Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times
J.B. Pritzker's recent attack ad
slamming state senator Daniel Biss
for proposing pension cuts brought me back in time to when Mayor Rahm would unexpectedly drop by
firehouses to tell firefighters to go fuck themselves—in so many words.
That was in Rahm's full Mayor 1 Percent
glory days, right after he'd stormed into town from the White House like an invading army, determined to take Chicago and give it to his cronies.
He closed schools and clinics, endorsed tax breaks
for the rich, and eagerly took the lead
in the Democrat charge to cut pensions. And that's what brought him to those firehouses.
"Rahm was really cocky," says Firefighter Jim, who stopped to chat after my First Tuesdays
show at the Hideout. "He’d say, 'Who’s got that Audi in the parking lot?’ You know, like we didn’t need the pensions."
As always, Mayor Rahm was backed by a bodyguard—or two or three. Guess it's not so scary to talk trash to firefighters when you bring a posse.
As the Pritzker ad points out, Mayor Rahm wasn’t the only Democrat calling for pension cuts. It was the rage of the day for Democrats, like Governor Pat Quinn and house speaker Michael Madigan and, yes, Biss—to his ever-lasting regret.
The Dems advocated pension cuts—"pension reform," they called it—like it was the mature, responsible, pragmatic thing to make retired teachers, cops, firefighters, and other retired geezers eat gruel.
They eventually pulled back after the Illinois Supreme Court ruled against stealing from hardworking blue-collar government employees. In fact, by the time his 2015 reelection campaign rolled around, Rahm had made peace
with the firefighters, giving them a contract with retroactive raises and dropping all threats of pension cuts, Audis in the parking lot be damned.
Now we have Pritzker running commercials blasting Biss for selling out state workers and betraying core Democratic principles. Man, stick around long enough and you’ll see it all.
In fairness to Biss, Pritzker wasn’t an elected official or candidate in those pension-cutting days, so he didn’t have to take a stand on that tough issues.
Pritzker certainly didn’t speak up when Rahm, his longtime political ally, threatened to cut the pensions for city workers, including firefighters, teachers, and cops.
On the other hand, Pritzker's family foundation
was a beneficiary of the mayor’s 2014 privatized pre-K program for low-income children. In that deal, the city borrowed money to fund pre-K instead of paying for it out of the city budget.
So there’s more money going to lenders like the Pritzker foundation, and less money going to low-income pre-K kids. Speaking of betraying core Democratic Party values.
Now, Biss jabs back at Pritzker for benefiting from the privatized pre-K boondoggle. All's fair in love, war, and politics.
I’m trying to be encouraged as the Democratic gubernatorial candidates move left in the primary campaign. I’m hoping it means the Dems have come to their senses about what they really stand for.
Of course, I realize that once the primary’s over, the winner will inevitably drift back toward the right, abandoning one core principle after another.
It will be up to the Democratic base—like Firefighter Jim—to make sure they don’t drift too far. That fight never ends.
The Dems better bring a posse.