his backyard had to be just three feet deep, rather than the usual 30 feet.
Today, Burke’s home and three-car attached garage fills the property. He has no backyard, just a paved driveway around his house. There’s no lawn, just a few flower beds.
Burke and his partners sold the home for $900,000 to the Anne M. Burke Trust on Oct. 10, 2005. The tax bills are mailed to the alderman, who paid $8,551.98 in property taxes last year.
After selling the house to his wife’s trust, Burke and his partners sold the 13 town homes for a total of $3.7 million. One of the biggest went for $280,000 to state Rep. Daniel Burke, the alderman’s brother.
Ald. Burke’s block is one-way, with a traffic barricade. And no one can park on the street without a parking permit. But there are two different permits required — one for the people who live across the street from Burke, another to park on the alderman’s side of the street.
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