Occupy victory in Illinois

Hooray for the Occupy movement and the general uprising against corporate greed! It’s having an impact.

Yesterday, enough Illinois lawmakers got the message loud and clear. They defeated a massive tax break for giant Chicago-based financial corporations: the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and its partner the Chicago Board of Trade, plus Sears Holding Corp.

Can you imagine giving $100 million to a corporation like CME, whose profits shot up 69% this quarter to $316.1 million? That gift would cut the financial giant’s state taxes in half!

Meanwhile Illinois is cutting $76.3 million from community services for people with developmental disabilities, $56 million from group homes, day centers and temporary housing for homeless families, and a whopping $180 million from education with preschool children taking the biggest hit!

Add that to a state with double-digit unemployment, poverty surging to nearly 2 million people, foreclosures increasing and student loan debt averaging almost $24,000, with tuition continuing to soar.

It’s these kinds of conditions that have given rise to the outrage and the Occupy movement.

Occupy Chicago, like its counterpart in New York, targeted the city’s financial district, occupying the intersection in front of the Chicago Board of Trade and the Federal Reserve Bank. It really is a place where “The banks are made of marble, with a guard at every door. And the vaults are stuffed with silver that the workers sweated for,” as the song made famous by Pete Seeger goes. 

Financial districts are crime scenes where the insatiable greedy drive for maximum profit, whether through derivatives or subprime loans, loosed this current economic crisis on the world. And they still want more! The big banks and financial institutions are the epitome of the 1%.

Of course, some elected officials went for the tired old threat that if CME and Sears don’t get their way on taxes then they will take their marbles (jobs) elsewhere. But people are sick and tired of being held hostage by these corporate giants and their CEOs.

State Republicans fully backed this tax giveaway bill, as did, disgracefully but not surprisingly, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and both Democratic state House and Senate leaders.

But enough House Democrats heard from their constituents and shot the bill down in a whopping 99-8 vote.

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has been standing strong. He said, “[I]f you’re going to have any kind of tax relief package, it must have significant relief for working families raising kids and working hard. Unless that happens, there won’t be any tax relief.”

Republicans rejected efforts to raise the Earned Income Credit for low and middle-income families, wanting the bill to focus solely on tax gifts to corporations, reports the Chicago Tribune. The word “hypocrisy” doesn’t do these so-called tax-abolishing Republicans justice. Class war is a better description.

Emanuel-type Democrats better heed the uprising warning: People are sick and tired of politicians going to bat for corporations while passing on the economic pain to the most vulnerable and struggling.

Photo: Labor and community groups join Occupy Chicago at a protest for jobs in front of the Chicago Board of Trade. John Bachtell/PW