Bill Brady and Alexi Giannoulias, the losers of Tuesday night’s biggest elections, have one thing in common: neither paid income taxes in 2009. Although neither man did anything illegal, the fact that they were rewarded with tax refunds during a recession may have contributed to their defeats.
Brady’s home building business struggled during 2008 and 2009, when the housing market crashed. As a result, he laid off half his workers -- and wrote off enough business losses so he didn’t have to pay income taxes, even on his $75,000 salary as a state senator. Pat Quinn made a very big deal out of Brady’s finances, cutting an ad in which the narrator repeated three times that “millionaire Bill Brady” didn’t pay federal income taxes.
Giannoulias received a $30,000 tax refund as a result of losses related to the failure of his family’s bank. Mark Kirk issued a statement saying that “Giannoulias wants to raise our taxes but doesn’t pay any taxes himself,” but he didn’t make a huge deal out of it, because he was getting more mileage from attacking Giannoulias as a “mob banker.”
In spite of their financial setbacks, neither Brady nor Giannoulias scaled back their lifestyles. Brady continued driving a Porsche at his Florida vacation home. Giannoulias held onto his downtown bachelor pad, in a building where condos sell for $1 million. Both came off looking like plutocrats who managed to profit from the failures of their businesses, at a time when business failures were costing lot of Illinoisans their jobs and their homes.
I was one of those ticket-splitters who voted for Quinn and Kirk. I can only speak for myself, but it bothered me that Brady and Giannoulias didn’t pay federal income taxes. I paid taxes on a much more modest income than either of them earned. In fact, I paid taxes plus fees and interest, since I wasn’t able to scrape up my full payment by April 15. So as a result of the recession, Brady and Giannoulias paid less, while I paid more. It didn’t seem like a fair situation. I understand that most politicians live in a world removed from the ordinary voter, but I questioned how Brady and Giannoulias could understand my problems when they were, essentially, rewarded for failing.
Plus, if those guys had that much money, they didn’t really need the jobs, did they?