Thursday, February 07, 2008
(12:02 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Following Blagojevich's ExampleAs part of the transit deal, the Chicago city council was required to raise the real-estate transfer tax by 40%. That sounds like a lot, but in absolute terms it's trivial -- $750 for a $250,000 home. Nonetheless, just like every industry group in the history of time, the realtors campaigned furiously against a tax that would absolutely cripple their business by driving away all homebuyers whatsoever, turning Chicago into another Cleveland, etc. The aldermen had also just recently raised a variety of taxes, due to the need to keep public services running, and they were in need of political cover for that.
So what did they do? Apply the Blagojevich formula: raise taxes, but leaven it with meaningless pandering. In this case, they specified that active-duty military personnel and disabled veterans ride free, just as Blagojevich insisted that senior citizens ride free.
In his own way, Blagojevich may be a genius. He's provided us with the perfect formula for getting out of no-tax fundamentalism -- throw something stupid in there every time you have to raise taxes, and apparently no one will notice. For instance, Congress could let Bush's tax cuts expire, but with the proviso that every child be supplied with a free American flag. Obviously the public would know that it's a gimmick, but the public doesn't seem to be so concerned about taxes anyway -- it's only the fantasy-construction of "public opinion" that functions within elite political discourse that hates taxes.
In terms of this specific proposal, it occurs to me that many disabled veterans are homeless, and free CTA rides would be a godsend for them. The cynical side of me wonders if part of the reason they didn't go for veterans tout court is because that would mean that suddenly like 60% of the homeless population could ride free -- and if they will try to figure out a way to filter out the homeless disabled vets as well. (I will also note that one good side-effect of the political crap surrounding public transit in recent months has been fewer posts making fun of the homeless at CTA Tattler.)