Archive for the ‘Chicago Mercantile Exchange’ Category

By Mimi Harris

Mimi Harris, fighter for working people (Photo: Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times)

Most of you who know me know that I’ve been raising hell in the streets, one way or another, for most of my life. But last Wednesday, May 23, was the crème de la crème for me, and I’m so exhilarated by it, I want to share it with you.

Dressed to the nines, and after two days of intensive, exhausting preparations, I attended (with about 30 others) the annual meeting of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as a shareholder. Late last year the “Merc” received a huge tax break from the supposedly bankrupt state of Illinois. The tax break — a form of corporate welfare — officially goes into effect in July and will cost the state an estimated $77 million per year, though this number will depend on the CME’s profits (which have grown at an average rate of 19% annually for the last 30 years!). Over the next decade, that will cost us – you and me, folks – a billion dollars, easily.

Meanwhile the rest of us are expected to suffer through huge cuts to childcare, Medicaid (I, myself, will no longer get the help I need for medication), mental health facilities, state parks, as well as job and pension cuts. Sadly this long list goes on. And on.

At the CME shareholder meeting, the Board of Directors, including financial columnist Terry Savage, and the executives were there to vote themselves raises. After all, they made nearly $2 billion in profits just last year. (So why do they need a tax break?) Their last CEO retired at 50 with a golden parachute of millions. I’m still working, at age 80, because I have to, and paying my fair share of taxes.

What’s wrong with this picture?

The Merc was also awarded $15 million in TIF funds to redo their bathrooms and conference rooms. The Stand Up! Chicago coalition, bless their hearts, delivered a golden toilet to them. That evidently helped them to do the right thing: they relinquished their rights to the TIF funds.

It was so gratifying last week to be in the room with them and speak truth to power and see them cringe. For the landsmen (kinsmen) I saw among them, I had a special private message that I was able to deliver to some — that their behavior is a shanda (a scandal, shameful, humiliation for our people)!

Most of you, maybe all of you, even if you are very comfortable, are part of the 99%. I encourage you to act like it. After all, if Stand Up! Chicago got them to return $15 million in TIF funds with a golden toilet, think what else we can do! In my view, our country is at stake.

For me, this action was a blessing and I am thrilled to have been a part of it!

-Mimi is a veteran organizer, a Board Member of Arise Chicago, a Board Member of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, and an active participant in Jane Addams Senior Caucus, Organization of the NorthEast, and the Social Action Committee of Emanuel Congregation.

For more photos from the action, check out the Arise Chicago photo album on Facebook.

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It’s common knowledge that state and local budgets around the country are deep in the red. States, cities, and towns are looking at massive deficits, which they then cite to justify cuts from everything to mental health clinics to the post office.

But when these budgets are discussed, whether by pundits on television or average citizens, deficits are usually talked about like one might talk about a tornado or a flood. Yes, it’s so sad we’ve been unlucky enough to have this devastation fall upon us, but what can we do about our misfortune?

It turns out there is plenty that can be done. Because there’s nothing natural about these budget crises. They are entirely created by people—specifically, people sitting on gigantic piles of money, who have used their financial and political muscle to keep more of it.

This is particularly stark in the case of the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois, on the one hand, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on the other.

The basic facts of the exchange’s demands on the state of Illinois over the past year despite the deep financial crisis the state is in—and the suffering ordinary Illinoisans have endured because of it—grate against anyone’s basic sense of fair and morally-upright behavior.

As Stand Up! Chicago policy analyst Elizabeth Parisian pointed out in the Huffington Post recently, the CME took in nearly $2 billion in profits last year. With a profit margin of over 30 percent, it is Chicago’s most profitable corporation.

Whatever one’s religious background or set of ethical principles, it’s clear that a company that rakes in such astronomical amounts of money has a moral imperative to give a small part of that money towards the greater good of society. This is accomplished by paying taxes.

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange has reached new levels of audacity in its brazen disregard for the basic well-being of the Illinoisans who depend on the state’s public services. Its aggressive and eventually successful lobbying for massive tax breaks over the next ten years is indicative of a single-minded pursuit of profits that is corrosive to our democracy, damaging to vulnerable citizen, and generally makes our world a worse place to live in.

Companies that are as wealthy as the CME have some very basic responsibilities to the rest of our society. One of those responsibilities is to pay their fair share, which is why Chicagoans are calling on the company to do so today.

Join Arise Chicago, Stand Up! Chicago, and a slew of other community groups, unions, and religious organizations in calling on the CME to pay its fair share today. Details about today’s action can be found here:


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