The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Chicago transit crisis solved at workers’ expense

Jan 21, 2008

On January 17, the Illinois legislature passed a bill that the governor signed raising the sales tax to pay for public transit.

The sales tax will go up by a quarter of a% in Chicago – where it is already 9%, one of the very highest rates in the country – and will be increased by half a% in the suburbs. The sales tax is extremely regressive, falling heaviest on the poorest people.

This ended an ongoing melodrama, during which the Chicago Transit Authority and the suburban bus systems repeatedly threatened a massive reduction in service, big fare increases and the layoff of thousands of transit workers if they didn’t get a large amount of new money. Many of the hundreds of thousands of daily commuters were worried about how they could get to work and how they would pay the increased fares.

Three times the state legislature and the governor let the threat of massive transit cutbacks be a couple of days from going into effect, only to bail out the system at the last moment. In fact, it was nothing but a new kind of reality show, aimed at getting acceptance for the sales tax increases they intended to pass at the end of this “amazing race.”