Monday morning, two right-wing talk show hosts on WLS tried to get Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to admit she’s a Republican because she cut taxes and laid off public employees. Bruce Wolf and Dan Proft, who are apparently the j.v. warm-up to the lunch hour fulminations of Rush Limbaugh, tried to get a rise out of the composed Preckwinkle by insisting that no real Democrat could cut taxes and take on unions. The exchange went like this. (I’ve never heard the show before, so I can’t tell Wolf’s and Proft’s voices apart. To avoid misidentifying anyone, I’ve labeled the questioner “Generic Right-Wing Talk Show Host.”)
Generic Right-Wing Talk Show Host: “You have had to come down on the unions, haven’t you?”
Toni Preckwinkle: “I wouldn’t describe my actions as coming down on the unions. We’ve had very difficult budgets two years in a row now. I walked in the door with a $487 million gap we had to close, and in this year’s budget it was 315. We didn’t it without raising property taxes. Actually, we reduced sales taxes. We had to try to change the structure of county government, and that included, unfortunately from my perspective, a considerable number of layoffs…There hasn’t been enough attention paid to trying to run Cook County as efficiently as possible for the benefit of all the taxpayers, and that’s something we’ve had to focus on.”
Generic Right-Wing Talk Show Host mentions he’s a cigar smoker (just like Rush) and brings up a recent 30 cent increase in tobacco taxes. “It seems to me that it aligns the government against the citizen. We say ‘Don’t smoke.’ We say, ‘Don’t speed,’ but in fact, we need you to smoke and we need you to speed because we’re counting on the revenues for smoking or for you going through an intersection.”
Preckwinkle: “I think we’d be better off if nobody smoked, including you and the cigars and nobody drank too much. To the extent that we raise taxes to the point where we discourage people from smoking, and nobody who drinks in moderation is going to be hit too much by these increases in alcohol taxes. You’re right, some of it does rely on sin taxes, but I’m sure our public health system would be better off if nobody smoked and if nobody used alcohol. The most commonly abused substances in this country are not cocaine and heroin, they’re nicotine and alcohol.”
Right-Wing Host: “Why didn’t you propose going Todd Stroger one better and just raising taxes even more? You’re a liberal. You’re a Democrat. Don’t you want to raise taxes even more? That seems to be from the Democratic playbook.”
Preckwinkle: “I don’t know your politics very well, but I don’t think that’s from the Democratic playbook. For a year on the campaign trail, I said that raising the sales tax from three-quarters of a penny to one and three-quarters of a penny was a bad idea for working families. I promised when I got into office that we’d eliminate the sales tax increase, and we have a plan to do that. A half a cent was eliminated before I took office, and then a quarter percent will be eliminated this year and a quarter percent at the end of next year.”
Right-Wing Host: “That all sounds good, so I’m going to ask you, ‘Which Republican candidate for president do you endorse?’”
Preckwinkle: “I’m a Democrat. That’s not my playpen.”
Right-Wing Host: “But why are you a Democrat? You’re acting like a Republican, affecting economies at the county level and then all of a sudden you get into the Oval Office, and then it’s tax, tax, spend, spend, elect, elect. So why are you a Democrat?”
Preckwinkle: “Your politics are profoundly different from mine. I’ve spent my whole life as a progressive Democrat. I’ve worked hard on affordable housing and living wage issues and equity issues…”
Right-Wing Host: “That American Federation of whatever it is, they don’t seem to think that you’re very Democratic these days. You’re alienating your base.”
Preckwinkle: “The fact that [the union leadership] has a few unkind things to say to me doesn’t change my history as a progressive Democrat and my support for the labor movement more generally.”
The conversation then moved on to county management issues, but Generic Right-Wing Talk Show Host had tried to make the point that only a Republican can provide fiscally responsible leadership. And Preckwinkle had proved him wrong.
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