A Chicago Self-Destruction Plan

A Chicago Self-Destruction Plan
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Wall Street Journal, Editorial Board

The new mayor’s allies lay out their agenda: ‘First We Get the Money.’

Well, that didn’t take long. Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson was inaugurated last week, and two days later his allies released a report with their agenda for the next four years. Title: “First We Get the Money.” 

They mean your money. The report offers a flavor of the trend in Chicago politics and why the once-great city is struggling. 

The report says a mere $12 billion in new spending will “make Chicago truly safe” by “addressing issues that underlie crime and poverty.” To get the cash, the mayor should collect $6.8 billion by “making the wealthy and corporations pay what they owe” and then cut spending on the Chicago Police Department.

Mr. Johnson has tried to distance himself from the report, but one gets the sense this is part of the choreography. The report’s creators, Action Center on Race & the Economy (Acre) and the People’s Unity Platform, helped Mr. Johnson win. Co-author Saqib Bhatti is on his transition team. Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates is on the Acre board.

The report suggests Mr. Johnson reinstate a “head tax” on business of $33 per employee. Chicago’s previous head tax of $4 per employee was ended in 2014 by the City Council under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who called it a “job killer” and a deterrent to business hiring.

The mayor is also urged to raise the real-estate transfer tax on sales over $1 million by 1.9 percentage points from the current 0.75%. Progressives say most of the funds would come from “skyscrapers” and commercial properties. The Windy City has plenty of $1 million homeowners and it already has the second highest tax rates in the country on commercial properties worth $1 million, according to the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Landlords with luxury apartments that are vacant should pay a fee to “encourage” them to “charge more affordable rents.” The authors want to raise the tax on jet fuel to force airlines to pay for “profiting from creating pollution in our city.” Then add a financial transactions tax for a cut of every trade at the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Board Options Exchange

The authors also want Illinois to change state law to allow a “tax on the financial and business assets of the 10% wealthiest Chicagoans.” Households making over $100,000 a year would be hit by a new 3.5% income tax.

The Johnson backers also want him to “divest from policing and surveillance” and get rid of the police gang database in favor of a “Peace Book” that would inform communities about “peacekeepers, violence interrupters, mediators, circle-keepers, and restorative justice practitioners.” 

As for the CPD, the mayor should “eliminate the 1,000 vacant police positions” and “commit to cutting from the police department budget before cutting other services.” If Mr. Johnson “continues to slash the policing budget by 9% per year in each of their next four years,” they write, “this would free up $538 million per year by 2027.”

That’s assuming anyone still lives in Chicago. The city lost 81,000 people from mid-2020 to mid-2022, according to the latest Census numbers. The mayor’s pals say a “city budget is a moral document.” Readers can decide what kind of morality lets criminal gangs run wild while shrinking the police force and chasing taxpayers out of the city.

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