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Chicago aldermen on Wednesday didn't just sign off on the mayor's plan to privatize Midway Airport. In what's becoming a trend, they also found time to propose a reordering of the country's social strata.
No one made a more impassioned appeal than Ed Burke, the impeccably dressed alderman of the 14th Ward, a high-powered lawyer [PDF] when he's not chairing the Committee on Finance, by far the most powerful post in the City Council.
"It is a national and an international disgrace that while the powers that be in Washington have been sending agents out to lock up poor, hardworking people and snap handcuffs on their wrists, that they've done nothing about the thieves on Wall Street," Burke said during what had been discussion of a resolution calling on federal officials to stop arresting or deporting undocumented immigrants. "As we speak today the market's down another 100 points. Mr. President, we haven't even calculated yet the losses to the city's pension funds! Now, alderman Hairston and I have proposed that the city of Chicago not do business with any of these Wall Street firms that have been guilty of obvious misconduct, and unless they limit the compensation of their executives to $400,000 a year they not be eligible to do business with the city of Chicago. Those Gucci-gulch lobbyists—the ones wearing their Armani suits and their Gucci ties and their Gucci loafers—will make sure that these folks on Wall Street will never get hurt. They'll figure out the loophole. But maybe we can send a message from the great American heartland, from the capital of the Midwest, that here in Chicago we're not going to do business with these Wall Street thieves!"
His colleagues cheered along with members of the audience, many of whom had earlier been demonstrating outside council chambers for immigration rights. Then James Balcer, alderman of the 11th Ward, raised his hand to speak.
"Can we strip these Wall Street swindlers of their citizenship?"
The crowd erupted in more cheers. Burke grabbed his microphone.
"No," he said. "But they're the ones who ought to be deported—not these poor, hardworking people!"