Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Tuesdays with Paulie 3/4/08

Cook County voters have themselves to blame
Government for the people only if the people want it

Where does limited and accountable government begin? Does it start with the elected officials who promise to serve the needs of the public, but to often view taxpayer money as a bottomless bank account? If we believe the words of President Abraham Lincoln when he gave the Gettysburg Address, "government of the people, by the people, for the people," it’s very clear that before blame is placed solely on the politicians, people need to accept responsibility for the people they elect to represent them.

Taxpayers in Cook County woke up Saturday morning to news headlines informing them their taxes are going up…again. Chicago residents learned that not only was their sales tax on the rise, but they will be paying the highest rate of any large city in the country at a whopping 10.25 percent. A distinct honor that I’m sure the citizens of the Windy City would rather do with out.
While Cook County residents, especially those in Chicago spent Saturday morning cursing the county board for their tax hike; the truth is that if the voters are looking for someone to blame they need to only look in their own mirror.

Don’t get me wrong, Board President Todd Stroger and the 10 commissioners who supported the tax increase deserve as much criticism as the media and public can dish out. Stroger ran for office on a platform of bringing reform and responsibility to the office. Commissioner Larry Suffredin is on record for saying, "I see no need for any increase in taxes. I am opposed to a sales tax because it is regressive and adversely affects the poorest members of the community." Suffredin brokered the deal with Stroger to add the $426 million tax increase to the 2008 county budget. So much for sticking to your beliefs and your concern for the poor.

The deal between the two Democrats was less than Stroger originally asked for. Nevertheless the tax hikes in the new budget will permit him to add over 1000 new patronage jobs. When the day is over isn’t that all that matters to machine politicians such as Stroger and his fellow Democrats who prioritize power over people? The voters of Cook County know this, complain about it, but continue to elect and re-elect politicians they know are as legitimate as a three-dollar bill. So who is really to blame?

Government accountable to the people can only exist if the people demand it. The residents of Cook County, especially in Chicago are no different than any other town in America when it comes to complaining about high taxes, government services and the bureaucrats that abuse their power for their own self-interests. The big difference is that in Cook County come Election Day the same politicians who they complain about, they put back in office. Isn’t that the definition of Insanity?

The harsh reality the media won’t talk about is the citizens of Chicago as well as most of Cook County don’t vote for candidates, they simply support the name with the "D" next to it. However even when another Democrat in a primary challenges an incumbent, with a history of abusing their power, the electorate rarely supports the candidate for change. Cook County voters blew that opportunity when they re-elected the late John Stroger over Forest Claypool in 2006. Claypool was one of two Democratic commissioners who did not support the Stroger tax hike.

The story in Cook County remains the same. Taxes increase, patronage jobs are created and services dwindle. However what also never changes is the citizens refusal to demand their county government be accountable to them.

"Government of the people, by the people, for the people," only works when the people demand it. Until Cook County residents want government accountable to them, they can only blame themselves for the taxes they pay and the services they don’t receive.

Paulie

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