Politicians Flee the ‘Peons’

by , posted on Monday, May 28th, 2012 at 7:00 am

You could identify the politicians at Illinois’ Capital Building by their demeanor. And the same for the lobbyists who were courting their attention. Watching them all was like watching ‘Singles Date Night’ at a local country club. Only instead of alcohol being the drug of choice, it was power and influence. But if you didn’t have the power and influence of either a politician or a lobbyist, the politicians treated you like a peon.

Last week during Illinois’ General Assembly session, people came to Springfield to speak with their Senators and Representatives. They were requesting a seat at the table where changes to the Illinois’ pension system and Medicaid system are being made.

Most of them were teachers and state mental health workers, all worried about cuts their Senators and Representatives were rumored to be planning for their jobs and their pensions. They were easy to identify given they wore green shirts printed with the letters of their union, AFSCME.

While the House was in session, between twenty and sixty people, mostly those wearing green shirts, crowded outside the door to the House Floor. The protocol is to hand the doorman your name and the name of the Representative with which you wish to speak. The doorman goes into the House and hands the note to your Representative and when able, he or she comes out to speak with you.

Arrogance, fear, and anger were the rule of the day. One could be excused for thinking the people in green shirts were the angry ones. But they were the fearful ones, generally behaving in a very deferential manner, almost begging their Representatives for a seat at the table. And gracefully accepting whatever their politician said with minimal questioning. The Representatives were the ones behaving with inexcusable arrogance and angry behavior.

When asked specific questions about the need for funding rather than cutting programs and pensions, only one, Senator Susan Garrett (D) from Highwood, responded with the same courtesy she had been shown by her constituents. While she knew nothing about a speculation tax of $1 that could be easily implemented for Illinois on derivatives traded on the Chicago exchanges (bringing in $6,000,000,000 annually according to Bill Barclay, economist with the Chicago Political Economy Group), she was familiar with the idea on a federal level and enthusiastically stated she supported it. And then she politely ran from the group.

Two other Representatives who faced similar questions regarding the need to increase funding rather than cut programs and pensions became what can only be described as enraged.

Representative Patricia Bellock, (R) from Westmont, initially attempted to be polite until the questions became specific regarding increasing revenue. She stated she had not considered a speculation tax, and only considered cutting programs. When asked about a graduated income tax she began to yell and demand the elderly woman asking her questions tell her how much Illinois already collects in taxes.

“I’m asking the questions now! You answer ME!” She yelled.

When the woman tried to give her information that the graduated income tax, as Iowa has, would lower taxes for 54% of Illinoisans while bringing in $6,200,000,000 (according to the Center for Budget and Tax Accountability) Representative Bellock bellowed, “I don’t have to speak to you anyway!” and pushed past the woman and several others as she left.

Representative Jil Tracy (R) of Quincy became the most unglued. When someone in her group of constituents asked about a graduated income tax, presenting that it would lower taxes for 54% of Illinoisans, she yelled, ”I’m NOT going there!” Regarding looking at a speculation tax on derivative trades and on closing corporate subsidies and loopholes before cutting pensions and aid for vulnerable citizens, unwilling to acknowledge we were talking about lowering taxes for Illinoisans, she yelled, “You’re crazy! I’m not going to raise your taxes!”

She became so enraged she pushed two women out of the way, nearly knocking one to the ground as she rushed away.

One of the observers said Rep. Tracy really showed her true colors.” And another, “She is one mean unpleasant woman.”

Even though they were rude, at least those Representatives came out to speak with their constituents. Representative Tim Schmitz (R) Geneva completely blew off his constituent.

She stood outside the door for nearly three hours waiting for Rep. Schmitz to appear. She even requested information from the doorman whether he had given Schmitz the note and also inquired at times if Schmitz was still there. Finally the last time she inquired whether Rep. Schmitz was still there the doorman was very apologetic.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” he said. “Rep. Schmitz is no longer here. He must have gone out the back way.”

She had traveled four hours to speak with him, so she decided to go to his office. While each of the secretaries lining the corridor leading to Rep. Schmitz’s office said he wasn’t there, she continued walking past them to find his office. His was the last in the corridor.

He was relaxing on his couch, legs crossed, and texting on his phone when she called to him.

“Oh, Mr. Schmitz, there you are,” she said she said. “I’ve been looking for you. You know, Mr. Schmitz, it’s not polite to keep a lady waiting.”

He said something about a note falling on the floor and ‘forgetting’ to pick it up. A lame excuse for sure.

Rep. Schmitz said he was unwilling to lower taxes in Illinois, and was unwilling to increase them. He wouldn’t consider a graduated income tax, even if it lowered taxes, and he claimed to know nothing about a speculation tax on derivative trades. He said his focus is on cutting rather than on increasing revenue.

In all cases, as the questioning turned to revenue generating specifics to be placed upon the moneyed banks, Chicago Mercantile Exchanges, and subsidized corporations (all who contribute to political campaigns), all politicians fled. The only difference between them was the manner in which they chose to flee.

What are they so afraid of? Perhaps the truth.


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