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Cook County Board approves soda tax

Cook County Board approves soda tax

The tax, which will go into effect in July 2017, will increase the cost of a 99-cent can of soda to $1.11, and would boost the cost of a 20-ounce bottle to $2.39 from $2.19.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of new tax on sugary and artificially sweetened beverages.

The Cook County Board approved a new penny-per-ounce tax on sugary and artificially sweetened beverages on Nov. 10. The board was in an 8-8 stalemate until Board President Toni Preckwinkle cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of the measure, claiming that it would raise much-needed revenue to avoid critical cuts to criminal justice and health care systems, the Chicago Tribune reported. 

The new tax is expected to collect $224 million a year and raise additional tax dollars for the proposed $4.9 billion budget for fiscal year 2017. The tax, which will go into effect in July 2017, will increase the cost of a 99-cent can of soda to $1.11, and would boost the cost of a 20-ounce bottle to $2.39 from $2.19, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

In addition to soft drinks, other beverages that fall under the net of this tax include lemonade, sports drinks, sweet tea, fruit juices and any other beverage with sugar or artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, a key ingredient in many low-calorie and diet drinks.   

Opponents of the measure included the American Beverage Association and Illinois Retail Markets Association, who claimed it was a regressive tax that would hit poorest families hardest, according to the Chicago Tribune. Advocates of the tax include former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, famous for his attempt to ban Big Gulps in New York City.  

This tax on sugary and artificially sweetened beverages is simply the latest cash grab in a long line of tax hikes by Cook County. Last November, the Cook County Board under Preckwinkle’s leadership approved and passed a sales tax hike, an amusement tax, an ammunition tax, a hotel tax, an e-cigarette liquid tax and a $20 increase in fees per lawsuit filed.  

Then, like now, Preckwinkle claimed that the need to raise revenue through new taxes was absolutely essential for critical services and did not discount the possibility of more taxes for Cook County residents for the 2017 budget.  

The new tax on sugary and artificially sweetened beverages, like the whole slew of new taxes and tax hikes last November, is regressive. The people hurt most are middle- and working-class Cook County residents who already face some of the highest property and sales taxes in the nation. One Gallup study even showed that 45 percent of people making under $30,000 a year consume regular soda, as opposed to only 20 percent of those making over $75,000 a year. The study also found that people making less money are more likely to drink soda.  

Instead of pushing regressive taxes onto already cash-strapped Cook County residents, the Cook County Board should figure out real solutions to the county’s fiscal woes instead of taking more money from the people who can least afford it. 

TAGS: Chicago, Cook County, soda tax, taxes, Toni Preckwinkle

 

Source: Will County News

Illinois voters sent a clear message to the longtime House speaker Nov. 8: “enough.”

Illinois voters sent a clear message to the longtime House speaker Nov. 8: “enough.”

House Speaker Mike Madigan is the most powerful man in Illinois politics.

He controls whether bills live or die. He controls the legislative map. He controls a property tax law firm that makes millions on the back of his influence.

But on Nov. 8, Illinois voters proved he can be beaten. Madigan will no longer control a veto-proof supermajority in the Illinois House.

The election results will likely change what was once the easiest and most obvious vote for House Democrats – Madigan for speaker – into one of the most contentious of the upcoming legislative session.

Voters in five House districts replaced Democrat seats with Republicans, while Madigan’s Democrats picked off just one Republican House member.

The Illinois House requires 71 votes to override a veto from Gov. Bruce Rauner. With the election costing Madigan four seats in the chamber he controls, his 71-member supermajority will drop to a simple majority of 67.

This is a clear rebuke of a man who has held state office since 1971, and who has served as speaker for 31 of the last 33 years.

On Election Day, Madigan’s Assistant House Majority Leader John Bradley lost to Republican Dave Severin. Bradley has voted for a Madigan speakership six times.

Democrat state Rep. Mike Smiddy lost to Republican Tony McCombie. Smiddy has voted for a Madigan speakership twice.

Democrat state Rep. Kate Cloonen lost to Republican Lindsay Parkhurst. Cloonen has voted for a Madigan speakership twice.

Democrat state Rep. Andy Skoog lost to Republican Jerry Long. Skoog was appointed to his seat in 2015 after Madigan’s party operation vetted him.

In a state where the Republican presidential nominee drew a mere 39 percent of the vote, and where Madigan drew the district lines himself, these losses are an embarrassing blow to a man known for his electoral prowess.

But all was not lost for Madigan.

Susana Mendoza, his chosen candidate for comptroller, was victorious over Republican incumbent Leslie Munger. Mendoza voted Madigan into the speakership six times during her tenure in the House of Representatives.

In 2011, she seconded his nomination for speaker of the House. “I’ve had the privilege to serve under his leadership for 10 years now, only a quarter of the time that Illinois has benefitted from his almost 40 years of stewardship,” Mendoza said of the speaker. “Over the last decade, I have witnessed his skills as a leader and a man who time and time again has demonstrated his passion and love for this state and has consistently put Illinois first.”

This is not an opinion most Illinoisans share. Nearly two-thirds of registered voters in Illinois disapprove of the speaker, according to recent polling from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

While Madigan did not retain the Democrat supermajority needed to neuter Rauner’s veto pen, he did retain a strong majority. This means Democrats will be able to choose the speaker of the House come January 2017.

There is not a single sitting House Democrat who has ever voted for someone other than Madigan for the speakership (setting aside the 1995 vote, when the chamber was controlled by Republicans.)

In January, Illinoisans will see whether that miserable trend continues, or if lawmakers are ready to listen to their call for change.

TAGS: Andy Skoog, Kate Cloonen, Mike Madigan

Source: Will County News

ACLU vows relentless opposition to certain Trump proposals

ACLU vows relentless opposition to certain Trump proposals

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American Democracy

title

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has described President-elect Donald Trump as a “one-man constitutional crisis,” is vowing to use its “full firepower” to fight some of the next president’s most controversial proposals.

The ACLU said in a statement following Trump’s election:

President-elect Trump, as you assume the nation’s highest office, we urge you to reconsider and change course on certain campaign promises you have made. These include your plan to amass a deportation force to remove 11 million undocumented immigrants; ban the entry of Muslims into our country and aggressively surveil them; punish women for accessing abortion; reauthorize waterboarding and other forms of torture; and change our nation’s libel laws and restrict freedom of expression.

These proposals are not simply un-American and wrong-headed, they are unlawful and unconstitutional. They violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and 14th Amendments. If you do not reverse course and instead endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step. Our staff of litigators and activists in every state, thousands of volunteers and millions of card-carrying members and supporters are ready to fight against any encroachment on our cherished freedoms and rights.

One thing is certain: We will be eternally vigilant every single day of your presidency.

The ACLU’s vow to fight Trump on any issue it determines unconstitutional may sound like an annoyance to many Trump supporters who are celebrating his victory. But for conservatives who are only celebrating Hillary Clinton’s defeat, the lawsuits may serve as a welcome safety net against some of Trump’s more rash proposals.

We’ve noted in the past that some of Trump’s remarks about property rights, the free press and his heavy focus on law and order, should at least be cause for concern for voters who believe the federal government’s job is to preserve and follow the nation’s Constitution.

American conservatives have the opportunity to do the country a great service by holding on to their principles even as the party that is supposed to represent smaller government is in control. That would be a huge departure from how the majority of liberals handled President Obama’s time in the Oval Office.

Remember how the left thought Obama would end unconstitutional wars and expand civil liberties?  So they somehow gave him a free pass on extrajudicial drone executions and continuation and expansion of massive privacy intrusions.

Trump’s upsetting of the political establishment, while refreshing to anyone tired of big government politics, is by no means a guarantee that his administration isn’t poised to become a new version of the same problem.

And here’s the trap to avoid: Trump keeps his promises regarding the 2nd Amendment, and conservatives feel false security that his administration won’t violate other important constitutional protections.

After all, the whole reason for the 2nd Amendment is so the nation’s leaders listen up when the public points out unconstitutional overreach.

Source: Will County News

Imperialism, corruption and collapse

Imperialism, corruption and collapse

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President Obama appears at Miami-Dade College to talk about the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. (Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)The accession of the emperor Commodus in 180 CE marked the descent “from a kingdom of gold to one of rust and iron.” — Cassius Dio, ancient historian.

America was once a kingdom of gold. It has become a wasteland of rust and iron. What is difficult is placing the blame on a single American president. I’ve written on this before and we have received excellent comments, many with merit, but few in agreement of the culprit. What is safe to say is that America has declined severely from its apex, whether you want to set a bar during the post-World War II of the late 1940s or before Vietnam during the early 1960s.

It seems more likely that the death of the American Empire reads like the Agatha Christie novel, Murder on the Orient Express, where not one person committed a murder but 13 did in one coach, all with connections to the deceased.

In 200 years from now, when students ask who and what killed Pax Americana, the answers will be varied. And it all took place in the open over decades with millions watching and almost none who intervened. There are so many similarities between the collapse of Rome and what we are witnessing now but are powerless to stop, the collapse of the United States of America.

The cost of war

Picking a single reason is like throwing darts blindfolded. You will hit something and it may well be the reason for America’s demise, but all we are doing is attempting a postmortem on the dying but not yet dead. Of course there are bushels of experts who think they can nail down the exact cause and, through that, reconstruct the American Empire.

There are many parallels as to Rome’s demise and the fact that America is kaput. Two of the many reasons are military expansion and massive debt.

The Cold War and supporting the proxy wars that sprang from it (which would includes Vietnam) cost the United States $8 trillion. According to Time, the cost of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars will be between $4 trillion and $6 trillion. Without war, the United States could have a deficit of $6 trillion to $8 trillion rather than one of $20 trillion.

Some may ask how America can be bankrupt when the country borrows $4 billion every day. It comes down to what Donald Trump would no doubt call a rigged system. In August 2011, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time, dropping it from AAA to AA. In doing this S&P said that debt had made the U.S. government’s ability to manage its finances “less stable, less effective and less predictable.”

I have to wonder how many of the world’s top bond analysts it took to figure that out. But the fact is that anyone that knows the difference between a stock and a bond would probably conclude that a double B rating on Treasury debt would be a more accurate approximation. That is not good when you consider that the S&P definition of double B bond, “is LESS VULNERABLE [emphasis not added] in the near term than other lower-rated obligors. However, it faces major ongoing uncertainties and exposure to adverse business, financial, or economic conditions which could lead to the obligor’s inadequate capacity to meet its financial commitments.”

The epitome of “too big to fail”

A central reason foreign governments did not vigorously sell U.S. Treasuries even after they were downgraded is because they are on the hook holding roughly $7 trillion worth of Treasuries whose values would fall off a cliff if word on Wall Street got out about nations liquidating Treasuries.

China and Japan are holding $1.25 trillion and $1.13 trillion in U.S. Treasury debt respectively. Russia has sold $80 billion Treasury holdings. That is the sale of almost half of their Treasury securities. You would think that the Democrats would tread more gently with a creditor who could throw the U.S. dollar into a tailspin of such speed it would create an economic vortex which would make the Crashes of ’29 and ’08 look like downtick. I think this would have already happened if not for the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve. They ripped out a page from the Latin American Dictators Economic Handbook.

The definition of Quantitative easing is:

An unconventional monetary policy in which a central bank purchases government securities or other securities from the market in order to lower interest rates and increase the money supply. Quantitative easing increases the money supply by flooding financial institutions with capital in an effort to promote increased lending and liquidity.

It has been written about ad nauseam so I will only add this: U.S. presidents have become Latin American dictators but they use keyboards rather than a printing press which helps out and gives the Greens one less thing to complain about.

When in Washington, do as the Romans did

What the United States is doing and what Latin American countries have tried is nothing new. In Ancient Rome emperors used silver to back their money.

Rome’s wealth rose to glorious heights through bloody conquests. In his book, The History of Money, Jack Weatherford explains: “Rome’s fame and glory came from the military and from conquest, and their riches, too, derived much more from the achievements of the army than from those of the merchants.”

But conquests and occupation required ever more silver. Less than a century after Julius Caesar’s murder, Roman spending rose to 250 million denarri, 10 times what it had been 60 years earlier. By 60 CE Nero reduced silver content in the coinage by 90 percent. It wouldn’t take long for all the money to be re-coined with no silver. In antiquity change was slow, but by 285 CE the Roman Empire split East and West and no longer resembled what it had been during its heights.

America is not so different. Watergate introduced corruption at its highest levels of government. This has only increased in front of disinterested Americans. Salon in December 2012 carried an article titled: 8 striking parallels between the U.S. and the Roman Empire.

I have narrowed it down to four:

  1. Continuous war: a national state of security arises, distracting attention from domestic challenges with foreign war. Similar to the late Roman Republic, the U.S. — for the past 100 years — has either been fighting a war, recovering from a war or preparing for a new war.
  2. Foreign powers lavish money/attention of the republic’s leaders: Foreign wars lead to growing influence, by foreign powers and interests, on the Republic’s political leaders — true for Rome and true for us. (This was taken to an all new level by the Clintons).
  3. Collapse of the middle class: In the period just before the Roman Republic’s fall, the Roman middle class was crushed — destroyed by cheap overseas slave labor.
  4. Loss of the spirit of compromise: the Roman republic, like ours, relied on a system of checks and balances.Compromise is needed for this type of system to function. In the end, the Roman Republic lost that spirit of compromise, with politics increasingly polarized between Optimates [SIC] (the rich, entrenched elites) and Populares [SIC] (the common people). Sound familiar? Compromise is in noticeably short supply in our own time. For example, there were more filibusters between 2009 and 2010 than there were in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s combined.

What is most reprehensible is that presidents, nominees for president and certainly some members of the senate and house, along with their staff, are crooked; that they with their illegal activities swarm Capitol Hill the way Army Ants swarm a knoll. Just consider how President Barack Obama blatantly operates outside the law and is braggadocio in his disdain of the Constitution.

The deconstruction of the American Empire has been ongoing for decades. The hegemony that was the starch of America’s social fabric did not survive past the 1970s. In just under half a century it was washed out. So too was the middle class and poor. The American dream that millions believed they could capture if they reached for the golden ring turned out to be a fake charade fixed by the ruling class that were no better than carnies at a state fair. The inevitable result is that America as we knew it will cease to exist.

Instead we will be citizens to a One World Government that came to national attention when President Jimmy Carter took office in 1976. All of the top positions in the government — the office of president, vice-president, secretaries of state, defense and treasury — are held by members of the Trilateral Commission and the national security advisor was its director. Many lesser officials also came from this group.

The election is over and not since President Abraham Lincoln has the country been so divided. It is only going to get worse.

Yours in good times and bad,

— John Myers

Source: Will County News

‘$100K Minimum Wage’ For 220,000 Highly-Compensated California Public Employees Costs Taxpayers $35B

‘$100K Minimum Wage’ For 220,000 Highly-Compensated California Public Employees Costs Taxpayers $35B

 

Adam Andrzejewski 11/11/2016 Forbes

 

In California, according to data captured at OpenTheBooks.com, 212 city and small town managers out-earn every governor of the 50 states ($180,000).

In many states, public service has little to do with serving the public and everything to do with using the public’s money to serve politicians. Whenever we open the books, California is consistently among the worst offenders. Recently, we found ‘animal collection curators’ making $110,290; city librarians earning $222,320; public utility commission bosses at $550,028; and county hospital doctors making $1.274 million.

This spring, at Forbes, we exposed 50,000 Illinois public employees earning six-figure salaries who cost taxpayers $8 billion. In California the numbers are exponentially larger:  218,667 employees making six-figures who cost $35 billion. For example, Illinois has 72 ‘city managers’ out-earning every governor of the 50 states. But, in California, the salaries of 171 assistant city managers average $201,550!

Using our interactive mapping tool, quickly review (by ZIP code) the 220,000 California public employees who earn more than $100,000. Just click on a pin and scroll down to search the results rendered in the chart beneath the map.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/adamandrzejewski/2016/11/11/100k-minimum-wage-for-220000-highly-compensated-california-public-employees-costs-taxpayers-35b/#1efbf9f52fee

  • 90012, Los Angeles – the #1 ZIP code in California with 42,007 six-figure employees costing taxpayers $7.5 billion per year. The highly compensated LA ‘Port Pilot’ John Betz earned $482,792 helping cargo ships navigate the harbor and ten other ‘port pilots’ were paid an additional $3.7 million in salary plus overtime. Union contracts mandate the overtime abuses.
  • 92502, Riverside County – the home of Lee Wagner, an Assistant Sheriff who netted $653,025. Wagner’s base salary was $234,584, but received a salary spike by cashing-in unused banks of benefits, i.e. leave. Also, the county highly compensated its ‘staff psychiatrists’: Charles Yates ($472,175) and David Dinicola ($433,422).
  • 92522, City of Riverside – two ‘assistant city managers’ each exceed $200,000 in salary- Deanna Lorson ($220,994) and Alfred Zelinka ($209,700). While in the utilities department, eighteen ‘power line technicians’ made $105,572 and their manager cleaned off $198,516.
  • 94102, San Francisco – William J. Coaker, Jr. netted $507,832 as the Chief Investment Officer (CIO) for the City of San Francisco. In contrast, the CIO at CalPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System) only made $456,877 last year – managing the largest pension fund in the United States with $301 billion in assets.  And, it’s good to be a truck driver in San Francisco. Thirty highly compensated drivers made $100,000 plus with Jeffrey Lamendola earning $184,767. Two city bricklayers made $106,681 and $101,460 respectively. Who knew that cities employed six-figure bricklayers?
  • 90210, Beverly Hills – 326 municipal employees earned six-figures including Art Director Aram Chobanian ($114,318) and Events and Filming Supervisor Benita Miller ($103,841). But topping the list are the fire and police staff: David Grate, Fire Battalion Chief ($349,449), Charles Ratcliff, Fire Engineer ($344,223), and Scott Dowling, Police Sergeant ($320,758).
  • 94538, Fremont – Levine Harvey, the City Attorney, cost taxpayers $419,394 with a $40,000 salary raise last year. 697 highly compensated staffers cost more than $100,000 per year with thirty over $300,000. Sixteen police and fire officers earned between $321,262 to $404,810. Even the ‘animal services manager’ cost taxpayers $186,422.

Source: Will County News