The Raw Deal - NBC Chicago
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The Raw Deal



    Since the Great Recession struck in 2008, there’s been a new compact between the government and the citizenry: you give us more, and we’ll give you less.

    We saw it when Gov. Pat Quinn raised the state income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent -- then announced plans to close facilities for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled, while laying off 1,900 workers.

    We saw it when the city of Chicago installed red light cameras and intersections and put more parking meter readers on the street -- then announced plans to cut library hours.

    And we’re seeing it again in Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s new budget -- which raises taxes on loose tobacco, alcohol and car sales, while eliminating or outsourcing 1,600 jobs.

    Waylon Jennings used to sing a song called “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” These Democrats need their own song, based on their party’s greatest president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. It should be called, “Are You Sure Frank Done It This Way?”

    The answer is, no, Frank didn’t do it this way. The New Deal did levy high taxes on tobacco and recently re-legalized alcohol, but it also raised the top marginal income tax rate to 79 percent -- nearly three times as high as today’s top rate -- and it spent the money on government projects: roads, schools, parks, campgrounds, murals, and travel guidebooks. Visit the lodge in Starved Rock State Park, or the lobby of the Uptown Post Office, and you can see the legacy of the Works Progress Administration, the agency devoted to creating jobs for out-of-work Americans.

    Unlike Roosevelt, today’s Illinois Democrats are relying entirely on regressive taxes to raise funds. Quinn, Emanuel, and Preckwinkle have accepted the conservative economic consensus, which has prevailed since the Reagan Administration, that the wealthy should not bear the burden of increased government spending. Where Roosevelt increased taxes on top earners in order to spend his way out of the Great Depression, his successors are dealing with the Great Recession by increasing taxes on bottom earners, while at the same time cutting the services on which they depend.

    Maybe we should call it the Raw Deal.  

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