Don Rose on the need to vote yes this November for a progressive income tax in Illinois.

Don Rose is a veteran progressive political consultant and activist.

Second only to top-of-the-ballot votes for Joe Biden and Democratic senate and congresspersons, we Illinois voters must (go to the top of the) ballot and vote YES on what will be listed as the “proposed amendment of Section 3 of Article IX of the Illinois Constitution.”

It will permit Illinois to join most of the nation in establishing a graduated state income tax to replace the flat 4.95 percent we now pay, regardless of our incomes—a graduated tax such as we pay Uncle Sam.It is a matter of fairness and economic necessity. We need the revenue.

Let me give you some history.We never had a state income tax until 1969, when a courageous moderate Republican governor (yes there once were such) named Richard Ogilvie got one passed with a rate of 2.5 percent. That year there were elections to the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention and a nascent independent progressive movement elected delegates up and down Chicago’s lakefront (giving rise to the term “lakefront liberal”) plus elsewhere in the city and downstate.

That band of independents helped give us a very progressive constitution in the areas of civil rights, civil liberties and gender equity—but failed in their economic goal of establishing a graduated income tax similar to the federal government. The power of money and a conservative establishment killed it off. Ogilvie was defeated two years later—as he feared might happen for sponsoring the tax.Ever since progressives have tried to get a constitutional change on the ballot, but never were able to muster up the super-majority in the legislature necessary to do so—until now, thanks to Governor J.B. Pritzker and boss-of-bosses, the much investigated Speaker of the House Mike Madigan.Pritzker ran on the issue and is putting up millions of his personal billions to get it passed in November’s referendum, but other billionaires, millionaires and fiscal conservatives are fighting it even harder than they did at the constitutional convention. The opposition strikes all kinds of fears, such as an exodus of businesses from the state, higher taxes for everyone and any other spaghetti they can throw at the wall.

The fact is, quoting the Chicago Tribune: Income between $10,000 and $100,000 would be taxed at 4.9%, and the rate would remain at 4.95% for income between $100,000 and $250,000. From there, single filers would be 7.75% for income between $250,000 and $350,000, and 7.85% for income between $350,000 and $750,000.In short, many would pay less, most others the same, while top levels—who can well afford it—would pay more. That’s why they call it the Fair Tax.

The only poll I know showed 2 to 1 support for the tax, but that done before the onslaught against it.

To become a reality either 50 percent of all voters must support it—very unlikely since so many vote only top of the ticket—or 60 percent of those who actually vote on the issue must say yes. Very possible—but you must remember to vote and remind all your friends. It will not solve all the state’s economic problems, but it will be a major stride—and a fair one.

Judge Michael Toomin, Fast Eddie Burke and the incredible whiteness of the Cook County judiciary.

Judge Michael Toomin.

Table of Wisdom almost sounds like a religious organization.

It’s not.

It’s what they call an investment club.

Table of Wisdom included judges and lawyers. From an ethical point of view that might seem like an odd combination for a company doing financial investments.

Y’know. Judges and attorneys out of the courtroom, hangin’ and investing together.

It turns out that Cook County Circuit Judge Michael Toomin and indicted Alderman Eddie Burke were both members of Table of Wisdom according to a report by Injustice Watch and the Chicago Sun Times.

There is no need to discuss here Eddie Burke’s problematic relationship with ethics.

Judge Toomin is a different case because Toomin got all high, mighty and ethical sounding about Kim Foxx.

You might not remember that it was Judge Toomin who was so ethically outraged at States Attorney Kim Foxx and her handling of the the Jesse Smullett case.

But you might recall the the media (and the FOP) went all hyper about Jesse Smullett, as if it were Leopold and Loeb.

It was Toomin’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor in the Smullet case in order “restore the public confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system.”

Apparently Judge Toomin sitting around the Table of Wisdom with Eddie Burke and other attorneys who appear before him wasn’t a problem for him in restoring confidence in the integrity of the justice system.

Injustice Watch points out that the Table of Wisdom pretty much reflects the Cook County judiciary: The Table of Wisdom was overwhelmingly white and male.

Table of Wisdom reflects the court system’s reputation as being largely white, older men with financial and personal ties to each other and the Democratic Party. Of the 10 company partners Toomin disclosed in forms submitted to the Illinois Supreme Court, the nine who could be identified are white, and all but one are men.

More than 70 percent of the Cook County judiciary is white, compared with 42 percent of the county’s population, and nearly 60 percent of judges are men, according to 2018 statistics provided by Chief Cook County Judge Timothy Evans.

Another thing about the ethically challenged Judge Michael Toomin.

Injustice Watch also reports that Judge Toomin, a juvenile justice judge, was blocking detention review motions on behalf of juvenile defendants despite an order from Chief Judge Timothy Evans requiring that all such motions be heard quickly in response to the COVID crisis.

Toomin was also blocking motions asking that youth who have been compliant with electronic monitoring be released. Typically youth are released from electronic monitoring after complying with the conditions for two or three weeks. As a result of Toomin’s actions, youth were being kept on electronic monitoring for as long as three months.

Judge Michael Toomin is on the ballot for retention in November.

Paul Krugman’s post 9/11 memory and mine.

Paul Krugman’s Tweet today on 9/11.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has a very different memory of post 9/11 than I do.

We took no bargain trips to the Virgin Islands.

Instead I remember standing with friends and relatives in front of the Islamic Community Center on the northwest side of Chicago to defend our Muslim neighbors from those who had made threats against them.

Anti-Muslim hatred was real then and continues to this day, fueled now with encouragement from Donald Trump.

Has Krugman lost his mind, his memory or does he just live in a bubble?

By misrepresenting the truth about 9/11 to justify a war framed as one against “Islamic terrorism,” how exactly did Bush calm prejudice?

I was teaching back then. They had just installed a climbing wall in the school’s gymnasium. I was asked to have some students paint a mural around the wall where it was being installed.

For a week after school I gathered buckets of paint and a dozen students. After talking about what would look best, we decided to paint clouds and stars.

Climbing the wall would take P.E. students to the sky!

The Physical Education teacher thought it would be a good idea to add a plane.

So we did.

The gymnasium also served as the lunch room and some lunch parents went nuts when they saw the plane. It was almost as it in their minds they imagined Osama bin Laden in the cockpit.

It seemed that everything we did was framed by fear of Islam and Muslims.

It was suggested I paint it over.

That wasn’t going to happen. I suggested to the principal that there was nothing wrong about painting an airplane in the sky of a mural for a climbing wall.

I even threatened to call a press conference in front of the school if it were painted over. The plane remained.

The good news was that it forced me to think about my Art curriculum and the fact that I had not included anything about Islamic art at any grade level.

So, that year I created a project that included interpreting the aniconic tradition of Islamic design.

Fourth grade was where I taught about architecture and the built environment. It was a perfect time and place to introduce the art of Islam.

I prepared tons of material about Muslim mosques.

I explained what aniconism means. No representations of the male or female form. The practice came from the Islamic prohibition of idolatry and in part from the belief that creation of living forms is God’s prerogative.

With protractor and colored pencils the students designed their interpretations of Islamic tiles.

The results were beautiful and I lined the hallway of our building with them.

It raised a few eyebrows.

I received phone calls.

No press conference was necessary.

Miguel Del Toral, whistleblower, was put under what amounted to EPA house arrest.

Retired EPA whistleblower, Miguel Del Toral.

The story of environment injustice, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, began in 2014, when the city switched its drinking water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River in a cost-saving move.

Inadequate treatment and testing of the water resulted in a series of major water quality and health dangers for Flint residents that were ignored, overlooked, and discounted by government officials even as the evidence mounted  that the foul-smelling, discolored, and off-tasting water piped into Flint homes for 18 months was causing skin rashes, hair loss, and itchy skin.

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission, a state-established body reported that the government response to the Flint crisis was a “result of systemic racism.”

An unsung hero in the story of lead in Flint’s water was an EPA employee, Miguel Del Toral.

Del Toral, now retired, blew the whistle on what was happening in flint, even as officials wanted to deny anything was wrong.

Del Toral was placed under professional house arrest by the EPA.

So, Miguel Del Toral’s response to the action taken by Chicago’s Mayor Lightfoot yesterday is important to take note of.

“It’s great that Mayor Lightfoot has done what none of her predecessors had the courage to do, which is to acknowledge the problem,” said Miguel del Toral, a retired U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official who played a key role in identifying similar threats in Flint, Michigan, and East Chicago, Indiana.

For a hundred years Chicago used lead pipes to get water from Lake Michigan to people’s houses.

No Mayor or Chicago administration before Mayor Lightfoot would even admit the danger let alone take action to remove the lead pipes.

Perhaps in hiding the truth they were acting like Donald Trump in lying about COVID19. Would Daley and Emanuel say they were just trying to avoid panic.

Emanuel came out against an aldermanic plan to raise real estate transfer taxes on expensive homes to start a fund to help pay to replace the city’s huge number of lead water pipes. Emanuel said then that the water was safe and homeowners shouldn’t be used as “ATMs” to pay for the work.

Next year the city will begin replacing lead service lines connecting homes to street mains. It will take years to finish the job.

At last we finally have a Mayor who says it is a job that must be done.

There is a new box to check on your IEA membership enrollment form.

The start of the school year.

I’m starting my ninth year of retirement and I can’t imagine the stress teachers are going through this year.

If I can toss out one piece of good news.

Remember back to the Red State Teacher Strikes of 2018 and 2019?

Evanston teacher Clare Kelly had this idea that the National Education Association should create a fund that would allow NEA members across the country to offer monetary support to their colleagues.

Her proposal was adopted by the Representative Assembly (not without some struggle with the national leadership, naturally).

This year the Illinois Education Association became the first state affiliate to include the Crisis Fund on the membership form.

Kudos to Clare.

The cost of COVID19 testing and national health care.

I have been tested twice, referred by my doctor, for the corona virus. Both times the results came back negative, thankfully.

My retirement health insurance was charged $100 for each test. I paid nothing.

But The New York Times has investigated a number of complaints that they have received. It turns out that even some of those with health insurance are being illegally charged for the COVID19 test.

I will get back to that in a moment.

I want to write about Paris.

I love Paris.

Anne and I have made plans about returning to our retirement travel.

When this is past, after first seeing the family in Brooklyn, we are taking a trip.

Paris, we agreed.

CBS:

Every summer, a big section of the walkway along the River Seine in central Paris is transformed into a temporary “beach,” complete with deck chairs, pop-up beach bars and play areas for children. This year, “Paris Plage” (Paris Beach) has offered a tranquil getaway for city-bound Parisians, but the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic is never far away.

Every afternoon this month about 200 people have lined up — at least a yard apart — to have both the swab test for an active infection, and a finger-prick test to detect antibodies indicating a previous one. They get the antibody test results right there within just 10 minutes, while the swab results come online or over the phone within days.

“I jog along the quays, so when I saw this and saw how easy it was to get tested, I decided to sign up,” a Parisian named Alexis told CBS News. He and his girlfriend Pauline are going to a wedding in two weeks and they felt a test would be the responsible thing to do.

“There will be lots of people, so we wanted to make sure we were safe,” he said.

As the doctor gave them the antibody test results, they looked visibly relieved and gave a thumbs up: “It’s negative!”

What’s amazing here is that, for example, if you don’t have your Social Security number yet or your paperwork in order, it doesn’t matter. You can be a tourist and get tested for free here, just like that.”

Allyson said she was “absolutely” grateful to be in France during the pandemic, rather than in her home country.

My heart is bursting with pride and gratitude towards this city and this country and how they are handling this. I am so glad to be here,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion. “This is how it should be done.”

“It’s easy. I don’t have to be French, I don’t have to be wealthy, I don’t have to be famous,” she said. “All I have to be is here, interested, and wanting to protect my community. That’s how easy it can be and that’s how it should be.”

France has national health care. We don’t.

Back to The New York Times investigation.

For months, Americans have been told not to worry about the costs of coronavirus tests, which are crucial to stopping the pandemic’s spread. “It is critical that Americans have peace of mind knowing that cost won’t be a barrier to testing during this national public health emergency,” Medicare’s administrator, Seema Verma, said in April.

Congress passed laws requiring insurers to pay for tests, and the Trump administration created a program to cover the bills of the uninsured. Cities and states set up no-cost testing sites.

Patients, whether with or without insurance, are beginning to find holes in those new coverage programs. Nationwide, people have been hit with unexpected fees and denied claims related to coronavirus tests, according to dozens of bills that The New York Times has reviewed. Insurers have told these patients they could owe from a few dollars to thousands.

The NYT estimates that the impact of incorrect test billing could add up to hundreds of thousands of Americans receiving unexpected bills at a huge cost.

Insurance companies like United Health blame the overcharges and illegal profits on coding problems or point the finger at doctors.

The insurers faulted the complexity of American medical billing, which can sometimes make it hard to tell when a coronavirus test is provided. Insurers can’t know to cover a claim differently if hospitals and doctor offices don’t use the right codes.

Please.

Insurance companies rake in billions from our lousy profit-based health care system.

Try spending some of those profits to hire some people to figure out the damn codes.

Trump’s response to the pandemic has been a disaster with the death toll approaching 200,000. But within the giant disaster are smaller ones.

The hidden cost of COVID testing is one of them.

Those who attacked Bernie’s proposals for Medicare for All said we all love the way the system works now.

But I’m thinking doesn’t Paris seem good right about now.

The new white flight and the decades old Black exodus from Chicago.

When I moved to Chicago in 1973 the city had over a million African American people living here.

A decade later Harold Washington was elected as our first African American Mayor. The African American population in Chicago hit 1.2 million.

By 2020, Chicago’s has lost 350,000 African Americans since the peak.

That is nearly equal to the population of Minneapolis or Miami.

The root cause of the exodus has been white racism in its many forms.

According to a UIC report, from 1990 through 2016, unemployment rates for black residents were around four times as high as they were for white residents. The wage gap between white and black residents has worsened each decade since 1980. And the city’s black communities have been disproportionately hit by deindustrialization and the growth of mass incarceration, which has contributed to the Black exodus.

And so it was an odd if all too typical Crain’s editorial on Friday that raised concerns about the city’s economic vitality and future that focused entirely on the recent exodus of the mainly white residents of the downtown and near north while never mentioning the historic Black exodus of the past three decades.

This unsettling reality is coming into sharper focus, and it’s something that should worry even those who don’t live and work downtown: The pandemic, crime and lingering concerns over the city’s and state’s financial health have combined to form a toxic triple-whammy that threatens to have a lasting impact on the economic viability of the Loop and its perimeter.

But Crain’s has turned the story inside out and upside down. The story has been the decades of deindustrialization and the loss of good jobs, affordable housing, a lack of investment in neighborhood schools and failed racist policing strategies in Black and Brown neighborhoods.

That was the real toxic whammy.

Lee Bey, author of Southern Exposure: The Overlooked Architecture of Chicago’s South Side and former architecture critic for the Chicago Sun Times posted a response to the Crain’s editorial on his Facebook page. In part, it read:

But the response of those in power (to the Black exodus) was “see ya; wouldn’t wanna be ya”—because a stream of white middle- and upper-class people were filling up all those new towers, townhouses and condos in and adjacent to the central area.The events of the past summer have shown us the *city* needs to be made safer and more equitable—not just downtown. The way it was, was essentially an ugly and unspoken agreement among the powers that be who were willing to tolerate rather than fix almost a century of disinvestment and crime on the South and West sides — as long as the troubles in those neighborhoods didn’t reach downtown. Now a measure of it has.

Trump, Madigan and the misuse of PAC money.

It can be difficult to wrap your head around the scope and size of Donald Trump’s corruption.

The latest example is his transfer of millions of dollars in campaign contributions to his personal use.

The Chicago Tribune:
In New York, Mr. Trump dispatched a team of lawyers to seek damages of more than $1 million from a former campaign worker after she claimed she had been the target of sexual discrimination and harassment by another aide. The lawyers have been paid $1.5 million by the Trump campaign for work on the case and others related to the president.

History will most certainly judge Trump as among the most corrupt presidents ever and November can’t come soon enough so we can toss him and his entire corrupt team of cronies and family members out on the street.

But the difference in corruption between Trump and our own Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan, is only in the size and scope of the corruption.

Compared to Trump, Madigan is a piker, a small-time Chicago ward heeler who made it big by Illinois standards.

Yet when it comes to diverting campaign dollars to pay lawyers to protect his cronies in sexual harassment suits or ComEd bribery indictments, Madigan and Trump are essentially the same.

Madigan diverted nearly a million dollars from Friends of Michael Madigan to pay off a settlement with Springfield political consultant Alaina Hampton and to pay his legal fees.

Alaina Hampton was the victim of sexual harassment by some Madigan’s closest associates and then when she exposed them she was black-balled from her consulting work.

Politico:
Alaina Hampton, the political consultant who recently settled a sexual harassment case with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and his Democratic organization, is still in a battle with the Chicago Teachers Union. During her suit with the Dems, Hampton had claimed CTU did not hire her because she had been blackballed by Madigan’s organization.”

Friends of Michael Madigan is the largest of Madigan’s political action committees, larger than the PAC of the Illinois Democratic Party.

In the last quarter Friends of Michael Madigan collected large sums from the state’s labor unions including the teacher unions, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Education Association and the Chicago Teachers Union.

As a career-long member and decade-long local president in the IEA I donated my money to the IEA’s political action committee with the purpose of electing pro-education candidates to state and local office.

I never gave them money with the intention of paying Madigan’s lawyers to defend him and his cronies against charges of sexual harassment.

Did you?

Resign Madigan.

The subject of a Friday night dump, Speaker Michael Madigan.

Conventional wisdom is that when you want to bury a news story, release it late Friday afternoon.

Friday of Labor Day weekend is even better.

Maybe that was part of the deal prosecutors worked out with Fidel Marquez, the former vice president of the Office of Political Bribes of Commonwealth Edison.

The Office of Political Bribes is more commonly referred to as the Department of Governmental Affairs.

But who is kidding who? That is ComEd’s lobbying office. And lobbing is just code for bribery in Springfield.

It occurs to me that our teachers unions have been foolish in giving our money to Madigan’s various political Action Committees. They should have just passed him a brown bag full of cash at Saputo’s Italian Restaurant in Springfield and said it was a bribe.

Maybe we would have received something in return.

Friends of Michael Madigan has raised nearly a million bucks in the last quarter, most from labor unions including the Illinois Federation of Teachers with an additional donation from the Chicago Teachers Union.

The expectation is that Marquez has worked out a plea deal. In exchange for a guilty plea, he is naming names.

So far, Madigan has not been explicitly named. But to make a bribe someone must give and someone must receive.

If Fidel Marquez, VP of Bribes at ComEd, has copped a plea and will plead guilty to bribing the unnamed Speaker of the Illinois House (there is only one), then what can we assume?

And all those toady, gutless Springfield Democratic Party liberals who have qualified their responses to demands that Madigan resign by saying “if the charges are proven,” will probably to do the wiggle dance again.

I’m thinking of the obviously guilty dean of the City Council, Eddie Burke.

It is now expected it will take another year for the indicted Burke to go to trial.