I'm having one of those Andy Rooney moments maybe, but have you ever noticed that there's something about bureaucracy that turns otherwise responsible, thinking citizens into mind-numbed robots? It's not always a big deal, I suppose. A lot of these mechanized behaviors are relatively petty – harmless, almost. Government directed automation is just something we all do to perpetuate the collective myth that we live in a civil society, I guess.
Like this morning when I (along with around six other drivers…and I can't decide if this makes the situation worse or better than if I had been sitting there by myself) sat for two minutes at a red light allowing imaginary vehicles their right of way…you know, it's kind of stupid. It's a waste of time. It's a waste of money. It's a waste of the precious fuel that everyone is so hot to conserve. But what are you going to do? When you've finally had it and you give into the urge, when you've at last emotionally committed to the idea of driving through the red, the light changes while you're rolling forward and your political statement becomes moot anyway. Of course, that won't stop the traffic cameras from reporting your nonconformity so the powers that be can issue you a ticket. Which isn't all that civil when you think about it.
But it's like that on a grander scale too…you know, botching our political proclamations at the altar of brain freezing stupidity. Take Rahm Emanuel and his call for an increase of the property tax to shore up the city's failed pension structure. Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel's latest proposal for recompensing that failure, the owner of a $250,000 home would pay $50 more a year starting in 2016. After five years, the homeowner would pay an extra $250 a year. As if on cue, Republicans cried out against the injustice of it all.
And throughout the state, a yawn of outrage echoed through the wasteland of lost opportunity.
(Hey, riddle me this. It's kind of a tree in the woods thing. If Republicans bear witness to injustice but nobody noticed, was there ever really any opposition? No? Yeah, I didn't think so.)
What's most amazing about the chutzpah of Rahm Emanuel's particular brand of pension relief disguised as compassion for the working poor is that the MSM might grumble a little but they won't call him on his duplicity as he proposes yet another tax hike….because you know, it's only a dollar a week adjusting to 5 dollars a week starting in 2020 for people who own homes that are worth $250,000. Don't think about it too much. Just pay the dollar.
And let's just for a moment forget that a quarter of a million dollar house within the city limits comes in the form of a shopping cart and a cardboard box. Okay, that's maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but I checked Zillow and…hmmm.
For the sake of argument, let's stick with that dollar a day that Emanuel wants to take from you so that he can transfer it to union workers who are still grasping at 1960s solutions to new millennium problems.
I'll accept that number for its simplicity because…seriously, didn't Dick Durbin and Pat Quinn just join the labor unions maybe two days ago at Federal Plaza as they pimped for a minimum wage increase…Dick Durbin even went so far as to suggest that he'd be willing to pay an extra dollar at the drive-thu so that working poor could earn a living wage. You see? It's just a dollar. So don't think. Just pay it.
You know what? A little dollar here and a little dollar there and pretty soon we're talking some real money…and for the record, I actually think a dollar is real money but then, that's because I live in a world where every dollar counts. When I have a short fall, I can't raise taxes on my neighbors to make up the difference.
$10.10 an hour multiplied by 30 hours = 303.00 versus $8.25 an hour multiplied by 30 hours = 247.50. That's an increase of about $56 a week before taxes. That's about $2,700 a year. Remove $675 for taxes, FICA and fees. That's less than $2100 a year.
Now, it's possible that many of the working poor making the minimum wage don't own that $250,000 home that's about to get hit with a $250 tax increase. They might rent an apartment. But the apartment building owner will receive a property tax increase and that owner will pass along the increase to the renters. Let's say that a $550 monthly rental listed on Zillow… and I'm not vouching for the quality of the rental or the safety of the neighborhood…would increase by $10 a month…I mean, it is just ten dollars a month. Why think about it? Just pay it… except that $10 x 12 = $120 a year. $120 of the working poor's minimum wage increase will go to fund the city's pension shortfall.
The national average for people eating at a fast food restaurant is 3 times a week. An eighth of Americans eat fast food every day. Considering that Chicago residents have a higher obesity rate than average Americans, let's be generous and say that the working poor are eating fast food at around 3.5 times a week (although, we could reasonably argue that they are eating fast food more than that) and let's take into account the extra dollar…I mean, it's just a dollar…that Dick Durbin doesn't mind paying when he goes to the drive-thru. That means that the working poor as a family of four will be paying $728 more a year for their Big Mac attacks.
Working men and women can expect $848 of their minimum wage increase to get sucked into the black hole of Chicago's major pension fail. A little more than half of the $2,100 that was meant for the working poor will actually stay with the working poor. That's an extra $24 a week. The rest will go back to Springfield and Chicago to fix the deficits that were incurred the last time Big Government tried to reallocate the personal wealth of productive citizens to rectify perceived inequity.
Per the Wall Street Journal's Market Watch, taxes for a family earning $25,000 are $3,898 (this is the 4th highest in the country.) Taxes for a family earning $150,000: $14,814 (it's the 14th highest in the country.) Unemployment rate: 9.7% (which is 12th highest in the country.)
As of 2011, Chicago residents paid the highest effective sales tax rate of any city studied, at 9.75%. This increased the tax burden for lower-income earners, who paid a higher percentage of their income in sales taxes. Partly because of the city's sales tax, a Chicago family earning $25,000 had a state and local tax burden equal to 15.6% of their income, while for a family earning $150,000, the figure was just 9.9%. Poorer residents are also burdened by the state-level flat income tax, which was raised from 3% to 5% in 2011. ~ WSJ Market Watch
Side note – It is unclear from this statement whether the WSJ is complaining about the income tax in general or if they are advocating for a graduated income tax, but everyone is burdened by the "temporary" income tax and raising the rate on the so-called wealthy will not improve the lives of the working poor. Per the Trib Local online for Glen Ellyn:
Democrats argue that under their so-called "progressive" tax system, only the rich will pay more. However, the House Democrats' plan includes seven tax brackets and a top rate of 9 percent, raising taxes on all income over $18,000. Under a graduated tax system, as taxpayers' incomes rise with inflation, lower and middle income families are subjected to higher tax rates – commonly referred to as "bracket creep."
Add to this the as yet not proposed gas taxes, CTA increases, parking increases, soda taxes, cigarette taxes, carbon taxes, entertainment taxes, toll increases…all of which are patiently waiting for things to simmer down so they can have their turn up at bat, and the mind-numbed robots must feel at liberty to ask themselves, "Who exactly are these revenue generators supposed to be helping?"
Why, that's just a dollar and another dollar and another dollar and another dollar and another dollar and another dollar and another dollar and another dollar. Don't think. Just pay. When you get into the nuts and bolts of the machination (which I suspect are due for a proposed tax increase in the year 2018) it's not really the working poor that benefit from tax hikes. More importantly, none of the taxes (projected or otherwise) will do anything whatsoever to lift the working poor out of their current situations. There may be a certain sense of self-indulgence in blaming the wealthy for the scarcity that people face every single day in the State of Illinois, but it isn't Sam Zell or the Pritzker family that get first dibs on the working man's paycheck. The opposition messaging about tax increases needs to adapt to those facts.
It's not enough to say that it's a spending problem and not a revenue problem…appealing though the punchline is. Are tax increases an outrage? Sure they are but the discussion must include the argument that the public sector keeps getting richer while working men and women get poorer and the bigger horror is that the public sector controls the tax code. Not the Koch brothers. Not the Wrigley family. Not Ty Warner.
Now, how to get that message past Chicago's Pravda outpost and to the people who need to hear it is quite another problem. Maybe the overworked and overtaxed middle class of Illinois can pool whatever money we have left after Burgermeister Emanuel and Chancelor Quinn have had their way with our paychecks and airlift bumper stickers to Chicago's working poor with crates of food and medical supplies. I don't know. If it worked in Berlin it could work here too.