Rahm Emanuel

The Chicago Fray

Rahm Emanuel's been in crisis mode for the last 4 years, and it's led to a few right decisions.


Rahm Emanuel, current mayor of my old hometown, Chicago, is not a gentle soul. But he's smarter than his big-spending predecessor, Richard M. Daley, and the union pawn, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, who becomes the new mayor if he beats Emanuel in a run-off election April 7.

Emanuel was the tough Obama chief of staff who reportedly stabbed a table with a steak knife as he listed political enemies. 

He relishes conflict and famously said that in politics, "You never let a serious crisis go to waste." That comment scared libertarians and conservatives, who know that government usually uses crises as excuses to increase its power. 

But here's the surprise: Emanuel has been in crisis mode for four years now, and sometimes he made the right decisions as a result. 

"Crisis" is not just political rhetoric. Mayor Daley and his predecessors pandered to a shallow public and gullible media by spending, borrowing and refinancing. Borrowing helped Daley stay in office for 12 years, but cities can't keep borrowing the way Chicago has. 

Moody's downgraded Chicago's credit rating almost to junk-bond level last year because the city promised to pay billions of dollars in pensions to city workers but doesn't have the money. 

Chicago is the next Detroit. 

Emanuel tried to do some sensible things. He privatized some jobs, giving private contractors a chance to prove that they do city work better than city workers do it. He closed 50 of the city's worst schools. But he made little progress in addressing the immense pension liability. 

Maybe it would have been politically impossible. The pensions are owed mostly to union teachers, cops and firemen, and none will give an inch. Teachers union protests roused the public against Emanuel's school closings. 

"That school was the center of our neighborhood!" goes the refrain from the anti-Emanuel voters. "It provided good jobs." 

That's probably why Emanuel was forced into a run-off election.

But bad schools should close. And some union schools were really bad.

Emanuel's opponent in the run-off, Garcia, vocally supports the unions and joins them in opposing both pension reform and competition from charter schools at all costs. 

Garcia also wants a "moratorium on charter schools." But charters are a rare bright spot in the failing city. 

I suppose union manipulators like Garcia worry that if more parents see how much better schools get without unions in charge, they might get other dangerous ideas. They might demand flexibility and market-based solutions in other areas. 

One of my favorite things about Chicago is the so-called "Chicago school" of economics—free market advocates such as the late Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman. 

Friedman said, "a major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it … gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself." 

Chicago's corrupt political culture has little interest in letting ordinary people experience real freedom. 

Have you heard of "pay to play"? It's when politicians award contracts to businesses that pay bribes. Bribery is illegal, but clever political manipulators reframe it in ways their lawyers can call legal. It happens everywhere, but Chicago has been famous for it. Emanuel continued the tradition—one of the things he hasn't gotten right.

Somehow, investment firms that give money to Emanuel's campaign win fees to manage the city's money. Somehow, lawyers who give the right politicians money get lucrative contracts from the city. What a coincidence!

It's as if Chicago voters face a painful choice: waste or corruption. Day by day, the political class milks taxpayers dry.

Once Chicago goes bankrupt, though, a judge will presumably force the city to stop throwing money to cronies, whether unions or businessmen. Pensions will have to be trimmed so that they are sustainable. 

Then the rest of America will learn from Chicago's and Detroit's failures. Maybe. 

I'm doubtful, though, because so far, the political class didn't learn much from Detroit, Stockton, Greece, Cuba, Venezuela or the Soviet Union.

Maybe these are people who will never learn.

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Burn, Bright and Hot. Burn Burn Burn. Who am I kidding, Los Angeles is going that route too.

    1. I doubt Los Angeles is in as dire straits and probably won’t be for a while. Its population is increasing and is estimated to be increasing at a faster rate since the last census. Enormous stretches of the city are gentrifying, as well.

      The Midwestern cities’ populations are in decline; the inability to adapt to that decline is a major reason for their current struggles.

      1. Not really. The vast majority of the new arrival in Los Angeles are Obama’s Dreamers(tm) who are far superior to the citizens.

  2. The voters of Chicago have to decide ‘between the evil of two lessors.’

    1. You better copyright that. It’s going to be stolen.

    2. Two landlords?

  3. error in the article: ” (SET ITAL) ought (END ITAL) “

    1. I dunno, I think it brought extra attention to the word!

  4. This really speaks to the stupidity or willful ignorance of the electorate. They have to know their politicians are lying to them, but the choose to believe them because it may affect their own pocketbook. Sometimes people really do get the government they deserve.

    1. And those of us out in the suburbs quietly say “Pssst! Over here! You can relocate out here!”

      1. NO! Too goddam much traffic already. My commute from one suburb to another is already two hours each way.


        1. Not to mention that moving to the burbs doesn’t magically immunize them from believing and propagating the stupid bullshit that they learned/grew up with downtown.

          “That’s cool that you can just park on the street like that. I really need to move out here.”

          1. Can’t park on the streets in my ‘burb. Brings down property values or some such bullshit.

            1. I was hoping the businesses came…the hipsters and mindless Donkey coters can stay. Also, Nicole should stay, as she is the worst.

              1. *voters* or is that RC’s Law?

          2. But they still crack down on “junk” cars on private property if they’re not registered, even if they’re antiques. I need a garage to keep my 63 Buick.

            1. Being a “shadetree mechanic” this really sucks.

    2. No, it’s as rational as can be possible in a system where voters basically get one vote every two years to represent all their desires.

      If you don’t like shoes at WalMart, you can get shoes elsewhere. Everything except government has alternatives. Everything except government has this great feedback system called shopping.

      That is the primary evil of government, the lack of choice. With choice comes competition, comparison, efficiency, bankruptcy, and, especially, lack of coercion. Even if people had to sign up with one government or another, and all were allowed to conscript you, tax you, and judge you, all against your will, the very fact of having choices would limit their coercion.

      1. Yeah, while I can’t deny that the electorate are largely ignorant, I’m really sick of this argument that it’s their fault. Seriously, if you live in a place like Chicago, who the fuck else are you going to vote for? The system is rigged against freedom no matter what.

      2. I’ve talked to so many people that have no idea that federalism is supposed to address this issue or at least limit it to a state level.

        Each state should be allowed to be as utopian or as fucked up as its citizens choose. The federal government should be a virtual non-entity within the US borders. It’s the falsehood of “one nation” rather than a union of independent states united for a common purpose that has made such a powerful federal government seem normal and acceptable to so many people.

  5. Guy on the radio suggested that we can fix the whole thing by legalizing weed and making Chicago the growing and distribution center of the Midwest. I don’t believe it, but hey, I’d still vote for it.

    Same guy moaned about the closure of those 50 schools, claiming that it increased class sizes to more than 40 students per classroom. He also complained about charter schools- “If the smarter kids go to them, then what happens to all the kids left behind?” (My guess is that he was one of the kids left behind)

    1. “(My guess is that he was one of the kids left behind)”

      Yep, otherwise he’d know that when the ‘smarter kids’ move out, what’s left is a new batch of ‘smarter kids’.

      1. And the same dumb union-protected teachers. Apparently, in his mind, having smarter kids around somehow magically makes the dumber kids smarter by their very presence. Or maybe he’s thinking Harrison Bergeron, which I think is more likely.

        1. Fuck the Chicago Teacher’s Union. Fuck them with a rusty screwdriver.

        2. +1 Handicapper General.

    2. If the smarter kids go to them

      If by “smart” he means with parents who care to get them in. Otherwise I don’t see the relevance. Oh I get it, he’s claiming – with no evidence whatsoever – that charters only take smart kids.

  6. Emanuel is a special kind of scum.

    1. And the sad thing for the Chicagoans here is that it sounds like he might be the better choice.

      1. Actually, I think Garcia would be better.

        Ever been horribly nauseated, at the vomit-burp stage? You’re sitting near the toilet or a bucket, hoping that you can stave off the puking. But it’s inevitable, you’re gonna puke and it’s gonna be unpleasant. However, you’ll feel better afterward. So, do you keep trying to keep it down and stretch out the misery? Or do you just force it up and get it over with?

        Garcia is the emetic of Chicago politics. The Democrat Ipecac. The Progressive finger down your throat.

        1. I actually hope he wins too because this city is fucked already, why not speed up the process?

          1. The only thing that can be better is to have Kwame Kilpatrick come out of Federal Prison and become the new savior.

        2. maybe we can get the league of shadows to come in and raze the city. It might be quicker and less entertaining if you live there but I bet it would make for good TV.

  7. Have I mentioned I like Stossel?

    1. I beleive you might have said something to that effect, some months back?

  8. “There is nothing so bad that politics cannot make it worse.”
    T. Sowell

    1. His ire should be directed at coercive government; that is what makes politics so evil.

  9. Everytime I read this shit, I get depressed. It’s even more depressing that I bought a condo a couple months ago.

    1. A condo in Chicago.

      1. Dumb schmuck, what were you thinking????

        1. I love the city (not the politics) but my girlfriend wanted to get a place. Oddly enough it’s cheaper for me to own then rent. We have a five year plan where when we start having children, we are out of the city.

          1. Son, my advice to you is to get a new girlfriend.

          2. “We have a five year plan where when we start having children, we are out of the city.”

            Finally, a smart Five Year Plan!

            1. Oh, and consider the non-Cook, non-DuPage western ‘burbs. we need moar libertarianz.

              1. My girlfriend is a librarian in Barrington so I’m assuming that we are going to be North Suburbanites in the near future. She refuses to work for the Chicago Public Library because she’s heard stories of how fucked up and incompetent the administrators are so that’s that. I hate Cook County with a passion and tolerate DuPage but I would actually want to live in La Grange, Oak Park, or Riverside. If I moved to DuPage it would be Glen Ellyn or Naperville.

                1. God, the traffic through Barrington is a fucking nightmare. I made the mistake of taking 59 through there. I thought, wow, this must be an unusual day for traffic to be so jammed up. Then I did the same a week or two later and it was even worse.

                  My sympathies to her.

                  When I took this job, my soon-to-be boss warned me not to move to Cook County, no matter what.

                  1. She’s pretty angry and stressed after her commutes from work. During the spring and Summer seasons, I drive her to the Metra so she can be spared all of that traffic hassel.

                  2. I don’t understand why Barrington doesn’t widen 59. North and South of Barrington, it is fine.

    2. Sucker!

  10. One benefit of Garcia becoming Mayor would be the pleasure of watching Obama’s home town go bankrupt.

    It is already on the way down. Putting Garcia in charge (and I understand his allies are set to scoop up a number of seats on the City Council) will make that happen sooner, possibly before January 20, 2017.

    1. My girlfriend has an acquaintance ffrom college who loves Garcia. She’s a moron though, so there you go.

  11. Coming soon!
    Chicago…the next Detroit.
    Stay tuned!

  12. “That school was the center of our neighborhood!” goes the refrain from the anti-Emanuel voters. “It provided good jobs.”

    That same idiotic schools-as-jobs-program mentality also pervades the District of Columbia, as Former Mayor Fenty found out to his chagrin when he tried to fix the schools.

    Extrapolate that mentality across the electorate and add in a healthy dose of kleptocracy, and it’s easy to understand why “Chuy” could win.

  13. P.J. O’Rourke called Emanuel “Trotsky in toe shoes.”

    1. Does that make Garcia “Stalin in suede” or “Beria in burlap?”

      1. Imagine Trotsky singing Blue Suede Shoes.

        1. That got weird really fast.

  14. Chicago’s economy Is much more diverse than than Detroit’s so bankruptcy is not a foregone conclusion as Stossel writes.There are numerous trends that are paying off now and will continue in the near future;The city is selling excess land for private developments. Poor people are moving out of the city (because their public housing is gone and their city jobs are cut) while middle class families are staying. The pay to play that everyone does is keeping tech firms and brought in Google, Boeing, tech incubators, etc. into downtown. Stossel doesn’t see the thriving social life and restaurants that the new middle to upper middle class has been consistently keeping open. I’d say San Fran has some great restaurants but I prefer Chicago’s innovation and overall level of quality over NY’s scene.
    Today the Chicago city council approved parkland for Obamas library, which will be built where there were gangs and drug houses a few years ago, which have been leveled and will be middle class neighborhoods near UC campus. There’s been a new way of thinking for years and the machine has been slowly dying – putting Rahm into a runoff is the machines last breathe, but I think that’s all they’ve got. California’s pension crisis has already proven to be unavoidable on some levels, but Chicago can recover.

    1. The Blackstone Rangers are ready to help.

    2. yes, restaurants and new condos will fix your irreversibly fucked govt employee pensions.

    3. Ah. Blissfully and ridiculously naive.

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