A Mayor As Broke As We Are - NBC Chicago
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A Mayor As Broke As We Are



     I’ve got a new slogan for Carol Moseley Braun: A Mayor As Broke As You Are.

    When Moseley Braun released her tax forms, we found out she had a net income of only $15,000 in 2009. Frankly, that makes her more like ordinary Chicagoans than any of her rivals. Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico are both multi-millionaires, while Miguel del Valle draws a $114,527 salary as city clerk, placing him in the top 10 percent of income earners.

    Moseley Braun, on the other hand, is not only unemployed, she’s unemployable. In 2002, the Democratic Party’s powers-that-be tried to keep her out of the U.S. Senate race by finding her a job. They called Jamie Dimon, head of Bank One, but he refused to hire her.

    “They could not find her employment,” an anonymous source told author David Mendell for his book, Obama: From Promise to Power. “Nobody could find her any work.”

    So Moseley Braun started her own food importing company, Ambassador Organics -- which reported $225,000 in losses in 2008. As Mark Brown wrote in the Sun-Times:

     Following in the footsteps of Bill Brady and Alexi Giannoulias, Braun neither paid nor owed any federal income taxes for either 2008 or 2009, her returns show.
     Business losses wiped out what little income she reported during those years. Unlike either of those other two non-tax-paying candidates, though, there’s not much evidence to suggest Braun has any underlying wealth.
     Braun’s tax returns, coupled with the fact she lives in a house encumbered with about $2 million in mortgages (which she has on the market for $1.9 million), would suggest an individual facing serious financial distress.

    Yeah, well a lot of Chicagoans are facing serious financial distress. They’ve lost their jobs. Their homes are next. Despite our pretensions of being a global city, the City That Works, the one Midwestern city that thrived while all our neighbors rusted away. The tourist mecca of Alinea and Trump Tower and Steppenwolf and the Bean is a very small corner of a city where most people struggle along on low wages. The per capita income in Chicago is $24,210 a year, which is 8.7 percent below the national average. The poverty rate is 19.6 percent -- 59 percent above the national average. Chicago’s percentage of households earning $100,000 a year nearly matches the nation’s, but as Crain’s Chicago Business pointed out, that wealth “is highly concentrated in a few downtown neighborhoods.”

    I think I’m like most Chicagoans in finding it easier to understand how someone can go broke than how someone can magically earn $16 million in two-and-a-half years, as Rahm Emanuel did.

     “The reality is that unlike Mr. Emanuel and Mr. Chico, who traded on their government relations for vast riches when they left office, I did not,” Moseley Braun said in a press release. “My tax returns are one measure of the fight I have waged to keep my business running. It is not unlike what many small business owners and regular Chicago families are going through.”

     The one question I’ve always wanted to ask every politician is, “How has this recession affected you personally?” Now I know the answer for one.