Sunday, July 05, 2009

Berkowitz, Marin and Zorn: A virtual conversation about politics and taxes

Chicago Tribune columnist and blogger Eric Zorn brings Carol Marin and Jeff Berkowitz together, so to speak, in an item Zorn posted yesterday.

First, Zorn provides the reader with a partial transcript of the exchange Marin had with Senate President Cullerton on Chicago Tonight (Wednesday night) dealing in large part with how can it be that Democratic control of the legislature and Governor’s mansion cannot produce, in light of the projected deficit, a major income tax increase? Blagojevich, who was erratic, to say the least, but who had consistently opposed an income tax increase, has now been impeached and removed by the legislature, so what gives, asks Marin and Zorn. [It was nice of Zorn to transcribe this].

Zorn on Carol Marin’s Questioning of Senate President Cullerton on the Dems’ failure to increase taxes:

What Cullerton is suggesting, though, is not a principled objection to raising taxes on the part of certain House Democrats ... a programmatic belief that there is a better way to a balanced budget that does not include raising income taxes. He's suggesting an opposition to a tax increase [by Speaker Mike Madigan’s House Democratic caucus] that's rooted purely in electoral politics: I want to get re-elected, I don't think I can persuade my constituents that a tax increase is the way to go so, even though I believe it is the way to go, I'm not going to vote for it until the Republicans give me political cover.

Whether or not you like the result, and Berkowitz plainly seems to, the idea that cowardice rather than principle is guiding this decision ought to dismay.

Berkowitz’s criticism of Carol Marin

Whether or not this journalist likes the result is not the point. Unlike Marin and Zorn, I am, in large part, not an opinion journalist. I have opinions, of course, but unlike Marin and Zorn, I don’t endorse candidates, parties or [in large part] issue positions, for that matter. I take positions to inform, illuminate, challenge, provoke, play devil's advocate, search for truth and entertain, as opposed to doing what Marin and Zorn do, which is to take positions to advance their notion of the common good.

My criticism of WTTW’s Carol Marin was not about her support of an income tax increase, but about the fact that she seemed unaware that many Democratic constituents do not support an income tax increase. Yes, Speaker Madigan might be motivated by other factors, e.g., a desire to hurt a potential competitor of his daughter [AG Lisa Madigan, who may run for Gov in the 2010 Dem primary], in his less than enthusiastic support for Gov. Quinn’s tax increase. But, neither Marin nor Zorn spends much time with the Lisa Madigan argument.

The split among State Democrats on the Quinn Tax Increase

Even Senate President Cullerton, who supports an income tax increase, acknowledges that a number of Democrat House members may oppose Gov. Quinn’s proposal to raise taxes, and that Speaker Mike’s lack of enthusiasm for Quinn’s tax increase may be based simply on that. Marin seems incredulous that that could be the case. Eric Zorn calls those House members cowards because he posits, based on Cullerton’s comments, that their opposition is based on self-preservation, as opposed to a belief that a tax increase might be, say, bad for the State economy.

Why didn’t Marin question Cullerton on alternatives to the income tax increase?

My criticism of Marin also stems from the fact that she spends little, if any, time questioning the supporters of tax increases about the alternatives put forward by those who oppose the income tax increase.

Yes, Chicago Tonight has had John Tillman [Illinois Policy Institute] on to discuss his opposition to a tax increase and Senator Matt Murphy [to do the same], as it has had Ralph Martire on, multiple times, to discuss his support for a tax increase. But the point is why didn’t Marin ask President Cullerton some questions from the right? For example, why didn’t Marin ask President Cullerton about John Tillman’s suggestion that an income tax increase be rejected and instead that:

-Quinn’s proposed spending increases for twenty government agencies of a billion dollars be kept at a flat level, saving the taxpayers a billion dollars

-Agencies scheduled for no change in spending be instead cut by 10%, which would save the taxpayers 640 million dollars

-Medicaid managed care be instituted at a projected annual savings of 725 million dollars [For those who argue that this takes time, the suggestion was first made last March by a senate committee and more than three months have gone by with no effort by the Dem majorities to move forward on this].

-State employee retirees asked for additional healthcare contributions of a billion dollars

-Current state employees asked for additional healthcare contributions of three hundred million dollars

-The state cut subsidies to local governments by 1.3 billion dollars

-Transfers from the General Revenue Fund to select state funds of six hundred million dollars be cut

-The State payroll be cut by 10% or 500 million dollars

-Purchase reforms be instituted, saving about 400 million dollars

--Six billion dollars in state budget savings

Altogether, the above actions would save the state in excess of six billion dollars, more than enough to offset the four billion dollars that a state income tax increase is expected to generate.

If Marin doesn’t feel like she has the background to ask the above questions, let this journalist co-host Chicago Tonight with her and I’ll ask them. I would have asked President Cullerton them myself but he has declined to appear on “Public Affairs,” since he became Senate President.

Zorn, on the other hand, deserves a lot of credit for sponsoring much dialogue on his site about the pros and cons of tax increases, some of it involving this journalist. And, I am pleased for the opportunity that he gave me, above, to join his conversation.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at *************************************************************
"Public Affairs," is a weekly political interview show airing in Chicago on CANTV, in the Chicago metro area, Aurora and Rockford on Comcast and also often on the Illinois Channel. You can watch the shows, including archived shows going back to 2005, here.
"Hot," recent posted shows on the Public Affairs YouTube page include a show with economist Art Laffer [inventor of the Laffer Curve] and FNC's Steve Moore about their book, "The end of Prosperity," and the Obama Administration's economic policies; the fastest five minutes on the web- a New York Times video about Obama-Berkowitz, a show with State Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), a show with Professor Stephen Presser, a Northwestern University Law School Professor, about Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the U. S. Supreme Court, a show with State Rep. Hamos (D-Evanston) about Illinois' budget deficit and Hamos' likely run in the 2010 Attorney General Dem. Primary , a show with the most recently announced Republican Primary Guv candidate Dan Proft (will announce his decision by end of June) , the second fastest five minutes on the web- a segment of Bill O'Reilly with Berkowitz discussing a clip of Obama from 2002 on Blagojevich and many more shows.