The Progressive machine takes a big hit in Cook Country, Illinois
Yesterday, something extraordinary happened: a progressive racket just got busted in a place notorious for one-party, corrupt, and highly taxed Democrat governance. As you may have heard, the Board of Cook County, Illinois repealed its penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages, by a vote of 15 to 2, after passing it last July.
This isn't just about people who guzzle Coke and Pepsi; it is about the progressive racket that follows a battle plan aimed at the state controlling more and more aspects of citizens' lives, while it consumes more and more of their income. Here, in essence, is the recipe that progs have used to grab power over the rest of us:
1. Declare a problem that urgently needs to be solved. In the soda tax case, the problem is the "obesity epidemic" (an expression that invokes a public health rationale for exerting extraordinary controls that otherwise would be unconstitutional – think quarantining, for instance).
2. Gin up "studies" that cast blame on a convenient target, which is then demonized as "greedy" or "uncaring" or some other quality that progs imagine they alone lack.
3. As the target becomes unpopular thanks to the propaganda campaign, move to implement a tax that is justified as punishing the evildoers, while guiding the rest of us into behavior that supposedly will solve the problem.
The recipe was tested out in Berkeley, California via a ballot initiative in 2014.
Millions of dollars were spent by both sides in order to get camel's nose under the tent. Michael Bloomberg, the former NYC mayor who thinks his job is to reform the dietary habits of Americans, supplied millions of dollars in Berkeley and the subsequent jurisdictions that enacted similar taxes.
In Cook County, the largest jurisdiction so far to have enacted a soda tax, Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post reports:
Michael Bloomberg, meanwhile – the former New York City mayor who has made the soda tax battle his own – is said to have spent more than $10 million on radio and ad campaigns, and an unknown amount on lobbyists and mailers. Bloomberg has verbally committed to backing commissioners who supported their cause in next year's elections.
The billionaire was also involved, with the American Heart Association and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, in the wave of local soda taxes that swept through six locations in 2016. That established new sugary drink policies in Boulder, Colo., San Francisco and Cook County.
But where that movement once seemed unstoppable, cracks have begun to show. In May, Bloomberg and others backed a failed soda tax referendum in Santa Fe, which voters rejected by a wide margin.
Philadelphia's soda tax, in effect since January, has also failed to generate the revenue that backers initially expected. Ongoing litigation with the soda industry has limited the reach of the pre-K program the tax was set to fund, and has empowered some of the policy's critics.
Lynn Sweet reports for the Chicago Sun-Times on the fallout for Toni Preckwinkle, the president of the Cook County Board, who pushed the tax and even attempted to bully and force into bankruptcy the trade association that fought it.
How much – or whether – Preckwinkle will be politically punished in her ill-conceived quest to raise revenue for the cash-starved county under the guise of making folks healthier, will be clearer as she seeks a third term in 2018.
Kerry Lester of the Daily Herald adds:
"I've been in public life for almost 30 years," Preckwinkle, a former Chicago alderman, told reporters. "I know that if you're in public life, you need to make difficult choices."
The Chicago Democrat, who is seeking a third term in 2018, blamed Wednesday's 15-2 vote by commissioners to repeal the penny-per-ounce tax on "tax fatigue" and said the effort "bore the brunt" of other recent tax increases both in the county and state. Only Commissioner Larry Suffredin of Evanston and Jerry Butler of Chicago voted to keep the tax in place.
Preckwinkle has won both previous terms by wide margins, but her popularity has dipped in recent months due to her steadfast support of the tax, which she said had the dual purpose of increasing the health of residents and sparing the county from layoffs.
With a month to go before the end of the filing period for candidates, Preckwinkle does not yet face a primary election threat.
If she were to face a populist opponent in the Democrats' primary and lose, that would drive home the message and "encourage the others" in politics to stop punishing the dietary preferences of the non-elites.
After half a century and more of dominance, the progressive machine that cooks up studies and then uses them as the pretext for more control over our lives is facing a head-on challenge. I think the election of President Trump has empowered a lot of people who normally are ignored to express themselves and take action to guard their interests. In Cook County, we see the application of Trumpian populism in the heart of Blue Beast, even though the POTUS has said nothing at all about the soda taxes.