Chicago Bullet Tax Bites It, Gun Tax Good to Go

This is how politics is done in Chicago. Cook County Board Boss Toni Preckwinkle had a brainstorm one day recently — she’d solve two problems with one law. By enacting “violence taxes” on bullets (5 cents a round) and guns ($25 a gun) she intends to 1) raise a (very) little money to eat into the county’s $315 million budget deficit as well as defraying some of the cost of dealing with gun violence and 2) discourage criminals (and pretty much anyone else) from buying guns. OK, there are big problems with both of those, but this was conceived by a hack machine politician so that’s about as coherent as it gets. Anyway, chicagotribune.com reports that president Preckwinkle ran into some unexpected opposition to her plan. Seems two Chicago Democrats (yeah, that’s redundant) weren’t so crazy about the proposed taxes . . .

Or maybe they were just holding out to see how much their votes were worth on the open market.

In exchange for their support, Preckwinkle agreed to create a $2 million fund to combat gun violence. Fritchey had proposed dedicating $1.4 million to anti-gun violence efforts. She also agreed to exempt law-enforcement officers from having to pay the tax, which helped convince Reyes to support the plan.

An undetermined portion of the $2 million would be granted to “non-profits with a track record of effective violence prevention and community outreach.” About $100,000 would be used to crack down on illegal gun purchases.

So all Toni had to cough up is a $2 million to create a slush fund to “combat gun violence.” ‘Cause that’s been going so well in Chicago anyway, right? And an “undetermined amount” of that two mil will go to pad the Chicago ward bosses’ “reelection funds” and hire a few of their relatives non-profits with a track record of effective violence prevention and community outreach. Sorry, let me wipe off of my keyboard and catch my breath. There, that’s better.

FYI, the proposed tax would have tacked on $27 worth of taxes on a 550-round box of .22LR ammo that already costs $23, for a new post-tax price of $50. But while its nice to think that the two lawmakers were really looking out for Cook County residents by not going forward with that ridiculous tax, I get the feeling that the “they’ll just buy the ammo in the next county over instead and the money won’t come to us” argument prevailed. Maybe.

But what the hell, sometimes compromises have to be made. No one said making laws is pretty. In the end, all Preckwinkle had to do is drop the ammo tax, buy a couple of votes and she still gets to keep the huge revenue stream the gun tax will bring in, right?

The bullet tax was projected to raise $400,000 in revenue. The gun tax would raise $600,000, Budget Director Andrea Gibson said.

Did you catch that? Both taxes were projected to bring in $1 million smackers total. Except those projections — like all government prognostication — was calculated using static analysis. They take the number of bullets and guns sold last year times the new tax rate and boom — there’s your new revenue.

Only people don’t operate that way. Governments always seem to think that the drones who keep them funded are mindless automatons who won’t notice that their wallets are being drained even more than they were before the new tax was enacted. They don’t count on someone in Cook county being intelligent enough to drive to the next county over to buy that new gun and avoid prezzy Preckwinkle’s new tax.

So let’s summarize this little exercise in representative democracy, shall we? To get a part of what she originally wanted (the ability to say she did something about Chicago’s gun problem during her next reelection campaign) Preckwinkle chucked the bullet tax, foregoing $400,000 per year (by her inflated estimates). That means all she’ll take in is $600,000 (again, inflated) in gun tax bucks.

And all she had to do for the, ahem, $600,000 was commit to laying out $2 million in graft and questionable expenditures. So, fiscally speaking, what she’s done is make Cook County’s deficit bigger to the tune of (at least) $1.4 million.

But hey, she’ll still be discouraging criminals from getting guns, won’t she? Both with the new gun tax and the, er, anti-gun violence grant money…won’t she? Sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.