Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Meaning of Rahm (and Daley)

I took a look at Rahm Emanuel's top 73 individual contributions--i.e. those of $50k and up--using data from the Illinois State Board of Elections and sorted them, broadly, by origin. 45 came from financial institutions, financial professionals, or spouses of financial professionals (three were from counted twice, being separate contributions from the same sources, and I couldn't determine the particular industry of one contribution)...

...Emanuel's base of money and power, quite simply, more closely resembles that of Richard M. Daley's in 2011--the role of the boss as it evolved from his father's reign, to his early days as mayor, to the time when he leaves office.
(Via ChicagoMag).

Rahm Emanuel, like the present machine-boss Richard M. Daley, rode to victory on the backs of those with deep-pockets and enormous economic power. He was, without the slightest doubt or equivocation, corporate Chicago's number one pick to take over right where Daley left off.

Where did Daley leave off? The much maligned (but sure to continue) "TIF" (Tax Increment Financing) program is as good as any a place to start (via NYTimes):
An analysis of public records by ChicagoTalks, a news Web site produced by Columbia College Chicago, shows that TIF subsidies benefited dozens of profitable companies — many of them in Chicago’s thriving downtown — while little money went to struggling, outlying neighborhoods. South Lawndale and Auburn-Gresham, for example, received no subsidies over the last decade.
As The Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky has noted on many occasions in his extensive investigative pieces on the topic, TIF's are basically slush funds filled by skimming from rises property tax revenues. The "brilliance" of the TIF is that it allows the Mayor (or select Aldermen) to get access to, and spend, billions of dollars without having it show up on the official budget. And given that the Mayor (i.e. Machine-Boss-in-Chief) has an inveterate preference for greasing the palms of corporate backers who are happy to reciprocate, it's hardly surprising that the TIF funds seem to always find their way to those with plenty. Ostensibly, they are supposed to exist to eliminate "blight" and revitalize struggling neighborhoods. But in a city in which there is a revolving door between political and economic elites, where "pay to play" and the patronage system dictate who does what, it's clear why TIF's don't serve those they were created to serve.

All the inane chatter about Rahm this and Rahm that are simply part of the ephemeral swells of "P.R. politics". Such cosmetic matters are irrelevant to the basic structure of Chicago power politics. The mood music may be changing, but the basic priorities remain the same. Rahm is Mayor because he is, without doubt, the most qualified strong-arm asshole in a position to pick up where King Daley left off.

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