American Elephants

A Free American Republic versus “The Chicago Way” by The Elephant's Child

Even those of us who have never been to Chicago or the state of Illinois are somewhat aware of the reputation of the Chicago Daley machine. My next-door neighbors came from Illinois, and they had tales about corruption that goes way back. Governments aren’t perfect and politics attracts people whose first and most important interest is in getting elected and reelected. The current recession and slow recovery have exposed the seamy side of corrupt governments as never before. You can ignore a little special dealing and corruption if it results in strong economic growth and low unemployment.

The Wall Street Journal named Chicago as the fifth most heavily taxed city in the country. Its sales tax of 9.75 percent is especially onerous for low-income families. Richard M. Daley took office in 1991, and turned the reins over to Rahm Emanuel in 2011. In that time the average debt for a citizen of Chicago grew from $600 to $2,600, an increase of 433 percent. Since 2007, the Chicago region has lost more jobs than Detroit has, and twice as many as New York. The teacher’s union sneered at Rahm Emanuel’s attempt to curb their power and went on strike anyway. The murder rate in Chicago makes headlines almost every day.

Barack Obama was cool, and Journalists caught by his charm, assumed that he had “somehow passed through Chicago politics without ever developing any real connection to it.” John Fund summed up the situation:

The Daley machine, which evolved over 60 years from a patronage-rich army of worker bees into a corporate state in which political pull and public-employee unions dominate, has left its imprint on Obama. The machine’s core principle, laid out in an illuminating Chicago Independent Examiner primer on “the Chicago Way,” is that at all times elections are too important to be left to chance.

Obama came to Washington with guides David Axelrod who was the chief consultant to Richard M. Daley, and Valerie Jarrett, the mayor’s former deputy chief of staff. More from John: Fund

Conservatives in Chicago, an embattled breed, say the Obama scandals now coming to light — the IRS, the intimidation of journalists, the green-energy boondoggles such as Solyndra — could have been anticipated. “The 2008 Obama campaign perpetrated a fraud that he was a reformer,” says Chris Robling, a former journalist who has served as a Republican election commissioner. “All of the complaints — from the lack of transparency to HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s shaking down corporations to promote Obamacare — stem from the culture of the Daley Machine.” For decades, Robling says, Mayor Daley “encouraged” contributions to his favorite charities, with the implicit understanding that the “encourager” controlled the city’s inspectors and regulators. “That sounds an awful lot like what Sebelius was doing to prop up Obamacare,” Robling notes. “Obama’s ideology may come from Saul Alinsky’s acolytes, but his political tactics come straight from the Daley playbook.” Indeed, friends of Bill Daley, Mayor Daley’s brother, say that one reason Bill left his post as Obama’s White House chief of staff after only one year was that even he thought Team Obama was too much “all politics, all of the time” and not enough about governance.

The Windy City and its notorious political history are once again in the national spotlight. It’s not a pretty picture, but its characteristics are laid out in a devastating list by the Chicago Examiner. A key to current events and what to expect.


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