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Against the current

Zach Wood On Free Debate And Thought On College Campuses

Everyone claims to support free speech, but do they actually? Especially at institutions of higher learning, hearing a wide range of perspectives is not often embraced. Zach Wood, a recent graduate of Williams College, is fighting to change that. On this edition of Against the Current, Dan Proft talks to Wood about his advocacy for intellectual diversity and honest, free debate on college campuses and why he thinks higher education is not more supportive of free speech. Wood, though a progressive Democrat himself, also critiques the Left's hostility toward differing opinions. And Proft and Wood dive into their wide range of policy disagreements – from education issues to welfare and much more – in an in-depth dialogue you won't be hearing at many universities, but should be.

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Gun Control Is People Control

What is gun control really about? Free men and free women own guns, and gun ownership is a civic exercise in citizenship that empowers people and changes people. On a practical level, shouldn’t all people be able to protect the things and people they value and love? On this installment of Against the Current, Dan Proft talks with the founder of Black Guns Matter, Maj Toure, a solutionary, translator, and movie reviewer. How does Maj respond to politicians who say the NRA is a terrorist organization? In the 2016 Presidential race, Maj was not "with her," did his decision have something to do with “Super Predators.” Dan and Maj discuss gun control, crime, and personal empowerment.

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Discussing Race And Identity Politics W/ Filmmaker Eli Steele

How does America's longstanding preoccupation with race and identity affect our politics? Documentarian Eli Steele's new film "How Jack Became Black" explores just that, analyzing identity politics in America while drawing from Steele's own life experiences coming from a multiracial family. On this installment of "Against the Current," Proft and Steele discuss not only Steele's acclaimed film, but how racial identity shapes political discourse, and what the detrimental effects are of trying to put people into boxes.

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How To Advance The Conservative Reform Agenda In IL

Conservatives are and have been in legislative minorities in Springfield, and now even a Republican governor has turned his back on them on key issues, making reform that much harder. So, what is the way forward to pass policies to turn the country's worst-governed state around?

On this installment of "Against the Current," Dan Proft talks to three leading conservative reform lawmakers – state Reps. Peter Breen, Margo McDermed and Tom Morrison – about how to reform Springfield and the state of Illinois while being outnumbered both by Democrats and big-government types in their own party. Proft and the three legislators address the most important questions facing conservatives in Illinois, among them: How do Republicans appeal to more voters throughout the state? How critical is the Jeanne Ives vs. Bruce Rauner race? And could Mike Madigan – under fire for mishandling sexual harassment allegations – be on the cusp of losing his power? All this and more in a wide-ranging discussion on "Against the Current."

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Heritage's James Carafano On U.S. Foreign Policy Under President Trump

What policies abroad is President Donald Trump pursuing, as North Korea continues to test its nuclear weapons program and the U.S. remains engaged in the Middle East? On this edition of Against the Current, Dan Proft talks to James Carafano, vice president of national security and foreign policy at the Heritage Foundation, about the existential threats the U.S. faces around the globe, and how well the current administration is poised to handle them. Also, how confident should the Americans be in the national security team Trump has assembled? Proft and Carafano discuss this and more pressing foreign policy topics on this Against the Current.

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How Northridge Prep Builds Young Leaders

Parents in Illinois are continuously looking for the best educational options for their kids. What schools provide the most both in the classroom and in terms of character development? Northridge Prepatory School in Niles prides itself on both. On this edition of Against the Current, Dan Proft talks to Northridge Headmaster Niall Fagan and Athletic Director Will Rey about how the school is working to build the next generation of male leaders. Specifically, they discuss the dynamics of an all-boys school, and how Northridge Prep differs from other private institutions. They also discuss Illinois' new tax credit scholarship program and how it might impact them.

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ATC W/ Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

On this edition of Against The Current, Sen. Ted Cruz sits down with Dan Proft to discuss the lessons he took away from his POTUS run, his assessment of President Trump's performance eight months in, the four policy priorities he identifies for the GOP-controlled Congress and whether free market conservatism is still where the center of gravity exists within the party. Cruz doesn't just take the positions. He makes the arguments. And he does so on this special installment of Against The Current.

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Charles Cooke: Standing For Conservatism In The Age Of Trump

Before his election, many conservatives had reservations about Donald Trump's commitment to limited government, and some still do. Charles Cooke, editor of National Review Online, has been one of the leading voices for skepticism of Trump's small government credentials, while still giving credit to Trump for his early accomplishments. On this edition of Against the Current, Dan Proft talks to Cooke about conservatism in the age of Trump, intellectual diversity at National Review and how the right should be defending its values. In this wide-ranging discussion, Proft and Cooke cover everything from defending free markets to free speech, the second amendment, social values and much more.

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Dan Proft & John Tillman On How To Start IL's Comeback

The Illinois Policy Institute has been the leading free-market voice in Illinois for years, but faces fierce opposition from the state's political class – which has led the Land of Lincoln astray for decades. On this installment of Against the Current, Dan Proft and John Tillman, CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute, discuss how to overcome that opposition and implement free-market, liberty-based policy solutions in Illinois. In a detailed discussion on Illinois politics and policy, Proft and Tillman explore how Illinois actually can turn itself around and why there can be hope for the state.

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David French On Free Speech, Trump's Presidency, Foreign Policy & More

Conservative voices have been shut down on college campuses throughout the country, and few have had keener insight on the issue than National Review's David French. On this edition of Against the Current, Dan Proft goes one-on-one with French to examine how and why this is happening in a wide-ranging discussion on culture, politics and free speech.

They also discuss some of the nation's most pressing foreign policy issues, with French giving his perspective as a military veteran himself. And French tells the rarely-told story of how he was briefly recruited to run for president in 2016, and offers what he thinks are the positives and negatives of the Trump administration so far. This, and more, in this in-depth conversation on Against the Current.

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Is Math an Opinion? IL Policy's Ted Dabrowski on Public Sector Salaries and Pensions

On this edition of Against The Current, Dan Proft is joined by Illinois Policy Institute Vice President of Policy Ted Dabrowski for a discussion on public sector salaries and pensions in the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois in K-12 education, at the collegiate level--like explaining why an U of I administrator makes $900k--and for public safety personnel. Dabrowski frames the choices Illinois families and policymakers alike face and suggests the way back from the fiscal abyss for the worst-run, worst-rated major city and state in America.

View full transcript


Dan Proft: Thank you for joining us on another edition of Against the Current; coming to you from the Skyline Club, on top of the Old Republic building in downtown Chicago. My name is Dan Proft, and our guest on this episode is Ted Dabrowski, who is the Vice President of Policy for the Illinois Policy Institute, the Free Market Think Tank, economic liberty orientated think tank in downtown Chicago. Ted, thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it. Ted Dabrowski: Thanks for having me. Dan Proft: There’s a lot to talk about. You’ve got judicial decisions, as relates to pensions, both at the state level, with regards to Chicago pensions coming on the heels of Illinois Supreme Court’s decision from just a year earlier on state pensions, and then you’ve got the Supreme Court decision because of these Scalia absence on the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, as it pertains to forced union dues; that’s a lot to talk about against the backdrop of the second teachers’ strike looming in less than four years, and an almost junk-rated city of Chicago, according to Fitch, mostly because of the inability to solve the pension problem, combined with a junk-rated Chicago public school system, combined with the state, that has the worst credit rating in the United States. So, some challenges I think is a fair assessment. Ted Dabrowski: Some pretty big challenges. Dan Proft: Yeah. So why don’t we start with Chicago public schools, and the looming teacher strike over the teachers’ unwillingness to increase their contribution from 2 percentage points of the 9 percentage points they pay into the pension system to not have the Chicago Public School System pick up the other 7 percentage points anymore, as it’s been the case for the past 3 decades. Of course, the management side wants them to pick it up, so they can start trying to make the math work, and the teachers don’t want to essentially take a pay cut to increase their contribution to their pensions. Why is the teachers’ position unreasonable? Why should they pick up the 7 percentage points that the school system has been picking up for these past 3 decades? Isn’t that just another promise that was made to them, like they say, the Constitution made a promise to them and it shall never be changed? Ted Dabrowski: It’s another perk that Chicago teachers have had for a long time. It was gained back in 1981, and the issue, I think, the bigger issue is that the Chicago teachers do pretty well when you compare them to big cities across the country. They have the highest salaries of any big school district in the nation, and so what’s amazing is… Dan Proft: So higher than New York, higher than California, higher than L.A, higher than Houston. Ted Dabrowski: Higher than Miami, etcetera. So, they do pretty well, and again, it’s something they’ve negotiated, but they’ve done well, and included in that is this teacher pension pickup. That’s fancy words for, “Look, teachers, you don’t have to pay your full pension share, full pension payment you’re required to pay. We, the School District, which means tax payers, will pay it on your behalf”. And that’s been going on for about 3 decades, and the School District is broke, any way you look at it, it’s broke. And so CPS, Claypool and others trying to fix the problem are asking the teachers just to pay their fair share. Dan Proft: And by the way, I had the opportunity on the morning show that I do on AM 560, Chicago’s Morning Answer, to speak with Jean-Claude Brizard, a couple of CPS superintendents ago; this is not the CPS superintendent that’s going to jail, for those of you scoring at home, but they were running billion dollar budget deficits when he arrived as Rahm Emanuel’s first Chicago Public School superintendent. Nothing has changed in the intervening 5 years; in fact, it’s gotten worse, so do we start with the pension pick up and the distribution of who’s picking it up, or do we start with the fact that 9% paying into your pension, that’s also insufficient. Ted Dabrowski: Right, that’s insufficient. I think that the bigger issue is that the School District has been mismanaged for a long time, and you’ve got issues from not funding pensions for nearly a decade, you’ve got issues of Barbara Byrd-Bennett being indicted for fraud. You’ve got a situation where you’ve got a Teachers’ Union that’s willing to strike two contracts in a row, and they’ve won the last contract. They won big; they strike, despite the fact that the city, or the district, was already billion dollars in the hole. They had no business striking then, and they have no business striking now. So really, what you’ve got is a situation… Dan Proft: But they strike because… they struck, they won, so they’re not incentivized to do anything other than strike if they don’t get what they want, because they figure that the politicians will bend over… Ted Dabrowski: Like they have… Dan Proft: Like Tiny Dancer did four years ago. Ted Dabrowski: And he’s even weak. If he was weak then, he’s even weaker now, given the situation he has at home. So this is a situation where the two big groups, the Administration and the Teachers’ Union, they collude when they need to, they strike when it makes sense to then, and in the end it’s all the kids who get left out, and I think that’s the whole sad part of the story, which is why many people talk about bankruptcy. If Rahm Emanuel doesn’t want to do something about the finances, if Karen Lewis doesn’t want to do something about the finances, let it go bankrupt, and finally get a situation where we can get a focus back on the kids and not on the adults. Dan Proft: Well, that’s what the Governor said, Governor Rauner has said, “Bankruptcy needs to be something that the city and CPS take under consideration”. They’ve rejected that because of course, nobody wants to be the person, or people in charge, right, to be taken over by the state, to go bankrupt on my watch; what does that say about my leadership and my management; making the tough decisions to bring us back from the precipice, just rather than pushing us over. So why not – and this is more of a political question than a policy one – but from Governor Rauner’s perspective I’ve offered to pitch in and help. I’ve offered, here are some options, and by the way, I have kind of a 30 year track, because the reason I’m 100 millionaire is because I’m pretty good at reading the balance sheets and understanding what the real world options are, and if they don’t want to entertain real world options, why not just wash your hands and just say, “Okay, geniuses, okay, Tiny Dancer, okay Karen Lewis, whatever, Forest Claypool, you figure it out. But you can come down to Springfield with your pickle buckets and panhandle outside the Capital, and we’re not giving you anymore money”. Ted Dabrowski: Yeah, and I think politically that’s where it goes. I think that’s where it goes, and the sad part is – and I think everybody knows this – is that, you know, we just had a massive property tax hike in Chicago; the largest on record, and that only solves a small part of the problem; we probably need to have another two of those to try to start getting toward balance, and so the sad part is that Chicagoians are already burned with all kinds of nickel and diming fees, and red light… you know, anything you want to talk about, there’s a fee or a tax for it. Chicagioans can’t afford more, and we’ve already heard about people leaving the city. Dan Proft: But at least Teachers’ Union is honest about… I mean, I give them credit… they’re kind of like Bernie Sanders; they are like the honest socialists, as opposed to the disingenuous socialists. Property tax increase – sure. Chicago Teachers’ Union is on board for that; Karen Lewis – yeah; Graduated State Income Tax – yeah; fine. Ted Dabrowski: Financial services is back. Dan Proft: Yeah, on Nassau Street, on the exchanges, financial transactions – good. They’re contemplating the institution of a new city income tax to layer on to all the other taxes – we’re open to that; all they care about is the revenue side; at least they’re genuine about it, so you can have an honest conversation. Tiny Dancer and the Chicago Democrats trying to cling to power, they understand the political difficulty of that, because they have to stand for election outside of 30,000 teachers, and so they play this game like something can be solved by getting a half of billion dollars every other month from the state of Illinois. Number 1 – it doesn’t solve it; number 2 – it’s not going to happen. So do you give the Teachers’ Union at least credit for being honest, so we can have an honest conversation? Like here is where they want to solve the problem; that’s one option. Confiscatory taxation on top of confiscatory taxation; and here’s another option, like you and the Illinois Policy Institute have charted, that presents a real choice for Chicago residents and Illinois residents to consider. Ted Dabrowski: I think you’re right, they are, to say, honest about their motives with you, and Karen Lewis is pretty clear about it, but I think that’s why we call them the most militant union in the US. They say what they want, they strike for it and they go for it. Dan Proft: And they unironically wear red shirts to their rallies. I mean, beat me over the head with a cudgel, I get it. Ted Dabrowski: I think the saddest part for me – and the parents haven’t figured it out yet – still the parents are still backing with the Union. In the first strike they did it still seems like they have backing, but at some point that’s going to break, and when people realize that those strikes mean bigger and bigger taxes, increase in property tax, especially for the low income families, right, because they may not pay property taxes because they’re owners, but they certainly pay higher rent; they certainly pay higher sales taxes, higher X, Y and Z, and at some point there’s got to be a connection. Dan Proft: But those are the unseen costs that they don’t kind of…are people connecting the dots. Because it seems to me what Karen Lewis is good at doing – and to some extent, Rahm is good at doing as well – is presenting it like Rahm and Karen Lewis are on the opposite sides. They’re not on the opposite sides. They’re fighting over who gets to be the central planner in charge, right? And so the free market perspective of the economic liberty movement, to some extent has to also bear some culpability for not charting a third way, and explaining to people that you’re getting played by both sides. They’re not looking out for your best interests, and they don’t have a plan that solves this without imposing additional duress on you, on your children, on the taxpayers read large, so that the city continues to shrink and the number of revenue producing wards continues to winnow, and we continue the death spiral to a place that you’re not going to be insulated from in terms of pain. Ted Dabrowski: No, I think you’re right, but these guys have always worked together. That’s why I said they collude. They’re like two monopolies, or an oligopoly, and they work together pretty closely; they choose to fight every once in a while, but never – and if you think about this, are the discussions and the fights about better outcomes – we don’t hear much about that; it’s all about who’s going to win the power struggles; whether it’s Rahm or there’s Karen Lewis; whether it’s Claypool, whether it’s Rauner in the takeover; but nobody’s talking about how to help the parents win. And what you’re right about is that really this is a battle over who controls billions of dollars in salary, and billions of dollars in pension payments. And Rahm loves to be in control of that, and so does Karen Lewis. Dan Proft: I know, the 6 billion dollars CPS budget; what is it, a third of it is salaries? Ted Dabrowski: Oh yeah, you’ve got over 2 billion, sure. And so that’s the control power, and so when we talk about, and you’re right, the free market movement that hasn’t done a great job in Chicago, in Illinois, about saying “Hey, it’s time we take the power out of Rahm Emanuel; it’s time we take the power away from Karen Lewis, and give it to the families; let them be in control of the dollars, and let them hold schools accountable”, and by that I mean the parent would have the ability to walk away from the school and use that public money for a private school, if he/she wasn’t having their kids’ needs met. Dan Proft: Or a public school. Ted Dabrowski: Or a public school. It could just be give them the power to walk, and when the parents have that power, then the public schools would have to listen. Dan Proft: Well, you say, you know, the parents side with Karen Lewis and the Teachers’ Union; well, that’s because they experienced the teachers. Right, their kids experienced the teachers, and so they like Mrs. Smith, who teaches 4th grade, and they like Mr. Jones, who teaches 8th grade. They know those two, so when Mrs. Smith or Mr. Jones or their local school principle says, “Are you going to throw in with me, or are you going to throw in with that little cleptocrat on the 5th floor of City Hall?”, that’s an easy choice. Ted Dabrowski: It is, but I think, though, more and more teachers are starting to realize; and if you’re a 35 year old teacher and you hear the arguments going on, you say, “Wait a minute, is there going to be a pension for me? I’m going to contribute for years; will there be a pension for me?”, and I got a call yesterday, as a matter of fact, from a teacher; she’s 67, retired from CPS, lives in the suburbs, and she’s scared to death whether her pension is going to be cut totally. Dan Proft: When did she retire? Ted Dabrowski: She retired just a few years ago. Dan Proft: So about the average age of 63, which is like the average age of a CPS teacher retiring? Ted Dabrowski: The average retirement age is closer to 60, so over half retire in their 50s, and you’re hitting on a good point, Dan. The reason these pensions are so expensive is because the average worker who works there is retiring in their 50s, most of them with full benefits, and because they get automatic costs for living adjustments, those pension benefits double after 25 years. It’s a fantastic gig, and it’s something that tax payers can’t afford. Dan Proft: Let’s talk numbers, kind of get out of the unfunded liabilities and the billions, and this and that, that don’t mean anything to most people, and you can’t kind of distill down to something they can’t relate to. Let’s relate it. So the Chicago public school teacher retiring in 2014 with 30 years in max out in terms of pension, what annual pension are they receiving? Ted Dabrowski: About 68,000. Dan Proft: $68,000? Ted Dabrowski: Right. $68,000. Dan Proft: Which is almost 40% more than the medium household income in Illinois? Ted Dabrowski: Sure, close. And you can compared a medium household income; that’s more than one person. Dan Proft: So maybe it’s 25% more than the medium household income in Chicago. It’s still a big number. I’ve looked at the work that you and Illinois Policy Institute has done, and I just want to relate these numbers because they are staggering for anybody that works in the private sector, and frankly, anybody that works. This is IPI numbers – a Chicago public school teacher retiring in 2014, 30 years in will have paid these around numbers, $133,000 into their pension, will receive 2.1 million dollars back, a 15,000% plus return on investment. Ted Dabrowski: And let me just say one thing, that that 133 is giving the teacher credit on having made the full payment, when in fact the school district was picking up… Dan Proft: Would they had made less than 25% of it. Ted Dabrowski: Correct. So it’s phenomenal. These are great returns. Dan Proft: You’re right. So how do we have a bankrupt school system, and a bankrupt city, and a bankrupt… I mean, come on? Ted Dabrowski: And how many people in the private sector have 2 million dollars from having their career sitting there waiting for their retirement? Dan Proft: What’s the private sector counterpart? I think you guys have this too. So if you wanted the average retiree kind of same-similar situated, if you wanted to receive 2.1 million dollars in pension benefits back, pay yourself 70 grand+ a year in retirement, how much would you have had to contribute into your 401? Ted Dabrowski: Around one and a half million dollars, because interest rates are so low, so you’d have to put in a lot of money just to get that. Dan Proft: So in the private sector it’s one and a half million dollars in for 2.1 back; at CPS it’s 133 in for 2.1 million back. Ted Dabrowski: Correct, and this is phenomenal. And it’s not sustainable, I mean, don’t forget the reason why it’s so high. That 2.1 million is because they get that 3% automatic bump in their pension benefit each period. Dan Proft: The cost of living adjustment turned out to be an annuity because that’s seven times the rate of inflation for the last decade. Ted Dabrowski: Correct. And so basically, somebody’s pension benefit doubles over 25 years. It’s phenomenal. Dan Proft: And this is the case – not to get too far field off of teachers and CPS's; that’s really kind of at bar with the strike looming in May – but the numbers for Chicago firefighters, for Chicago police officers, for city of Chicago municipal employees, for city of Chicago laborers, and the laboring public sector, they’re basically the same. Ted Dabrowski: Pretty similar, yeah; of course, Chicago police and fire will be a little higher. But basically it’s the same, and you’re talking about the average career worker getting somewhere in 2 million dollars and more in retirement; and it’s really hard to ask taxpayers who are struggling to pay that over and over again. Dan Proft: And so, when you look at these numbers, the public sector union, a lot of the ranking file, the response is “Wait a second; why are you attacking teachers, and firefighters and police officers? Don’t you respect the job we do?” And even if you say you respect the job that we do, “Hey look, we play by the rules that were set forward by the politicians that set the rules, so why should we take a haircut, when they made a promise and we relied on that promise?” Ted Dabrowski: I think it’s a good argument. Look, I always want to blame the people who set the laws. It’s the politicians who agreed to bad deals. I think everybody fights for their own special interest, whether it’s the Teachers’ Union, or an employee wanting a raise, or better terms, so I think it’s important that we don’t vilify teachers or cops; my kids go to the public schools. I love my kids’ teachers. I think they do a great job, but the bottom line is this is not about that. This is about the state’s ability, and people’s ability, and taxpayers’ ability to pay for these benefits, and so I don’t think we should vilify them, but I think there has to be realization that the agreement, whatever it was… we should meet whatever obligations we made; whatever’s been promised and has been earned we should pay. But going forward we need to strike a new deal, and I think that’s what this whole discussion is about. Striking a new deal that’s fair for the public sector workers, but also fair for the tax payers that fund them. Dan Proft: Yeah, I just want to emphasize that, because this seems to get lost in the conversation; I have the opportunity to talk to and hear from the public sector workers a lot in my radio program, and they don’t seem to hear it when I say “Wait a second, whatever you’ve earned, even if it was a bad deal, you should get, because there was reliance created by the state, you did anticipate these benefits, you earned the benefits, you should receive what you’ve earned. Full stop; however, at a date into the future, certain, like a year from now, there’s a new deal for the existent workers who have not earned those benefits, because they haven’t worked those days in the future yet, as well as for new hires, that is not going to be the same deal that you have now”, and point of fact, don’t we have that with the state employers with the tier 2 for new higher at this point, even at present? Ted Dabrowski: Yeah, so of course, tier 2 is a brand new employee, but I think what we’re saying is that for even existing employees – and this happens in the private sector every day. The private sector can’t take away benefits you’ve already earned. That would be a huge problem, and that shouldn’t happen here in Illinois either, at the state or city level. But going forward, we have to have a deal that allows the state budget, the city budgets – because we haven’t talked about cities; this is a huge problem all across Illinois with pensions for firemen and policemen… Dan Proft: And nationally. Ted Dabrowski: And nationally, of course. It’s a huge problem everywhere, and it’s pushing up property taxes – I’d like to talk about that in a minute, about all the taxes that are going up, but at some point there has to be another deal, because here’s the issue; right now you and I are saying we want to protect benefits we’ve already earned; if we ever go into bankruptcy courts, federal courts don’t care about state Constitution; federal courts trump the state Constitution, so like you saw in Detroit, like you’ve seen in Alabama, like you’ve seen in Rhode Island, pensions have been cut as a result of bankruptcies, and so if the public sector union workers don’t finally realize that they can actually have their pensions cut under bankruptcy, they’re going to get hit with exactly what they don’t want to see. Dan Proft: So many of them are listening to their public sector union bosses, rather than looking at the math and just taking a common sense approach to it to say “Do I really want to pay Russian roulette with my retirement?”. It’s not roulette; it’s Russian roulette, because all it takes is one federal bankruptcy judge to say, for example, “Yeah, states cannot go bankrupt under federal bankruptcy code”. But if pension funds go upside down and they can no longer pay out beneficiaries, then I’m going to say that pension funds are separate and distinct from the state, and instead of checks in the mail you get IOUs until they figure it out. Ted Dabrowski: Or you have a 15% - 20% haircut. And I think that’s a real distinct possibility. That’s why I think at some point, and I think the state ruling recently that came out last week… Dan Proft: This is on Chicago pensions. Ted Dabrowski: On Chicago pensions; where it starts to say that things like pension benefits can’t be collectively bargained if there’s some exchange, some consideration given for changes in the pension benefits… Dan Proft: Simple contract law theory. Ted Dabrowski: Exactly. And that being the case, I think behooves the unions. And let’s talk about Chicago policemen and firemen. You were talking about teachers and others. The worst funded pensions in Illinois right now are the Chicago fire and police pensions. They have about 25 cents of every dollar they should have in their account. So imagine, you have your 401(k), you open it up and you think you have $100,000. You open it and there’re only 25,000. You’re missing three quarters of the money. That’s exactly what’s happening to policemen and firemen right now. And I don’t know why they’re not jumping up and down and saying “I want a new deal. I want something better. Promise me what I’ve earned, but give me a new deal going forward”. And I think that’s what they should be fighting for, because they run the big risk of having a massive haircut. Dan Proft: If you have a police fund or a firefighter pension fund that’s only a quarter funded, are those pension funds salvageable. Ted Dabrowski: I think, we’ve run numbers, I think we can salvage them, but it’s painful, right? And you’ve got to have a long term process, but you got end the game now. But effectively, in any private sector scenario, they’re bankrupt; they’re done. They would have been closed up if they were part of a private sector group, they would have been closed, liquidated and gone. So it’s something, I think, they have a huge interest in hitting the table and negotiating. I think the way to look at this, Dan, if we can stop the bleeding now, and move to a new 401(k), stop playing go and forth for all benefits earned going forward, then what we do is we treat the unfunded liability as debt. Chicago just has a bunch of debt and it’s going to take years to pay that debt off; but I think it can work with Chicago’s numbers if we stop the pain. Dan Proft: Then you can start to bend the cost curve and catch up. Ted Dabrowski: Exactly, but it’s not just police and fire, you have to do that for teachers’ pensions and for the other pensions in Chicago, so it has to be a whole deal, because remember, you have one taxpayer in Chicago, and that one taxpayer has to pay all those pensions and Cook County pensions as well, and of course, the shortfall at the state-level; so we have to be careful to respect the taxpayers in Chicago. Dan Proft: It seems to me the taxpayers are starting to understand what is in the offing, and I just look at out-migration; is there any better indication of the vitality of a community, county or state than whether people choose to live there or not, and in 2015, according to the census, Cook County lost more population than any other county in the country; this against the backdrop of the state of Illinois continues to compete with New Jersey for the largest out-migration year after year. Ted Dabrowski: I think that’s the biggest issue, and it’s something that we talk a lot about as respecting the taxpayer. And I don’t think Rahm Emanuel, Michael Madigan, they don’t understand… sorry, they may understand, but they don’t care; it doesn’t fit into the political calculus, but the reality is that people are leaving and I think more telling them the 2015 numbers is the out-migration that occurred between 2000 and 2010 by middle class Blacks. 180,000 blacks were lost during that period, and if you look at what happened in Detroit; first you lost the White taxpayers when you had the White Flight, but the problem really happened in Detroit when the middle-class Blacks left. And then the tax base was gone, and I think Chicago has to start thinking about how to protect its residents – doesn’t matter what color they are – but if you don’t protect your tax base you’re done. And we’re entering that spiral today. Dan Proft: Well that’s interesting, so I have a conversation with my aldermen; I’m in the 42nd ward when, you know, the wards that looks fancy on the outside, and you hear this propaganda from the likes of a Brendan Reilly, who’s just a toady for Madigan and for Tiny Dancer. Well, look at the planters on Michigan Avenue, and look at the tower cranes with new rental units going up in Streeterville. Everything’s on the up and up, and my response to them is, even let’s accept your premise, that this ward, one of 50 wards, is on the up and up; explain to me how you think – let’s say there’s 10 wards, 20% the city, that are kind of revenue producing wards that have substantial economical activity ongoing – so you’re telling me that 80% of the city can burn to the ground around us and we’re not going to be impacted? Do you really believe that? Does anybody really believe that except a craven feudal lord, which is what these aldermen are? Ted Dabrowski: I remember the first time I went to Detroit right after the bankruptcy, and I came back and wrote about it, and the lessons I learned from it, as it relates to Chicago; a lot of pushback, you know, Chicago is not a Detroit. Dan Proft: No, never happen here. Ted Dabrowski: And listen, Chicago’s not a Detroit when you think about the diversification of businesses; you walk down in the loop here, it’s hot, man, it’s rocking, it’s a lot of stuff going on, but I think what people forget is bankruptcy is not about what you look like; bankruptcy is whether you can afford to pay your debts. It’s simply that, and you take the best paid athletes in the nation. A lot of them go bankrupt; they’re making 100 million dollars, but they go bankrupt because they don’t manage their spending, and I think that’s where Chicago is. Dan Proft: Yeah, how can they be bankrupt? They’ve got a nice home, they’ve got a nice car and they wear nice clothes? How can they be bankrupt? How can Antoine Walker – he’s an NBA champion – how can he go bankrupt? Terrible investments; he put his money to use in all the wrong places. That’s how you can go bankrupt. Ted Dabrowski: And I think that’s where Chicago is. Chicago is exactly there. And let me make one other point, and I think this is important. Chicago’s got a big footprint. We used to have 3.5 million people, right? We’re down way below that. The population in Chicago now is below the 1920s. That’s a massive change. We still have that same infrastructure, and I don’t just mean physical infrastructure, like the highways and all that. We have the same public sector infrastructure, and that public sector infrastructure’s not shrinking fast enough with the city. What it’s doing is it keeps growing; the cost of that infrastructure, the unions, the teachers, the police and fire; it’s too expensive. It’s outpacing the growth of what people make in the city, and that’s what’s going to break us. Dan Proft: So you wanted to talk about the taxation that your median Chicago resident faces. Let’s talk about it. Ted Dabrowski: What you see in Chicago is a lot of people saying “Oh, property taxes are much, much lower in Chicago than they are in the suburbs. Dan Proft: Subsidized by commercial. Ted Dabrowski: Subsidized by commercial one, but two, they are relatively lower, but what people don’t talk about is the… you know, Daley was a genius. We all know that. He knew that he shouldn’t go after property taxes, so what he did, and the other who followed, is they came up with a bottled water tax, and a dollar tier tax, then you had to add the red light cameras, they had every kind of tax and fee to hide the fact that the raising taxes on you. And it’s really hard to track what’s going on, so we did all the numbers, and it’s amazing how much higher, when you take all the taxes that there are in Chicago than in any other city – Evanston’s a competitor – but any other city in Illinois, the taxes are tremendously high. So I think there’s a lot of deceit, the press hasn’t wanted to talk about it properly, none of the politicians want to talk about it, but Chicagoians are taxed up the zahzoo, and in the end, middle class families know it; I think, when we talked about the Black families earlier, schools aren’t working for them, crime is certainly hurting them, and taxes are going against them; why stay? And I think that’s a question that people ask themselves. Dan Proft: Sure, and they ask themselves and they’re answering in the negative. Why stay? It makes no sense not to stay. Ted Dabrowski: And it’s not easy for people to leave, right? It’s hard to pick up and leave. Dan Proft: Right, sure. You laid down routes, you made an investment here, it is a great city, it’s a beautiful city, it’s a fun city; great restaurants and night life and arts and culture. Why do I want to leave here? I don’t want to leave here, but you’re making it such as I can’t make it make sense to be here. And frankly, even someone like me - who does relatively well, because I’ve got phony baloney job on the radio that pays me a lot of money and I work 20 hours a week - even me, I say, “Gosh, move over to Northwest Indiana and lower my cost of living by 40%, my muffling it up by 40%? What am I doing here? Ted Dabrowski: You’re hitting on the issue that recently I was in South Chicago, and I met with this company, Modern Drop Forge – they’re a big steel stamp planter, steel stamper – and they tried to stay in Illinois, they worked hard, nobody paid attention to them; this is a year and a half ago; and so they finally looked at Indiana, and Indiana opened their arms, said come here, the company eventually moved there. I was at there, I think I was telling you about this. I went to their new facility, this massive, beautiful huge facility; state of the art, and a lot of the workers who didn’t want to move to Indiana from Chicago, they went and they looked at the house prices and said wow; they looked at the property taxes, much lower; school choice. Dan Proft: And what you get for those numbers in terms of home and property. Ted Dabrowski: It’s a huge home, and he said he took his wife, this worker who didn’t want to go, he took his wife; they moved. And they’re so happy; and I saw him at the new plant, he’s ecstatic, and that’s what people are experiencing, and we shouldn’t force people to look at those alternatives, but I think what we’re doing is we’re making it such that people… people don’t move because their taxes are high. People move because things get difficult, the opportunities aren’t there, it gets too costly; they finally make a calculus and some way say “Hey, I’m going to go somewhere where there’s a new opportunity”. Whether it’s Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, whatever. Dan Proft: Well right, it’s cumulative. It’s not a single tax, it’s not that if I don’t have a city sticker, my fine is going to be like $42,000 to make the numbers work for the city for one year additional. It’s just the cumulative impact of every time you turn around, you’re just being fleeced. Ted Dabrowski: So it comes around to that’s why we need these massive reforms, and until we get them… Dan Proft: Which, by the way, the funny thing is, the other side, that has been unwilling to advance these structural reforms says we need these structural reforms. What did Rahm come in on? He came in on a wave of here’s a tough guy, he was the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States, and he’s going to make these tough decisions. He’s going to endure the political capital that must be spent to make the difficult decisions to bring the city back, to right the financial ship; and he hasn’t done it. Ted Dabrowski: This is Rahm though, right? He was the guy that was going to let nominate crisis go to waste. Dan Proft: The tutu should have been the leading indicator that this was not a tough guy. Ted Dabrowski: A lot of people were excited, and it’s amazing, because he actually did something that is pretty bold when he first came in. He went down to Springfield, and he sounded like he was proposing the Illinois Policy Institute’s ideas. He talked about COLA – Cost of Living Reforms – producing them, he talked about bringing retirement agents down, and he talked about optional 401(k) style plans for workers. That was awesome, he actually went down to Springfield and did that, and Daley didn’t do that, he didn’t go down to Springfield. So there was a lot of hope in the beginning, but quickly, once the negotiations got tough, once Karen Lewis put her foot down, he caved. Dan Proft: Well the 401(k) thing was interesting, because the response you get from a lot of people is “I don’t want to be subject to market fluctuations; I guess it’s okay if everybody else who is not in the public sectors is subject to market fluctuations with respect that they’re 401(k)s, but we want a guarantee, the define benefit plan”, and so the response to that, that we want this guarantee, 401(k) doesn’t work for us, at the university level, this is kind of an under-reported story, but you were the first one to kind of alert me to this. There are thousands of actual university employees, public employees in this state who are part of a 401(k) retirement system within the larger public university system, so number 1 – is it working for them? – number 2 – if it is, why don’t we scale it? Ted Dabrowski: Well, what’s amazing is that somewhere along the way, 1998, not Mike Madigan, but a guy named Robert Madigan, he passed a law that allowed university professors to have a 401(k) style plan. Why? University professors wanted that portability. They wanted to control their retirement fund. They wanted it to be in their name that they could take when they left the state if they left. Now what’s amazing is that we would allow a professor to have that, right, but not a Chicago fireman, a policeman, or a teacher, who should have their ownership, their own title and control over that money; rather than being dependant on Madigan or Rahm Emanuel, these university professors can take their money and nobody can touch it. And what’s interesting about that whole thing is we’re sitting again almost on record highs in the stock market; these guys are doing really well. The money that’s in there is going up, and despite the massive recovery of the stock market, Illinois’ pensions continue to do worse and worse. Dan Proft: The public sector pension funds. Ted Dabrowski: The public sector pensions get worse despite this massive improvement in the stock market. Dan Proft: So I guess the argument would be made, wait a second, if Dan Proft with his financial guy can figure out where to put his money and how to distribute risk and how to have a balanced portfolio, then why can’t a Chicago police officer, Chicago firefighter, Chicago teacher do the same thing? They can do the same thing. I’m no smarter than they are. My financial advisors are no smarter than the financial advisors they could have access to. Ted Dabrowski: They make it so easy now to invest. You just call Charles Schwab, you call Fidelity, and they make it easy. I think that’s the whole thing, you know, public sector employees have gotten so in bed with the government, that they’re letting the government control their lives for them, including their retirement lives, and the government’s made a disaster of that, and people are scared that they may not have a retirement. We argue that the workers should have control; they should have that freedom to control their own retirement account. If they want the state to manage them, let them. But for those who want something different, give them the option; it’s only fair. Dan Proft: I want to go back to the Chicago public school system for a second, because we got a couple of things, a couple of chiblits that are always advanced by the Teachers’ Union, and their acolytes that need to be addressed. One is this idea the state’s not paying; it’s fair share the CPS, that’s the problem. Why don’t we just start there? Let’s do one at a time. So CPS receives a majority of its funding from the state, which is materially different than all the Collar County districts – well, most of the Collar County districts – and for the Collar County districts that it’s not materially different, that are majority funded by the state, they end up – districts like Matteson; low income – they end up subsidizing; so you have low income people in Matteson subsidizing people in Chicago. Ted Dabrowski: Well, let me just hit the first point. We’ve run the numbers, we’re going to be releasing them pretty soon. What Forest Claypool says, he’s using a logic that I don’t think makes sense, but let’s follow him with his logic; he says they have 20% of the students; they should get 20% of what the state doles out, to all the districts; and he says that that’s not true; well, we’ve run the numbers, and if you take the last ten years, including pensions, because he argues that Chicago public school district pays their own pensions, whereas the state pays the pension for all the other school districts; he says that’s unfair; and you could, at face value, agree with that; what Forest Claypool doesn't tell you is that the funding formulas for education more than make up for what the city looses on a pension, so bottom line is that we ran the numbers for the last 10 years; they’ve gotten more than their share every single year in the last 10 years, with the exception of this past year. They’ve gotten more on average than all the other school districts. So they’re getting their share, and I think we’re going to debunk his myth. He has to stop complaining that he needs a state bailout and start focusing on what reforms he can pass in Chicago. I think that’s where he really needs to focus on. Dan Proft: And so let’s just kind of again do this; like a little bit of classroom math – not common core style either, because I don’t know how to do math common core style – but the city of Chicago spends around 15 grand – a little bit north of that, but let’s use round numbers – 15 grand per kid per year. So classroom of 30 – keep it simple – that’s 450 grand per classroom in the city of Chicago; 650 schools, a little bit less than 400,000 kids like it normally used to be, because of the exodus from Chicago; so $450,000 per classroom; the teacher all-in cost the district $120k a year; let’s say you spend another 50 grand on supplies, because that’s 150. It’s a $1,700 per kid for the pension pick up, for the pension costs, so again, let’s round up to 2 grand; so that’s another 60 grand. So it gets me to 210; let’s say we throw another 50 in for the building of the infrastructure and all that – per kid – so that’s 260. Where’s the other 200 grand per classroom in Chicago go? Does anybody know? Because I asked Karen Lewis this question, I asked Forest Claypool this question, I asked aldermen in the city of Chicago this question. Nobody has the answer to this question. And the other thing that’s even more infuriating than not having the answer is nobody much seems to care. Ted Dabrowski: It kind of reminds me, after they closed the 50 schools and – I forgot who did the analysis – but they couldn’t find the computers, they couldn’t find a lot of the supplies, they were gone; and they can’t track themselves. I think the biggest issue was CPS, is that they’re too damn big, right? It’s a monolith, and they can’t manage themselves, and I think that’s the big issue. Dan Proft: So at the state-level or at the city-level, because the dynamics are very similar? Illinois Policy Institute, what’s a path forward? Everybody gets the benefits they’ve earned up to a date certain; what’s the path forward? What does that look in terms of retirement age? Pension contribution, all of the cost of living adjustments, all of the drivers for cost in the system? What should that look like, that is respectful and reasonable that we can potentially afford, that provides that balance? Ted Dabrowski: So let’s come back to that state university retirement system plan that’s a 401(k). That thing’s been around for 17 years. You’ve got about 1700-1800 workers and retirees in it. What that plan does, and the people who are on that 401(k) style plan, they don’t get social security, so the 401(k) style plan they get is robust enough to meet IRS standards, and to give a sufficient retirement. And what it does is the state puts in 7% into the 401(k) every paycheck, and the employee puts in 8%, so every paycheck period, 15% is going into their retirement account. And that’s been deemed good enough, and has been around for a long time, and many people get it. So we think that’s a good basis for creating a plan for all workers, new workers, and for benefits going for choosing some starting date; we think that would be a great start. You know, there could be debates on how to structure it, but we think that’s a really good start because going forward, what it would mean is that all the benefits that have been earned, any worker or retiree would continue to get… retirees wouldn’t be affected by this plan, but all workers would have earned their benefits up to a point, then going forward, everything goes into a 401(k) style plan. So it’s a fair plan, you respect retirement ages, you respect all that, and it does a lot to fix the problem in Illinois. We’ve run numbers and it depends on how strict we are with the terms, but we believe that we can cut the unfunded liability by 30-40%, which is pretty massive, and we can create a repayment plan on the rest of the debt that gets us out of this problem; in 30 years, but in one that there’s control and certainty, rather than the one we have today which is uncertain. Dan Proft: And to repeat just for emphasis, that means you’re not messing with the retirement age, you’re not messing with COLA's, or the other component parts of a person’s employment or retirement? Ted Dabrowski: Correct. I think what you want to do is leave what people have earned, because I think it’s all a question of constitutionality. Dan Proft: But even prospectively, even for the new hires today. Ted Dabrowski: Well the new hires today are looking for 401(k) plans. Dan Proft: Right, but you’re saying “Hey, if you have 30 years in and you’re 50, 55, 60, whatever, because you’ve got the 401(k), we’ve more or less achieved a solomonic balance of – we’re paying 7%, you’re paying 8%; you’re managing your funds; not defined benefit, it’s defined contribution like it exists in the private sectors, to the extent that even those exist in the private sector today – and everybody’s charting their own course. Ted Dabrowski: Right, and then from then on we just manage the debt that we have and the outstanding liabilities, but we don’t keep creating these unfunded liabilities which we’ve seen just keep growing every single year. They grow out of control. It’s like a mortgage that grows every year, rather than paying it down, it just keeps growing and growing, no matter how much you put in it. That would be the example of a home owner. You keep paying down your debt and it keeps getting bigger, and you can’t get control of it. Dan Proft: Right, and it would also obviate the need to make our mortgage payment with a credit card, which is essentially what we’re doing now, to the extent that we still get credit card companies that will issue us credit cards effectively, because at some point the bond markets are going to seize up and they’re going to disallow borrowing, except that usurious Soprano rates, like CPS just did. Ted Dabrowski: Here’s another point I wanted to make. So we talked about this 401(k) style plan already existing in Illinois; so it’s like some pipe dream we have; this is something that’s a legitimate plan that works, and if it’s good enough for our university professors, why isn’t it good enough for anybody else? But it’s not just Illinois that’s done this; we’ve had massive reforms across the country, and Michigan actually started this. In 1997 they moved all their employees to 401(k) style plans; back in 1997. Dan Proft: Michigan, big union state. Ted Dabrowski: Big union state, 1997, and so they got ahead of this long time ago. Let me give you another state that did a big change. They did a hybrid half, pension half 401(k) style plan, and that was Rhode Island. Democratically controlled legislature, they got it passed; big reform, very painful, but they did it. And Alaska has passed in 2006 a 401(k) style plan for new employees, and most recently Oklahoma passed one. So this is something that’s happening across the country. It’s not some dream, it’s happening. Dan Proft: So the question I’m sure a lot of people are thinking is “If it’s happening across the country and it’s working for 17,000 university professors who are not bitching about it – at least we don’t hear from them bitching about it – why haven’t we scaled it already?” Ted Dabrowski: Well, I think it’s been easy for Karen Lewis and others to say the rich aren’t paying enough. All we need are more taxes. And unfortunately, the union members have bought that argument. They’ve bough that argument that the taxes need to go up. There’s a solution, there’s a promise been made; don’t change what we got as a promise, no matter whether it’s 20 years into the future. Let’s just raise taxes to solve our problems, and at some point there’s going to be revolt. It’s not a big revolt, it’s a quiet revolt by people just leaving the state, leaving the city over and over again. Dan Proft: Isn’t that the problem? Again, it’s a political problem, but people leave the state; we essentially have a hollowing out in the city and the state. People that are insulated from bad public policy, the very rich and the very poor, that are beneficiary to the transfer payments, they don’t feel it, they don’t live in the world of trying to make ends meet, and so that’s what you’re left with, and frankly, that’s the constituency of the left. That’s the constituency of the established power structure in Chicago and the General Assembly. Ted Dabrowski: I think the big issue that’s going to continue to drive change are the property taxes. We’re seeing places, like you said, Matteson, and nearby - Southland – communities, where the tax rates on property, so the effective tax rate on a home is about 4-5% of the value. So if somebody would have tried to buy that house today would have to pay the cash for that home, they’d have to pay the value for that home, and within 20 years, because of taxes, they would have repaid for that home again. Dan Proft: So for most people with a 30 year mortgage, they pay for their home twice. What you’re saying is in Illinois and a lot of regions you’re going to pay for your house the third time because of the property taxes. Ted Dabrowski: Exactly, and that’s why people are starting to walk away from their homes in the Southland area. So you got a place where the manufacturing companies have gone. You see the big swaths of land just empty, and you’re starting to see now these nice big homes that have collapsed in value, and people walking away because they can’t afford it anymore. Between the mortgage and a second mortgage being the property taxes, they’re leaving. Dan Proft: And here’s something else I hear too, a lot of small and mid-sized businesses, 25 to 250 employees, they don’t make headlines when they leave, they don’t make headlines when they lay people off, they’re not big enough, but they’re impactful. They represent three quarters of the jobs in the state. They’re just quietly closing up shop, or they’re downsizing, and kind of methodically moving operations somewhere else. And it’s one of those things, like the old kind of sun also rises, how did you go bankrupt - gradually, then suddenly. So it’s kind of the whole thing, it’s like wait a second. Where did all the businesses in Elk Grove Village and the ring suburbs around O’Hare go? Well they slowly moved out over the course of the last ten years. Now how do you get them back? Ted Dabrowski: That’s really hard, and that’s why I always argue that… I talk a lot about the one reform that we can do tomorrow, and it can be agreed upon all the parties as new employees. Move to 401(k) style plans tomorrow. New employees don’t have a contract, they’re not protected by the Constitution, they would just enter with a new contract. Make it a reasonable, fair, 401(k) style plan. Then people would say “That wouldn’t save a whole lot of money”, but I’m saying “It may not save a whole lot of money, but that sure would send a different message than any message that we’ve sent over the last 25 years”; and that would send a message to the rating agencies, that reform is coming, that’d send a message to future employers, people that want to live in Illinois, but we’ve got to send a positive message, and right now there’s no positive message, and we know with the budget flight there’s no positive message. We need a positive message. Dan Proft: I want to level-up one level of education; the post secondary education in universities, we’ve talk about this cadre of university of professors in a 401(k) system, okay, but a lot of the discussion and the consternation in the context of this current state budget impasse is about universities, and they’re not receiving the funding they’ve become accustomed to from the state, and so there’s the prospect of laying off employees, and there’s a protest on campuses, state colleges, universities, and it’s all directed at the state of Illinois; what are they doing, they’re divesting from higher education. Well, it turns out, and this is some good work that’s been done by State Representative Mark Badneck - who’s a Freshman Republican from Oswego, Plainfield area - it turns out that if you do a little bit of comparison, in terms of what the state of Illinois provides in per pupil support, as compared to their conference peers – whether it’s Illinois State in the Missouri valley, or University of Illinois in the big 10 – it turns out we’re providing almost twice as much state support for pupil than the conference peers in other states, and yet tuition at our state schools is still 40% higher than their peers, their conference peers in those states. Explain that dynamic. Ted Dabrowski: Well, we looked at the numbers in higher education, and it’s easy to blame the lack of a budget right now. It’s easy to do that because it’s easy to point the finger at somebody. Dan Proft: That’s why they’re doing it. Ted Dabrowski: And that’s why they’re doing it, and of course, no budget has created a crack, sorry, is showing all the cracks that exist in higher-ed. But this problem has been building for 10 or 15 years or more, right, and a lot of it has to do with how much public funding is making it to education from the federal government and the state. And what these universities are doing is they’re taking all the available money they can find, and they’re hiring administrative staffs that are much too large, they’re bloated, and they’re paying massive salaries and massive pensions. And so when you look at what’s happening, it’s tuition's are having a double, not because education’s doing that much better; it’s all going to fund big, big administrations and super big pensions. Dan Proft: And we saw… we’re talking about the Chicago teachers’ strike in the not too distant past. How about the U of IC 1,100 professorate strike that was just two years ago – 2014. And they wanted to lift the floor for essentially part-time adjunct facility from 30 grand to 45 grand; 50% increase in base salary, and of course, that levels all the way up; we increase the floor here, and that increases the floor at every rung above that. And so how do we get out of that trap? Ted Dabrowski: It’s the same issues we’re talking. We’re talking pensions again. Dan Proft: Well, we’re talking salaries plus pensions. Ted Dabrowski: What happens is that these salaries are high and so what’s happened now is that when you take the state appropriations to go to education, higher-ed, they’ve actually grown a lot in the past decade. They’ve grown about 60% in the last decade; from 2.6 billion to over 4 billion. So it’s a big chunk of change; the problem has been is that 50% of all that money, 50% of what the state appropriates isn’t making it to higher-ed, it’s going to pay for pensions, and I was amazed when we did our work the other day, to find community colleges; community colleges pay their top person $500,000 a year. Dan Proft: You mean like the president of the university. Ted Dabrowski: The president, right. And of course, like you said, all those salaries get scaled up. Dan Proft: Tell us the story just for illustrative purposes, because it speaks to a larger cultural problem. In your research, the white paper that I read that you did in concert with colleagues at Illinois Policy Institute, a $900,000 administrator at the University of Illinois? Ted Dabrowski: Yeah, $900,000. Dan Proft: What the frack does that administrator do that warrants $900,000?! Ted Dabrowski: Included in that was a roughly $450,000 retention bonus after few years. Dan Proft: Okay, so what the frack does that administrator making 400 grand do that warrants a $450,000 retention bonus? Ted Dabrowski: Exactly. That person will probably get somewhere in the range of who knows, 8 to 9 to 10 million dollars in pensions. Think about that money, how many kids, how many scholarships that would fund in a given year for kids that tend Chicago State; that one person. Dan Proft: But they don’t hear, I mean you may hear it incredulously, but you’re going to hear it. Well, you want to attract and attain talents in academia, don’t you? Ted Dabrowski: So you can say that, now the question is, to how many people do you pay that? There’s a great study done by the Illinois General Auditor, and he looked at the number of administrators that these universities have, and it’s amazing. We looked at Chicago State… Dan Proft: This is like the Teldar Paper story, like all these vice-presidents, they just send memos back and forth; I can’t figure out what they do; this is the Michael Douglas moment? Ted Dabrowski: Well, nobody knows what they do, but they’re walking around through halls, but the point was, for Chicago State, they have one administrator for every 18 students. Dan Proft: Not one professor. Ted Dabrowski: No, they have one faculty member for every 16 students. So it’s almost the same number. Dan Proft: One administrator per every professor? Ted Dabrowski: Yes, so you could be sitting in a class, and your professor would be giving you a lesson, and there’d be an administrator right there watching over, making sure things are good. Dan Proft: A supervisor. Ted Dabrowski: You know, and again, a lot of that is because federal mandates, etcetera, but you can’t have that kind of bloat and not expect your tuition's to double, as they have in Chicago state, to the point where – here’s the sad part – the tuition's have gotten so high that you can’t have a kid who wants to work and go to school, because it’s just too expensive. And that’s why they’ve come to rely on scholarships. They’ve come to rely on free money because it’s no longer affordable. If these community colleges were meant for these kids to have an opportunity, why have we priced them out of touch? Dan Proft: So at the post-secondary educational level, where there’s community colleges, and we have some good community colleges, you know, 50 somewhat community colleges that provide… at least you can get your gen-ed requirements knocked out at a lower cost/credit hour at the community college before you go on to a four year university. But what you’re suggesting is that actually that’s not even the case anymore, and oh, by the way, because K-12 education, if so subpar, a lot of the costs at the freshman sophomore post-secondary education level is remediation, you’re paying for high school twice. I mean, if you talk to community college presidents, and university presidents, college presidents in the state, they’ll tell you the one in three kids that are going on at post-secondary education, I’m paying for them to do high school again for the first year, because they’re not prepared to do post-secondary work; so we’re paying for high school twice, and then we’re paying for administrators layered on to kids that are going to post-secondary education, not ready for the work, and then we wonder why the medieval poetry major can’t get a job when they get out of NIU, Illinois State, or U of I, or wherever, or Northwestern, for that matter. Ted Dabrowski: I think you’re capturing the problem really well, and what’s really scary is that not only can’t they get a job, but many of them have debt that they’ll never going to be able to repay, and that’s why you’re seeing these problems, right? You’re seeing trillions of dollars maybe becoming the next big problem in our country, with all this student debt the kids can’t pay back. A lot of it, again, bring it back around, a lot of it driven by pensions. Dan Proft: Fundamentally, if we’re thinking about K-12 education, and we’re thinking about higher education, with the bleak financial picture that we’ve painted, and the systems that have effectively been set up – let’s be just real honest about it – have effectively been set up to pay generous salaries and benefits to the adults in the system, not to educate children and to program for success in life. Ted Dabrowski: The Jerry Jones Program. Dan Proft: Clearly that’s not happening for the majority, then if there was one or two things where you could wave a magic wand at the Illinois Policy Institute and say this is the way to kind of a halt and do a 180, take a step back, and then chart a completely different course, what are those one or two things that get us off this path to ruin that we’re on, and onto a path of fulfilling the mission as stated of K-12 and post-secondary education? Ted Dabrowski: I think K-12 – I’m huge in empowering parents; I’m speaking generally, off course of some great public schools; and there’s people who are dedicated… Dan Proft: As there are at the post-secondary level. Ted Dabrowski: Listen, it’s not that people aren’t dedicated and they don’t care. I think systemically, and I think CPS, I’m sure there’s thousands of teachers and employees that care, I think the system is broken. The system – I’d say – is morally bankrupt. And it’s not going to work, and so until you get into a situation, and again, we’re seeing this happen again, same like we talked about 401(k)s, we’re seeing the same thing for school choice plans. Parents should be given the choice over where their kids go to school, and that’s one super empowering for parents who feel like they’ve been just totally left out of this, and that they think that more money is the solution, rather than being given a choice and control over their children’s education. So I think that’s number one. And we just saw Nevada, all of its 500,000 public school students have been given the choice of a voucher up to that $5,000; all of them. It’s amazing, state-wide, amazing. There’s now 26 states that offer school choice. Why isn’t Illinois one of them? Why isn’t Chicago one of them? Dan Proft: So that’s K-12 at the university level the problem is choice, right? Because Illinois, all the auto makers in the 70's have been insulated from competition, and kids are taking their GI bill, their Pell Grant, their stafford loan money, and they’re not going to school in Illinois. Ted Dabrowski: Right, they’re going outside, and they’re not coming back, and I think that higher-ed is a bigger problem, because it’s also a federal piece to it. You’ve got all that federal money, the schools know it, the schools know that the kids can borrow, and so therefore they raise their tuition and their hiring their jobs program to match that. So I think we need to stop a lot of what’s been happening there, and that would allow the cost come down dramatically; if we didn’t have all these subsidies feeding the cost up; but until we do that, I think it’s going to be tough. With that said, there’s a lot that can be done locally, because we don’t have to pay the salaries that we pay, and 2, we don’t have to have the administrative bloat that we have; and we certainly don’t need to have the pensions that we have. There’s no reason why people are getting 7 and 8 and 10 and 12 million dollar pensions. Dan Proft: So other than scaling the 1,700, go back to the 1,700 person university professors in a 401(k) style program, would you say that the state should starve the beast of academia? And force them to make changes that they’re otherwise not inclined to make, as long as you keep the spigot open? Ted Dabrowski: Well, sadly, that’s what’s happening, right? And it shouldn’t be that way; you’ve got a lot of people in pain now. You’ve got kids who thought they had a scholarship, now they don’t. They don’t care about those problems; then they had to have a plan. You’ve got teachers, professors who thought they had a job; they may lose them. And the way it’s happening now it shouldn’t be happening. It should be the administrations taking control of what they do and running an efficient system, but they’ve never been forced to do it, and Governor Rauner and the budget impasse is making them do that. They don’t like it, they don’t like having a gun to their head, but it’s forcing them to look at their costs, and it’s how it may happen. Dan Proft: So effectively, I mean, this K-12 or university, the common denominator is you have to have families be the accountability mechanism to how their tax dollars are being spent for the experience of their children, they have to be an accountability mechanism for their own local K-12 schools, they have to be an accountability mechanism for the universities they send their kids, for those kids to go onto post-secondary education. Ted Dabrowski: That’s absolutely right, and it’s interesting when you think about Chicago, and this comes back again empowering parents, families, the residents. Not the bureaucrats. When you look at the Laquan McDonald case, right, and you’ve got a Chicago, a police force and or mayor, or a attorney general who can hide information from the public for more than a year. When you have a situation where a school district can strike two times in a row on families; when you have a police force, when you try to take the problems of a Jason Van Dyke and discipline him – the police officer that shot Laquan McDonald, but you can’t use his old history of complaints, there’s a lot of things that the public is not seeing, and they seeded that too much of their power is residence to the Government, and a lot of what we’re talking about today is giving the power back to the residents. Give it back to the families, at least give it back to the people. Dan Proft: He is Ted Dabrowski, he’s the Vice- President of Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute. Nobody does more numbers, reality based research on these intractable problems in terms of the quality of public education in the state from pre-k through post-secondary than Ted and his team at the Illinois Policy Institute. You should read their stuff religiously so you’re empowered with the information they have researched and called to be that accountability mechanism that we’re talking about. Pleased to have Ted Dabrowski, Vice- President of Policy from the Illinois Policy Institute on this edition of Against The Current. Thank you for joining us, Ted, thank you. Ted Dabrowski: Dan, I appreciate it.

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How would IL be different if Fmr. US Atty. Fred Foreman had been Gov.?

On this week's Against The Current (ATC), "Mr. Lake County" Fred Foreman sits down to discuss his stellar legal career (Lake County State's Attorney, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Chief Judge, 19th Judicial Circuit, Lake County) and the political career that could have been but was not. Foreman touches on past corruption in the judiciary and his role in rooting it out in Operations Greylord and Gambat.

Foreman also weighs in on federal prosecutors' responsibility to aid in eradicating the scourge of gang violence in Chicago--something he had a hand in with the El Rukn and Gangster Disciples street gangs.

Finally, Foreman offers a thoughtful reflection on how Illinois politics has changed since he rose to prominence three decades ago.

All of this and more with former US Attorney and Judge Fred Foreman on this edition of ATC.

View full transcript


Dan Proft: Thank you for joining us on another edition of Against the Current; coming to you from the Skyline Club, on top of the Old Republic building in downtown Chicago. Our guest on this installment of Against the Current is Judge Fred Foreman. Judge Foreman, thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it. Fred Foreman: Good afternoon! Dan Proft: So, not just a judge, just a quick CV, because there’s so much here, so much history and texture and knowledge, but really a legal career that is unsurpassed in Illinois history, at least: Lake County State’s attorney for a decade; US attorney in the early 90’ – 90 to 93, if I got that right; Chief Judge, Lake County Circuit, 90th sub-circuit. Fred Foreman: 90th Judicial Circuit. Dan Proft: 90th Judicial Circuit, excuse me; and now, all the way back to private practice on a senior council. Fred Foreman: That and a grandfather. Dan Proft: Grandfather, I’ve reversed the order of importance, obviously, my bad. Fred Foreman: It’s been a very interesting and challenging career, and I’ve been blessed to have moved in and out of the public sector; I’ve spent a lot of time in private practice – both as a sole practitioner and a practicing attorney, and I’m back doing that now; so I’ve had both government service and service in the private sector. Dan Proft: So Lake County States, you were elected Lake County State’s attorney when you were a zygote; you were, right, 11 years old or something. Fred Foreman: I came in with the Reagan landslide in 1980 – I was 32 – one of the younger State’s attorneys, and very close...upset incumbent at that time in the office, and served three terms as State’s attorney, until I was tapped by President Bush to become the United State’s attorney for the Northern District. Dan Proft: And so, in the pantheon of fame, do US attorneys for the Northerner District up here in Chicago – Dan Webb and Antoine DeLuca, you, Patrick Fitzgerald, so many others, Noah Zack Fardon – one of the things I just want to get your perspective on at the outset is, being a State’s attorney, elected, it’s apolitical position in part, being an US attorney, you’re in Chicago, in the Northern District, there’s sort of a political culture up here in Chicago, in the state of Illinois, in addition to you being considered and thought highly of along the road for all kinds of other higher public offices, US Senate, even Governor, I wonder if you could give a little bit of perspective on how you think politics has changed from when you were State’s attorney, fresh newly admitted State’s attorney in Lake County in 1980 to where we find ourselves today with governor Rauner, and actually, guys you were familiar in 1980 – Mike Madigan and John Cullerton – because they were the general assembly then just as they are now; how you think the politics and the political culture in Chicago and Illinois has changed and maybe not changed. Fred Foreman: Well, I think, as I said, I came in with the Ronald Reagan revolution, and I was very active right away after my first term, and the National District Attorney Association, which took me to Washington and sort of caught the atomic fever out there, got to know attorney general Muse very well, and a lot of other people in the administration, became President of the National District Attorney Association, and so I testified on some of the confirmation hearings for Robert Bork and Anthony Kennedy. Dan Proft: Oh boy. That’s in the news all of a sudden, isn’t it? Fred Foreman: I’d say that with that experience, and of course, as United State’s Attorney I had to go through confirmation myself, but when I look back – the 1980 were certainly the golden years for the Republican Party in Illinois and in Lake County, the Collar Counties, because governor Thompson, a former US attorney was governor, most of the office holders we elected republicans, and that whole 10 year period and into the 90s were strong years for the Republican Party. Obviously, with the George Ryan era go on and then the last almost 10 years of the Democrat presidents in Springfield, things have changed a lot; governor Rauner was elected because he was considered to be an independent Republican, a different brand of Republican, much like was seen on the national level. You’re seen a businessman that says he’s going to come in, it’s not going to be business as usual; he doesn’t need political contributions because they’re self-made people, and he’s going to try and make some changes that I think they’re going to have to be implemented in order to correct these financial situation in Springfield. Dan Proft: With hind site being 20/20, do you look back at the 1980, as you say they’re kind of the salad years for the Republicans into the 90s, where there was control, even two year interregnum there in the House – 94: the Gingrich Revolution – and say, ‘Boy, it was great, it was to have governors, it was great to be in the majority, but we probably should have made some different policy choices that we made, because perhaps we sowed the seeds of the rise of democrats, even of the likes of Blagojevich and Quinn’, the same way that some are arguing that we have sown the seeds at the national level with republican leadership and congress for the rise of a Donald Trump. Fred Foreman: Well, one of the things that I did do politically also in the 80’ was I was the delegate to the Republican National Convention in 84 and in 1988, so I participated – I was elected for that congressional district, and participated in that whole process of selecting a president, and it was unique back then, because Ronald Reagan had those two terms, and he wasn’t supposed to be elected in the first place, because they felt that he was an actor, but he had been a governor. Dan Proft: Amiable don’ts. Fred Foreman: Yes, that’s what his opinion was, but the people liked him; he said things that people liked, and so, when it came time for him to finish his second term, another unique situation arose with vice president Bush. He would have been the first vice president elected after a two years term over republican president in years; there was something that was unique about that. I was a Bush delegate, a Bush quail, and I was able to participate in a process that put me in a position, at that time, to become the United State’s attorney, because those federal appointments, whether it’s the United State’s attorney or any of the other top federal appointments, are political appointments. It’s the way they’ve always been. Dan Proft: Right, and so thinking about – at the state level – the decisions of a governor Thompson, the decisions of a governor Edgar on some of the issues that bedevil us today, like our unfunded pension liabilities, and thinking about governor Edgar’s pension ramp in 94’; decisions that if you look back, and to say they may have seemed as good decisions at the time, or politically speeding decisions at the time, but the kind of compromises we were always told by the Chicago media we’re supposed to make, those compromises started to sow the seeds not over the public policy problems we faced, but also of Republicans finding themselves in the super minority in the general assembly, which is presented a particular challenge to governor Rauner, even after 50 years of Chicago democrat hegemony. Fred Foreman: I think back then times were good. Times were good during the Reagan years, and actually times were good during the Bill Clinton years in Washington too. At the same time, the Republicans were taking over with Newt Gingrich here in Illinois; we had a change in the House when Lee Daniels and his group came in too; so there was an opportunity to make those changes, but I don’t really recall people being so concerned about it back then; I felt that they felt that they. Dan Proft: Some people aren’t concerned about it today, that’s what I mean – slow learners. Fred Foreman: They didn’t appreciate how this was going to increase. In fact, when you talk about – for instance – the argument over the 3% COLA that was passed back during that Thompson administration – I can recall, and I’ve read a little bit about those debates, and you’re talking about a time when your CV’s were paying a 15%, and social security cost for living increases were like 5%, and I can remember then talking about, ‘Well, 5% seems to be a lot, let’s settle on 3%’, so I think there was some – at least they recognized that there were going to be some issues going forward. Dan Proft: And so, thinking about the politics, just a little bit more, part of the question that is asked sometimes – I have these conversations with the media types – who watches the watchman; who watches the watchman media? Who provides oversight of the media to make sure they’re not in the tank for one side or the other; they’re not trying to drive a particular point of view, while pretending to be objective scriveners; while the same thing can be said at the judiciary. The same thing – we talk a lot about the city of Chicago – Alderman who gets picked off for taking a $500 bribe, or even – in this state, unfortunately – governors who are doing all kinds of nefarious activities, and wound up in federal prison; but the judiciary… then you were involved in these seminal investigations and prosecution of some 90 corrupt public officials largely in the Cook County Judiciary – Operation Greylord, in the 80’; just distill that case, that prosecution a little bit, that operation and those prosecutions a little bit, and also – now fast forwarding almost 30 years – who watches the watchman today? Fred Foreman: Well, as States attorney in Lake County, I had several opportunities to be involved with the federal government joint investigations, so I learned how that process worked; I was aware of the Greylord investigation that started in 1981 – actually, the investigation started earlier than that, under the United State’s attorney Tom Sullivan in 79’ that was indicted when Dan Webb was US attorney in 81, and continued with other superseding indictments which went after most of the traffic division in Cook County State’s attorneys, or Cook County court system, but also went into the Chancellery Division and some in the Law Division, so that was the initial emphasis. Dan Proft: Judges taking bribes. Fred Foreman: Yes, and a large group of judges that were involved in it and a lot of them were political appointees; and many of them did not attend to their court duties and it was a mess, and everybody knew it was a mess, so it then lead to a subsequent investigation; you felt the ground like it would be a deterrent; it didn’t deter everybody in the subsequent investigation, which I was more involved within the tale with the Greylord, and that was Operation Gambit, which looked both at the Chancellery Division in Cook County, as well as the city council; involved was alderman Roti and senator Diako, and then the presiding judge of the Chancellery Division at that time, David Shields; there were other judged that were indicted, and the sentenceshere was that organized crime and particularly organized street crime – street gangs – the street cruise that were part of the traditional organized crime we’re involved in payoffs in the judicial system. Dan Proft: So you’re talking about the outfit combined with the big street gangs of the time, like the El Rukns. Fred Foreman: Right, the Minister Disciples, Vice Lords; basically the corporate structure gangs; different than many of the gangs we have now, which are more of an entrepreneurial gang out there, but the structure of those large gangs and organized crime was one much like successful corporations. Dan Proft: So all these judges go to jail, some aldermen go to jail, the outfits involved – the outfits today, 30 years later isn’t what it was in the 80’, at least by most people’s accounts. The first thing you said was most of these judges were political appointees. Well, it is the worst kept secret in Illinois politics that if you want a judgeship in Cook County Circuit Court you have to get the blessing of Mike Madigan or Ed Burke or both. Have we exchanged one form of undue influence for another? Fred Foreman: No, I think that the couple of changes that came out of the Solovy commission – Jerry Solovy from General Block – they realized that they wanted to compensate judges much like they did with the federal bench here in Chicago; they wanted to make sure that they can attract quality individuals so that they wouldn’t be necessarily coming out of a political system; they would be coming out of better firms, they would be in from law enforcement, and the Supreme Court has instituted now an education conference and really more of a merit selection, which actually is merit election, because the Supreme Court on a vacancy will make an appointment, and most of the vacancies that are filled are filled by associate judges, at the circuit level, that have been selected by circuit judges at the local level; so you have more of a merit selection; you’re hoping that you can balance the politics of the situation, because they are elected officers with the recommendations of the bar associations, and pretty comprehensive background investigations on the judges. Dan Proft: Now, the Tribune has been opining out of this for years; the merit selection for the circuit court, as opposed to ‘I go to my ballot on March 15th ‘, or Tuesday after the first Monday November, and I see 70 judges who’s names I never heard of, and they all happen to have Irish surnames, shockingly even today. Have this be some kind of panel of legal experts, those that know the judges, know their legal record, know their credentials, know their intellectual capacities, work ethic and those things, rather than leaving it up to the voters because it still provides for a bit of a thiefdom, a patronate thiefdom in the legal community for democrat power brokers like Madigan and Burke. Is that a good idea? This is a bit of an esoteric idea, but it turns out to be really important, particularly if you ever have to appear before a circuit court judge on a range of matter, is that a good idea or do you think that per grade lord there’s enough of a deturn effect, and some of the reforms you mentioned that had lasting impact, that that’s not necessary. Fred Foreman: I think there has been a deturn effect and I think that we have a better quality of judiciary, and I think that the Supreme Court has taken a position and has placed the emphasis on administration by chief judges, which I served as that if you have misconduct by a judge in your courthouse, if you don’t report it, then you’re responsible as well; so there is accountability and discipline, and I think – with the Judiciary Inquiry Board, with greater financial disclosure – that the judges have to file the very detailed forms once you’re on a financial disclosure, so I think there is more there, and I think that the bar associations have looked very closely and it ranked the judges based on their qualifications, so that you’re hoping to elect the most qualified judges, but I don’t think we’re going to have merit selection per se, like they would have in the federal bench; as long as it allows no change, you’re going to have hopefully merit election, and you’re going to have judges required – like the judges now – to go to train every two years, and to have their continuing legal education, and I think the Supreme Court’s done a pretty good job on having served as a member of the conference of the chief judges; I’d meet with the Supreme Court on a monthly basis; they dictated to the chief judges what they’d expect from them, as far as being the watchman on the local watch on the local circuit. Dan Proft: So the cliché about you get a judicial appointment, or you run for judge as a means to retire, is that unfair? Fred Foreman: Is what? Dan Proft: Is that unfair that you go to Madigan or Burke or you get a judicial appointment, you stand for election, you get elected to be a circuit court judge; that’s the means to retire and just enjoy the good life, and work from 1 to 1-15; is that an unfair caricature? Fred Foreman: I don’t think it is anymore. I don’t really think. I think there is more input by the various bar associations, and I think they’re still – obviously, since we have elections, you’re going to have people, whether it’s Cook County or the other counties that are going to be involved. I’m involved in mentoring and looking for good judicial candidates myself now. I’m very active still in judicial organizations to make sure that we do get quality people, and I think that for instance, in Lake County, where we have our first Hispanic Chief Judge up there right now that’s serving; we’ve had three women Chief Judges in Lake County, so I think it’s important to have the diversity; I think it’s important to go particularly they have the retention elections, because if the judge is not doing the job, then he has to stand before the voters in six years to be retained. Dan Proft: Now going back to something else you said about Greylord, about the influence of street gangs, and some of the corruption that occurred on the bench; do you think, fast forwarding to where we are now, with the level of violent crime in the city of Chicago, it isn’t as it was in the 80’, but that’s because crime has declined nationally in the last 30 years, but Chicago still higher murder/capita rate than New York and L.A combined. The El Rukns, the gangster disciples you mentioned, these were forerunners maybe to some of the Mexican drug cartels, or Colombian drug cartels, because as you would say, these would vertically integrate the corporations – for example, the Jeff Fort ran with the El Rukns. What’s the experience of prosecuting those criminal honor prizes, the street gangs that are responsible for so much violence on the west side of the city, or the south side of the city that is applicable today? What is it that the policy makers and political leaders today haven’t learned from what happened in the 80’ to stop the violence associated with these street gangs? Fred Foreman: Well, when I was United States attorney, there was a Department of Justice initiative called [Weedancy? 00:18:55], and what this initiative was – it sounds sort of a catchy title, but Weedancy would weed out the crime influences and then receded with positive influences, and there was a coordinated effort here in Chicago targeting the south side with the projects on the south side: Ida B. Wells, Robert Taylor Homes, right down by Comiskey Park, and there was a targeting area – we had major raids, helicopters, the Attorney General came in and I actually was on one of [Inaudible 00:19:31] attorney with alderman Bobby Rush; elevator opened, there was a drug deal going on right in our presence, and the community was involved; the community wanted these places cleaned out. Dan Proft: That’s an interesting point, let me just stop you there, because you get a part of it, and you see this in the presidential campaign right now, black liberation theologist like Cornel West talking about ‘I’m for Bernie Sanders because Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton passed the crime bill in the early 90s’, and it turns out, if you actually trace the history of stiffer laws for drug related crimes, like you go back to the Rockefeller years in New York, and it was the black community working with Nelson Rockefeller in New York; they wanded stiffer sentences, because they wanded those thugs, the street gang members, the drug traffickers, they wanded them out of their neighborhoods. There’s a bit of revisionist history about who supports getting street gangs and drug traffickers off their streets. It turns out that minority communities, the majority of law abiding minorities in some of these neighborhoods, they were the impedes for a lot of the stiffer penalties that were imposed by US attorneys like yourself. Fred Foreman: Well, and the other thing, I had the support of the Department of Justice, you know, with this program to come in, and we had the authority to go into these areas and to use the racketeering statutes; to work with local law enforcement. Also back then, Chicago PD, they were as tough as nails in these neighborhoods, and they had gang crimes people in there that talked with the community, got information from the community, and turned it over to the drug taskforces. It was coming in nationally. Drugs were coming into the country, and they were being filtered into the neighborhoods, but I had a very unique relationship with Mayor Daley; he and I had been State’s attorneys together. We knew each other well, we traveled together; he was very active with the National District’s Attorney Association, and he knew the people in the Reagan and the Bush administration, and he knew they would assist if he requested it; but the other thing that was going on back then was that the city of Chicago, in the Loop, there was improvance being made in the Loop. Mayor Daley focused on economic development in the Loop, doing a lot of things that Giuliani didn’t do in New York; he wasn’t going to let the people come into the city and be hassled by people on the street. A lot of those people were put into shelters, they were taken care of, but they looked at the west side; they looked at the Chicago Stadium, the United Center on the west side, they looked at the Loop, and they looked at the White Sox Park, and they decided that in these areas, where the crime was becoming intolerable, that they were going to have economic development in the same they were cracking down on the gang structures, and that’s actually what happened over that time. From the Loop to the west side, from the Loop to the south side including McCormick Place and the Bears in Soldier Fields, these sports franchises, and the people that were involved in them, and the business men, and women in the area, the chamber of commerce, they all got together and said ‘We got to have economic development’. Look what it is today. When you start to take this whole issue of crime in the streets today – the gangs today are different. Whether they’re Waukegan, or Chicago, Juliet, or in the suburbs, they still deal on heroin, but the heroin is not going into the inner city, it’s going into the suburbs. We have an epidemic of overdoses of heroin in the suburban areas. We never had that before. I think what you’re looking at now, you’re looking at entrepreneurial. You have a different gang leadership or representation in each neighborhood. The neighborhoods, they’re not conclusive enough. Dan Proft: You’re saying that you don’t have the kingpins, like a Jeff Ford. Fred Foreman: Everybody’s an entrepreneur; one of the things back in the 80s and 90s, there were 1000 homicides a year in Chicago. There’s about 450, that’s way too many, but not only crime going down, a lot of people are incarcerated, a lot of people that were committing a lot of crimes are behind bars, but also, a lot of the people that were admitted to the emergency rooms - the techniques that came back from the war in the Middle East, they used them in emergency rooms on shootings. People are shot now and they’re safe; they don’t die anymore. The doctors and the nurses and the emergency personnel have done wonders. Dan Proft: Yeah, but again, from the 80’ to today, in terms of aggregate numbers, but do you have to look at it in context, and in the context of Chicago versus other major urban centers today; and Chicago is still an outlier. There’s still something happening here that’s not happening elsewhere, so you’ve mentioned the difference between the gangs in the 80’ versus today; what about the difference in terms of law enforcement and prosecutorial cooperation from the 80’ until today? Is there some different approach? Is there something that just isn’t as cohesive and as cooperative as it should be that helps explain this in part? Is there not enough police? Are the police tactics different? What is it that is different in Chicago today as compared to L.A, New York, Houston, etcetera? Fred Foreman: Well, the only thing I can say is I think there’s a sense that there needs to be more of an alliance between the police and the people that live in the communities. The police have to be in the community, they have to be doing proactive crime control in the communities, like they did; community policing came in back in the 80’ and the 90’, and I think that seems to work – maybe they’re using that in New York and L.A, although in the 90’ we had people detail from Chicago to go to L.A; prosecutors and law enforcement to assist with some of the problems they were having back then. I think that we had a good model then, I think they’re struggling to find that model today. Dan Proft: So, speaking of alliances, the relationship between the US attorney for the Northern District and the Attorney General of the state of Illinois – and I bring this up because Lisa Madigan, who’s been our Attorney General for the better part of the last 13 years, said, when she first ran in 2002, against Joe Birkett, coming off of Jim Ryan’s 10 years Attorney General, that one of the things that she would do, that Republicans failed to do, was root out public corruption. Where was Jim Ryan when the George Ryan corruption was going on? And 13 years later, she doesn’t have a lot of successful prosecutions of corrupt public officials to show for her efforts – and they have been quite a few in 13 years in Illinois – as there always have been in that period of time. And so I guess the question is – I should point out that her rationale, and her explanation is ‘Well, in most of those cases, take [Inaudible 00:26:42] for instance, the US attorney’s office for the Northern District got involved and so I didn’t want to step on their feet.’ That’s been her explanation. Is that a fair explanation, and what is the relationship between a US attorney for the Northern District – which you were – and the Attorney General – regardless of party, you were US attorney for the Northern District when Ronald Burke, a democrat, was the Attorney General for us, and Neil Hartigan, a democrat, was Attorney General before him. So what of that relationship and Lisa Madigan’s explanation for her AWOL status over the 13 years? Fred Foreman: Actually, that relationship with the US attorney, the Cook County State’s attorney and the Attorney General, has been the same for as long as I can remember. They’ve carved out their turf; the US attorney was going to handle public corruption, and federal corruption at their level. The Attorney General was going to be more involved with state prosecutions for environmental matters for regulatory matters and issues. Dan Proft: [Inaudible 00:27:46] the consumer adequate. Fred Foreman: Exactly. That’s been the tradition role; the other thing that Attorney Generals have become very active in, obviously just taking on major industries; as far as tobacco litigation, that was the Attorney General saying they’ve taken on various charities they go after for violation of those issues or those laws, and the Attorney General was always considered to be the chief law enforcement officer, but his role was always in that bailiwick, whereas the US attorney used to rotate every four years; Pat Fitzgerald was the only US attorney that ever served more than one term in modern history, because he was focused on the public corruption at the state and the local level, and that’s why most presidents left him in as long as they did; so he really assumed that role when I served as United State’s attorney, our role was to focus on the federal crimes, particularly public corruption, judicial corruption, the Attorney General worked with the local state’s attorneys; oftentimes came in and prosecuted cases where they had conflicts and the local states attorneys couldn’t do it, so that’s the traditional law, and I think most the Attorney Generals, when they run for office, that they’re going to – as a part of their platform – we’re going to do more public corruption cases. Dan Proft: So when Attorney Generals, regardless of party, say that, they’re being a little disingenuous. Fred Foreman: Well, they’re making a campaign promise that they probably aren’t going to keep. Details haven’t traditionally been around. Dan Proft: It’s real practice, they teach that not to be their role. Fred Foreman: Exactly. Dan Proft: Law enforcement is a stepping stone springboard to higher office, to governorship; Governor Jim Thompson leverages his status as usage attorney to the governorship for Fort Term; Mayor Daley, obviously, he had a little bit of other things going on that assisted him; Mayor Giuliani in New York, sure; Fred Foreman back in the day, when he was US Attorney, he was widely rumored to be ‘Okay, this guy needs to take on Paul Simon and the sitting US Senator; this guy needs to be lieutenant governor for Jim Edgar; this guy needs to be governor himself someday’; So you chose the path somewhat less traveled, and stayed in the legal community then going on to be a judge, as we talked about before. What about political ambitions and the kind of thinking back to those years in the early 90’ when you were one of a handful of people that was routinely talked about for every vacancy for statewide office that occurred; any regrets, considerations? What was the calculus at the time? Fred Foreman: Well, I was flattered to be considered, I say that from a high profile position, as US Attorney, but George Bush lost the election in 1992 and at that time, there wasn’t any available job openings and I had a young family that needed to be prepared for college and college tuition, and every time an opportunity came up someone was a little bit ahead of me in line. Dan Proft: It wasn’t a lack of desire, then? Fred Foreman: Not at all; it was just a question of Jim Edgar, who was elected governor, and he looked to be there for quite a while; Jim Thompson had just left the governorship; they were talking about him for president of the United States; he was very much considered for that position; and eventually, when Jim Edgar retired early, George Ryan was there; he’d been secretary of state; he was very popular, and Jim Ryan was t’ed up, and I was a supporter of Jim Ryan; so I had alliances, I mean, I remained very active in politics, but I continued to focus on profession; The legal profession – I practiced law, I had a good run for 11 years at the Freeborn and Peters law firm, and then I went on the bench, because I always wanted to finish my career as a judge. I’ve now finished my career as a judge, but I’m back again practicing law, so opportunities were there, but I had to wait the opportunity of running for higher office, and that investment with my family, and my kids were that age where they would all get ready for college, and there were a lot of funds over still in government, and I knew what my goals were, and that’s why I still remain active and try to make sure we get good judges in that third branch of government. Dan Proft: Do you think it was a different time 25 years ago too in terms of the political culture where – because republicans were ascendant in that time period, as you described it earlier – that it was more of a wait your turn; there are slots and everybody comes together and figures it out; we’re going to put the square pack in the square hole, and the round pack in the round hole over here, where today it’s a little bit more wide open. Fred Foreman: I agree. That’s a very good assessment of the way it is today, because nobody wants to wait in line anymore. Nobody wants to wait for their time. Dan Proft: Is that a good or a bad thing? Fred Foreman: Well, I’m not so sure, because you look at another former US Attorney that hit quite well is Chris Christie. Maybe his time was not now, because as a former US Attorney myself, I probably would have been in his court. He probably waited a little bit too long, and then I think just the impression that people had – he was a tough talker, but he was a bit of a bully, and I think he lost a lot on that, but there’s another timing… the governors that are running this year; these are traditionally Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton; you look at the people who have been elected to the highest office in the country over the past 50 years, they’ve either been an United States Senator – LBJ, JFK, president Obama – or they’ve been a governor, some of which never distinguished themselves as much as they thought they could of. The ones that lost – senator McCain, Bob Dole - they’re in that period of time; they were senators; but who did they lose to? They lost to governors. Dan Proft: It seems like it’s a bit of a different age too; particularly in the 20 far news cycle, and this really predates your time at US Attorney’s office - as US Attorney, I should say – by a little bit, where Scott Walker is a good example, it seems, this cycle; maybe some other candidates, even Jeff Bush. You can be very good at retail politics, even at a statewide level; even in a big state, like Florida or Illinois, like Jim Thompson was, but if you’re not good on TV, if you can’t exist in the 24 hour cable news channel world, then you’re going to have a very difficult time, no matter how good your record is. Fred Foreman: I’m a Wisconsin tax payer. I was a big fan of Scott Walker; my daughter’s in education in Wisconsin; she’s got her masters and she works in schools, and she likes Scott Walkers; she was a beneficiary of some of the reforms that took place that seemed to work very well, and are continuing to work well, so I was very much in favor of Scott Walker, but it hit the now in the head; he just didn’t have that ability. Look what happens to Senator Rubio, with one 20 minute duration of a debate with the former prosecutor putting the pressure on, and he lost his momentum just on that; maybe he’s regained it, maybe he’s not, but I think that’s tough hardball politics. With that kind of a news cycle, and the media focusing on making it competitive, that’s what happens. Dan Proft: Do you think that – it’s my contention that the law follows culture, right? The law is reflective of culture, because frankly politicians are usually at the end of the parade route, not the beginning of it. They make decisions after they figure out which way the public’s going. They’re not usually leading the parade. And so, do you think that there’s not enough conversation, though in the Republican party, devoted to our culture, because the culture drives the law, and there should be rather than just saying ‘Follow the law, abide the law’, that’s always the solution to the exclusion of a deeper conversation about political culture. Fred Foreman: I think it’s got to be culture in politics too. One simple value that we should have with the law and with politics is the rule of law; I’m a judge; I have to follow the law. I have to apply the law to the facts and if I don’t I have an Appellate Court that’s going to come down on me and say ‘You didn’t handle those properly’, or a supreme court. So I think that if you have an issue in our society, if you follow the law, many times that will clear up your issue. But when you start to defer judgment, or you decide that you’re going to postpone dealing with that issue, pretty soon you haven’t dealt with an issue and it has become such a big issue, because you’ve delayed it, you haven’t confronted it, that it becomes a stumbling block, which can – I think – stop your political progression. Dan Proft: How much of an accountability mechanism - or a chastening mechanism perhaps – are at higher courts. In other words, as a circuit court judge, or a chief judge, if you get overturned at the Appellate Court level – it’s not like you lose your job; you still get your paycheck, what’s the perspective of judges in terms of thinking about a higher court’s overturning their holding? Fred Foreman: If you really are proud of the job you’re doing as a judge, you don’t want to be reversed; you are graded publicly, and even what they used to call rule 23s, which were unpublished opinions, they’re getting published. The Second District Appellate Court that I’ve dealt with and the Supreme Court, if you’ve done something wrong, they’re going to point it out; you’re going to be held accountable. In the States, where you have to run for reelection as a judge, the first thing they look at, Wisconsin being an example, is your opinions, and the Appellate opinions, and your performance as a judge; and I know when I was chief judge, if I had a judge that was reversed by the Appellate Court, and it was because that judge wasn’t prepared, or that judge was cavalier about his responsibilities, he was in my office, and I always told them ‘This reflects poorly on the whole circuit, and frankly, it’s right down the line. Supreme Court will tell the same thing to the chief judges; you have a responsibility to make sure that your judges are held accountable for either misconduct or the fact that they’re election on duty’. Dan Proft: Just your role; US Attorney role is interesting, and that’s much more of a public role, but as a chief judge of a circuit, most people experience court when they have to go pay a speeding ticket, right? Most people are not experienced court because they’ve committed some kind of serious crime, or because even they’re serving on a jury, necessarily; and so I just wonder what the experience is, what people should understand about how the circuit courts work; the job that is done at that level, versus what they see from salacious dramatizations on the cyber screen on television. Fred Foreman: I’ve prosecuted people in court all the way from speeding tickets to capital murder. I’ve been a judge in those type of cases, and I’ve selected people for jurors to serve, in cases that many people would not see important, but the jurors come in, and I go talk to the jurors after their service back in my chambers, and I talked to them what they thought about the system in that case; in that then, a theft case or burglar case, not a murder case, and they are so excited about the fact that they’ve participated in the process. The same regard, if somebody goes to court on a traffic case, that’s the first time you’ve been to court, I don’t care who you are, you’re nervous, you’re upset, that’s the most important thing; people that go onto court and they’re having their houses foreclosed, that is an experience that’s almost like surgery, I mean, nowadays, with our economy and the impact I was telling you earlier, picking the jury during the Recession in 2006-2007, I had jurors that were in tears because they had so many problems at home, they wanted to be a juror, but they couldn’t. They couldn’t serve because they had a sick child, they were unemployed, but then others would say ‘I don’t care, I have to serve; have to do my duty’. Dan Proft: I agree, it took me about 40 times in court for speeding tickets before I got comfortable. Now I’m comfortable after the amount of speeding tickets I’ve got. To that point, this is another caricature, right? You’re too dumb to get out of jury duty; and it turns out that maybe that’s a little bit unfair, that people who are selected for jury, numbers one, they want to do it, and not just for the per diem, but because they believe in the system, they want to understand the system, they want to learn the system, they take the job seriously, so you’re experience on the bench, with all of your legal experience was an edifying one for you, in terms of belief in the system? Fred Foreman: Absolutely, jurors would come in and they would say ‘I have to serve my sons in Afghanistan or Iraq, and he’s serving there, I’m serving here’. I was on jury duty, and a former Waukegan detective was on jury, so he came over to me and said ‘What are you doing here?’ My picture’s up on the wall and I’m on jury duty, and I said ‘I’m on jury duty’. He says, ‘What kind of a judge are you? You can’t even get out of jury duty?’ I think that that’s a strict rule, you get selected for jury duty, you go to jury duty. Dan Proft: It’s funny when governor Rauner was just candidate Rauner in 2014; his number got called for jury duty, he went duty; there is a story about it, right? He went to jury duty, he didn’t get selected, but he showed up to jury duty and went through the process just like everybody else, and that’s one of the great leveling aspects of our justice system, is that it doesn’t matter if you’re a governor, or a former US Attorney, or a Waukegan detective, or anybody, that you all go through the same process and there’s something that is unifying about that process, and maybe that’s what generates, number 1, people taking that very seriously, number 2, as imperfect as that is, the best justice system in the world. Fred Foreman: You can mention this to your co-host, Amy, in the morning, but we once had Mike Caplan, who was a weatherman at Channel 7, ABC, well known from Lake County, he was out one of my juries, a criminal case, and he came in and sat there every day, and did his time; he talked about it several times afterwards, about what a great experience it was, but then he came back with Jackie Bange, and they cut an orientation video on jury duty, because they both been on jury duty, and Jackie’s married to a Lake County judge, so they came back and they were just delighted to do that; and we show it now to the jurors during orientation, and so it doesn’t really matter who you are; you’re here to serve, and you’re just not going to get out of jury duty. Dan Proft: I have to get your take because of this legal career that we’ve described on the position and somebody that has gone through a certain confirmation hearing, you mentioned at the outset – with respect to being confirmed to be US Attorney – on the center republican position, on President Obama promulgating a nominee to replace Justice Scalia, and their position that no hearings will be held, regardless of the nominee that you level up to us, this is something that should wait for the next president. Ultimately, isn’t this a political process, and so all of the hue and cry from Democrats, because they don’t have the senate is just political hue and cry? If they were in a position where they did control the Senate, they would do something very differently than they’re saying now if they had a Republican President; the arguments would be reversed, essentially, as they have been historically with Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer; and then New York Times and everyone else going even back to the board curings; What’s your opinion on that, because our junior senator, the Republican Mark Kirk is one of the few that has broken from the ranks, and suggested that President Obama should perform the nominee – which of course he will – and that the Senate should take up that nominee. Fred Foreman: I was a little surprised that the senate acted so quickly; the Saturday that Justice Scalia died they said they wouldn’t entertain a nomination; if you look at the Constitution, the President can send a nomination over, and then the Senate can decide whether or not, under the broad interpretation of advised consent, how they’re going to handle that nomination. Fred Foreman: I think what senator Kirk tried to say is ‘Well, let’s see who you’re going to send over; I’ll keep an open mind so I see who your nominee is’, and then, of course, they’ve decided there will not be any hearings. I don’t know if that means any more hearings for pending nominations, because when I was nominated, there were a couple senators who did not want a particular person confirmed as a federal judge, so essentially, politically, John Sununu was the chief of staff; there was a brick on a pile stacked on his desk of nominations. The nominations under that brick, who was somebody else’s file, were not going to move until that was dealt with. It took my nomination almost 9 months to get confirmed. Dan Proft: And did they explore your video rentals, the way they explored judge Sparks with video rentals? Fred Foreman: Full pledge FBI background investigation. Dan Proft: Yeah, a full colonoscopy. Fred Foreman: And as I mentioned, as president of the National District Attorney Association, I gave testimony both at the board confirmation hearings and with the Kennedy confirmation hearings, as the president of National District Attorneys, but once the nomination comes over, advice and consent gives the senators a lot of opportunities to do pretty much what they want to do as long as they stay within the confines of the Constitution. Dan Proft: This isn’t the watershed moment when bork became a verb, after judge Bork got borked, which is not part of our political parlance. Isn’t that a change where ‘Hey, if we have the power, then we’re going to exorcize it’; democrats and republicans. Fred Foreman: Yeah, I think that it was a much more cordial gentleman-like participatory process, and I think that that had a lot to do with changing the rules of the game, and it’s unfortunate; the Senate used to be much more collegial, and I think that’s a lot of the frustration now in some of the presidential races, as people want Washington to work. They’re sending a lot of money out there, they want to see it work. Dan Proft: So thinking about that, and thinking about the presidential race, how do you – as a long time political observer – locally, statewide, nationally, how do you explain the rise of Donald Trump as we sit here today; he’s about this close from earning the table and being the Republican nominee. Fred Foreman: People are frustrated, they’re frustrated with big government, they want more accountability, and Trump is saying a lot of things that people want to hear. I haven’t heard too many plans as how he’s going to carry out these particular plans, but that seems to be what people are looking at; now they’re frustrated and now they’re angry. Dan Proft: And at the state level, you’re Mr. Lake County; that’s your moniker, one of your many monikers – Mr. Lake County; and it turns out. Fred Foreman: I prefer Grandpa. Dan Proft: Oh, yeah, Grandpa, the preeminent Moniker; it turns out that if you look at the numbers - just as we’re looking at the numbers, the delegate math, and so forth, the presidential – if you look at the numbers in Illinois, at the state level, the Republican party cannot be, and will not be, the majority party in the state if they’re not the party in the suburbs. Collar County is like Lake County, which is frankly a 50/50 county these days. And so, what do you think it is that Republicans need to do in Illinois that they haven’t been doing to win races in the Collar Counties, like up many races – legislative races in Lake County – that they haven’t won, that are winnable; what do you think it is that Republicans need to do to be that majority party in the Collar Counties, and again, in the suburbs, as the predicate to being the majority party in the state. Fred Foreman: They have to have solutions. They have to have solutions to healthcare; they can’t just say they’re going to repeal Obama Care; they have to have an alternative, they have to have a plan; I think they have to have a plan for economic development; they have to have a plan to balance the budget; they have to have a plan for education; the largest expense in the tax bill is education; public education, so there has to be confidence in the educational system. Dan Proft: Do you think prosecutors make good executives, make good politicians at a statewide level, either senate or a governor, or is it a mixed bag? Fred Foreman: Most prosecutors, if they’re successful, it means that they have good people that they can manage to make them successful. You have to be a good manager, but you have to hold people accountable, and you have to be willing to make a decision; you can’t postpone a decision. In any government, to manage people, I’ve taken the position that no matter what the organization is, 10% of the people are either incompetent or incapable of doing the job. If you have to replace them, you have to be accountable and replace them; that’s your job as an elected official, or as a department head that may very well be replaced by the same type of people, but that’s a fact of management and skill; being a public manager, the opportunity to have wonderful people working for me; when I’ve been State’s Attorney, United State’s Attorney and Chief Judge; these people, you ask them to do something, they do it. If they don’t do it, then you have to hold them accountable. Dan Proft: So sometimes, Bernie Sanders is a 74 year old socialist running for president, and doing quite well. Maybe you got a statewide run in you left at some point; the statewide run that didn’t happen in the early 90’ when it could have happened? Fred Foreman: I am delighted – like Bernie – to be a grandfather. Dan Proft: Yeah; a non-socialist. Fred Foreman: No, he’s very entertaining, but that’s what we have now here in the country. We have several senior citizens all mind, all older than me, that are great, but at this point, I’m blessed to have a wonderful family, and I’ve been married 45 years; I’m lucky; I’m one of the survivors. Dan Proft: Alright, he is Grandpa Fred Foreman, former US Attorney, former Lake County Chief Judge, now senior council at Freeborn & Peters; Fred Foreman, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it! Fred Foreman: Thank you! You bet. Dan Proft: Great, thank you.

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The Art of Politics with Chicago Tribune cartoonist Scott Stantis on ATC

The political cartoon is an integral part of Americana. More people gain their understanding of the news of the day from a cartoonist who can boil an issue down into a single picture with but a word or two of description than they do from the deep thinkers writing 800 word op-eds. Scott Stantis is part of a small brotherhood of political cartoonists who possess the talent to draw combined with the talent to synthesize the salient issues of the day.

Who is the politician he most likes to draw? Who has the thinnest skin? How does he come up with his ideas? Is political cartooning immune from the contagion of political correctness?

Stantis answers these and many other questions and we pepper in some of his favorite cartoons on this edition of Against The Current.

View full transcript


Dan Proft: Dan Proft coming to you with another edition of Against The Current, from the Skyline Club on top of Old Republic Building, in downtown Chicago; my guest on this edition is the Chicago Tribune’s renowned political cartoonist, he is Scott Stantis. Scott, thanks for joining us! Scott Stantis: Thanks for having me! Dan Proft: Appreciate it! Scott Stantis: Renowned? Dan Proft: Wow, renowned. Renown, not renowned, that is past tense. You’re current - you’re still – you’re a current political cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune. Scott Stantis: Yeah, what have you heard? Dan Proft: Exactly. So you came to us straight out of Birmingham, you’ve been in Chicago for six years, after spending more than a decade in Birmingham; couldn’t cut it in Birmingham, that’s why you came to Chicago? Scott Stantis: Couldn’t make it, it’s just too big city. Dan Proft: So what brought you to Chicago and give us your perspective as someone who’s only been here half a dozen years. Not exactly half a dozen of our salad years; what your perspective is on Chicago coming from Birmingham? Scott Stantis: It’s been amazing, people ask where I come from, and then I say – as you said it – I came to work over a dozen years in Birmingham, Alabama, and they look at me like ‘Oh’. I say ‘You don’t understand. Alabama actually kicks Illinois’ ass in so many different areas: job creation, transparency’. You can walk into a state legislator’s office in Montgomery and say I want your records from the cell phone that the state issues you, and the secretary will literally go and hand you the records. This state, in some places, you still have to get a [foyle? 00:02:07] to get a police report, which is public record; I mean, that thing was shocking when I came here. Dan Proft: Not to mention the mayor’s cell phone records, messages, yes. Scott Stantis: Which we’re still not allowed to see; nor the videos from his property, nor anywhere a crime occurs, or anything. Dan Proft: So what did get you to Chicago? Should you clean up this town as you did Birmingham, or? Scott Stantis: Yes, everything’s just perfect there. Chicago’s the big leagues, it really is. Still, Chicago has been – historically – the job that cartoonists have wanted. It started with John C. McCutcheon at the turn of the 20th century, won the first Pulitzer for the Chicago Tribune; three more Pulitzer Prize winners came through here, not to mention Jeff MacNelly, who was the one I replaced nine years after his death; Dick Locker, and many, many others. Dan Proft: And where’s your Pulitzer? Scott Stantis: It’s coming. Dan Proft: I know Mary Schmich has that coveted title over… Scott Stantis: She does. Dan Proft: Look, I can’t read enough columns about cats, just like the next guy. In terms of political cartoons, first of all, I guess, just a little bit of background; it’s a rarefied space, it’s like being a governor, there’s only like 50 of you in the country, right? Scott Stantis: Oh, there’s fewer than that, there’s fewer than 40 now. Editors have… Dan Proft: Is this a function of newspapers going away or something else? Scott Stantis: I think it’s both. Editors have always had a hard time with cartoonists, for a myriad of reasons: temperamental, hard to deal with, expensive, and that’s part of it; and the other part is they still view the written word as sacrosanct; that is far more important than any silly cartoon you could possibly draw. They look at what they do and do not want, and the thing that causes them the most trouble. I was at a conference of feature editors in New Orleans a few years back, and I was with the guy that does ‘Pearls Before Swine’, Stephan Pastis, and also Berk Breathed, who does ‘Bloom County’, and we said to them, ‘Isn’t it great when you get a reaction? When people blow up, and either one cartoon, or either a political pliant or some other things that gets them to all the newspaper’, these editors looked as if we have just insulted their entire family. The point being was that our take was that it’s great when people get involved and have a sense of ownership in your product, that you produce. Their take was the readers are a pain in the ass, and I just want to produce what I produce and go home. Dan Proft: Rich! ‘These damn customers!’ It’s an interesting perspective, because if the readers are a pain in the ass, so you treat them that way, then sometimes they go away and isn’t that sort of what’s happening to a lot of major daily newspapers around the country? I mean, I don’t think newspapers are ever going to go away, but they’re not going to be – some of them may, some of them have – but they’re not going to be presented in the same format they’ve been presented for the last 50 years, at least the ones that survived and thrived. Scott Stantis: If you had to guess what’s working now for newspapers, the breaking news on the internet; we’ve had this discussion a lot about what comes next in media, and cell phones, your smartphone, that’s really where it begins and ends with anyone under 35. So where does the newspaper fit into that? When they visit our page, the Chicago Tribune page, through their mobile devices, they’re on it for like 3 minutes, maybe; they want the headlines, they want a paragraph or so, they don’t want in-depth stuff. You counter that with probably a premium product on the week-ends, on Sunday, and that may be what we’re going to see down the line, but to say that newspapers won’t go away, I’m not entirely convinced to that. Dan Proft: On the cartoons, what’s the reader’s response, what are the number of eyeballs on your cartoons every time you publish one as compared to say, Eric Zorn’s mustery column? Scott Stantis: I don’t know what… they don’t share those numbers with us. I’m not kidding. Dan Proft: What kind of feedback do you get? Scott Stantis: I get great feedback, and in fact I’ve had a number of cartoons that have been shared tens of millions of times, literally. The cartoon, to be fair, the more sappy ones, oh Gosh, what’s his name? The great movie reviewer for… Dan Proft: Roger Ebert. Scott Stantis: Thank you, when he passed away, and that cartoon was shared. Dan Proft: Pro life leader Roger Ebert. He’s very much pro life. Scott Stantis: Is that true? It’s a good thing to be. Dan Proft: Because catholic faith reformed his position. That’s what I like, I like to skewer the liberals in town, reminding them that Roger Ebert was a big pro lifer. It gets hard for them to reconcile. Scott Stantis: What do they say when you say that? Dan Proft: Nothing. Scott Stantis: They just look at you and then… Dan Proft: They then go away, which is kind of – I’m used to that reaction. That’s mostly what I get, because frankly most of the people in your profession, particularly in this town, you may have noticed, they’re not so zealous about facts. Scott Stantis: No? You don’t think so? Dan Proft: Yeah, they’re kind of tied to their orthodoxy and that’s all they care about, which is an interesting segue to some of what you do, because some of your cartoons lampooned - haven’t – some of the sacred cows - and I mean that as a double entendre - in the city of Chicago, in the state of Illinois; the political Pangaea drums that they like to get along with. Lisa Madigan, the way you caricatured Lisa Madigan over the years, for example, as daddy’s little girl, with a balloon and a lollypop, that’s received some pushback, hasn’t it? Scott Stantis: It’s received, yeah. In fact, a feminist group I’ve never heard of, from Washington DC, started to take me on and write letters, and start some form of a campaign; clearly was paid for by somebody; her daddy. But somebody paid for it. Dan Proft: Way to double down. Scott Stantis: Yeah, you know? Dan Proft: So didn’t like your minimizing all of Lisa Madigan’s legal accomplishments. Scott Stantis: Dan, think about this for just a moment. Since Lisa Madigan’s become the attorney general of the great state of Illinois there’s been no corruption prosecuted in this state, at the state level. You have to hand that to her. So come on, just clean it all out! Dan Proft: Yeah, she’s outsourced it to FEDs, I guess. Scott Stantis: In fact, if you remember one of the cartoons I brought here with me was one of the first cartoons I ever drew of her as that little girl with the heart dot in her eye and her name, and she literally said – do you remember this? – ‘That’s above my pay grade’… to investigate corruption in the state, when another Madigan thing boiled up. Dan Proft: Yes, see, that’s what’s fun about political cartoonists; maybe different than some of the op-ed writers in town, with the exception of your colleague John Kass – he’s one exception: the institutional memory. So to go back, for example, and recall Lisa Madigan when she first ran for attorney general after she had had her law degree for five minutes, and that she had said she was running because where were the republicans when it came to prosecuting corruption under governor George Ryan? That was not going to happen; if the prosecuting public corruption in the state of Illinois was going to be her raise on debt as attorney general, and as you suggest, people were so afraid of her prosecutorial proactiveness that they have not committed any illegal acts in the intervening 14 years. Scott Stantis: You don’t want the wrath of Lisa to come down you, unless of course you’re a crib maker, which she has protected us from. Dan Proft: Yeah, the crib makers. Scott Stantis: Yes, so the crooked crib makers. Yeah, that works. Dan Proft: Right. To don’t remove the tag from the mattress in that crib or she’s going to come after you. Scott Stantis: It says explicitly. Dan Proft: So with Lisa now, you’re not just dealing with the wrath of Lisa, you’re dealing with the wrath of the most powerful politician in the state with whom you’ve become intimately familiar over your six year, House Speaker Mike Madigan, has he responded? Because he’s very protective of – as you draw her – daddy’s little girl. Scott Stantis: I think there was a connection, because this feminist group came out of nowhere, and it’s since disappeared. At least it’s acts on me. Clearly that was one response from that machine to my tax on him. Just to show you that cartoons do have a profound effect on politics, my first cartoon on Mike Madigan was within the first couple of weeks when I worked here; and I had drawn him, and he had actually slid his hair back – you may not remember this – and after that cartoon. Dan Proft: He was doing an ensemble performance of Greece, I think, in Springfield. Scott Stantis: Was that it? Dan Proft: Yeah, I think he played Frenchie, if I’m not mistaken. Scott Stantis: Well, that may have explained it. I’m sorry, missed that. I am. Dan Proft: So he slid his hair back… Scott Stantis: He slid his hair back, I drew him with this – because his hair line is further back than mine, it’s preposterous, he continues to part it. Dan Proft: Well, he is 120. Scott Stantis: Maybe… we don’t know how old he is, so we have to wait for the Carbon dating. Dan Proft: Right. Scott Stantis: But he will never die, so… I noticed that a week later his hair was puffier, fluffier, and a different color. Dan Proft: Maybe he hadn’t seen the stylist. Scott Stantis: He saw the cartoon, I think. Again, coming back, cartoons have a definite tangible impact on policy in this great state. Dan Proft: I mean, political cartoons are part of the Americana since the founding. Scott Stantis: Sure, yes. Benjamin Franklin, ‘Join Or Die’, the snake that’s cut into the various segments; Ben Franklin drew that. Dan Proft: And it’s a way to kind of capture the essence of an idea, of a personality, of a policy, of a policy debate, right, in a way that unless you’re H.L. Mencken quality six or seven hundred words doesn't. Scott Stantis: Right, and for me the great joy, especially coming to a place like Illinois – there’re so many players, it’s just impossible to keep them all straight – but if you can draw Madigan the way I draw him now, which is pretty much as the crypt keeper… if you look at him and put his picture next to my cartoon, that doesn’t really look like him anymore, but every person who reads the Chicago Tribune knows exactly who that is, to the point that I don’t have to label him anymore. Dan Proft: And I also like that you stay current too. You got Mike Madigan on the iron throne from Game of Thrones too. Scott Stantis: Game of Throne! Dan Proft: Game of Thrones singular. Scott Stantis: Notice, look at the detail of that cartoon! He’s sitting on a phonebook. I imagine that probably has to take him off a little bit. Dan Proft: Because he’s a Shetland person, he’s one of the Chicago democrats – there’s something in the water here; I make this point over and over and I can’t figure out – maybe you know, because you’re very precise when it comes to sizing up these characters that you draw. Why do we have these little licentious leprechauns like Madigan and Cullerton, and Rahm (he’s an honorary Irishman), Richie Daley – they’re all could fit in your breast-pocket. Scott Stantis: It’s bizarre. What’s important about cartooning too is obviously I have the option of showing them as being roughly this tall, which is exactly what I do… Dan Proft: Drawn the scale! Scott Stantis: Pretty much! Rahm now is about 3.5 feet tall in the cartoons, but his eyes make him about 4.5 feet tall. All I have to do now is just draw those massive bug eyes he’s got, and everyone gets it. Dan Proft: So Rahm, Madigan, the governor, the previous governor, which politician is the most thinned skin, in other words, the caricature that you have offered of a particular politician – where have you gotten direct feedback or surrogate feedback that says – you know – Mr. Madigan or Mrs. Whoever doesn’t appreciate that? Scott Stantis: I did a draw Rahm when he first swore in – it was a step by step, exactly what it sounds like, how to caricature around Emanuel; the only thing I ever heard from him – or from anyone in his office was – he walked in the next day, shows us this stuff and he’s ‘Is that okay?’, and he said ‘Yeah, it kind of looks like you’, he said ‘Okay’. That’s all I ever heard. He does have one of my cartoons in his office; it was when the courts ruled that he was a resident – apparently if you keep your bride’s, your bridals. Dan Proft: Yeah, the blue dress, of sorts. Scott Stantis: Or was it gold and white? And he’s going ‘Exploitive Yeah’, that’s the one he liked, that’s the one he likes. Dan Proft: The only thing with Rahm, I love the caricature, the only thing is I want – have you ever seen him in his ballerina outfit from back in the day? With the big fro where he looks like Tim Curry from ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’? Scott Stantis: Yes. Dan Proft: Well, why didn’t you go in that direction? Scott Stantis: I have. If you look at the drawings, here’s a little insight to you and your viewers: every time I draw him full body he’s always in some kind of a dancer’s posture. Look at his feet, it’s poulet, or pallet, some French thing, and his hand is always like – there’s always a pinky up – he’s always very dancerly whenever I draw him. Dan Proft: The prancing around in a bar class, something like that. Scott Stantis: Yes, and I have one of him in a tutu. Dan Proft: Tiny dancer, I like it. So you’ve got feedback from him, what about… Scott Stantis: That’s it… nothing from Madigan, nothing from Cullerton. Governor Rauner when he was running stop by when I was with your radio show actually, and he stopped by and said he liked the cartoons, even when he was the victim, which at that point he never had been, but that was nice of him; recently this kind of freaked me out, and scares me a little bit, I don’t mind telling you – Cook County commissioner president Toni Preckwinkle… Dan Proft: Toni Preckwinkle, right, she is not one of the Shetland people. Scott Stantis: She is not. Dan Proft: She is quite striking. Scott Stantis: And it’s interesting, she’s actually been very cold every time I’ve – a few times I’ve – met her, but she called the other day, and I drawn her as a Don Corleone, and she said ‘Tell Alvarez it’s politics, it’s not personal’. She loved that one. Apparently, that’s what she likes to project, and she was effusive and friendly and very nice on the phone. Dan Proft: So she likes to be portrayed as a mobster, but in the sensible shoes. Scott Stantis: Yes, but there were no shoes. Scott Stantis: And Fox, of all people, jumped in apparently in one meeting and said, ‘You know that cat is me!’ Corleone in the scene is petting the cat. Dan Proft: Kim Foxx. Scott Stantis: Kim Foxx, yes. Dan Proft: Who’s running for state’s attorney and her former chief of staff. Scott Stantis: Against Sal Rust. ‘You know, that’s me in there too’. I’m like ‘No, it’s really not’ Dan Proft: Everybody wants to be in the Stantis cartoon, even if they’re being lampooned, they’re a parry daedal. Scott Stantis: I’ve never heard of – you keep slamming away at these guys, and you hope you hear something, but no, not yet. Dan Proft: On the other side of the spectrum, you mentioned the schmaltzy cartoons – I’m being pejorative, but I don’t mean it that way – the more pointy inter-sentimental cartoons. The cartoon I remember, because we spoke about this, that you got the most reactions to – or perhaps the most reactions, but you got a lot of reactions, national and maybe international reaction – was a cartoon and a story about your childhood. Tell us about that. Scott Stantis: Yes, well, it was when the NFL and all the players were coming, all the stories were breaking that… one player knocks his wife out in an elevator, another one beat his child with a switch until... Dan Proft: Right, right, Adrian Peterson. Scott Stantis: Four year old child. All of this other bubbling excuses that – this is cultural, this is how we do it, this is our culture, I go ‘No, and if that’s your culture, then it has to be destroyed, because it’s wrong’. I’m game mad now. It got me mad, so because I came from an abusive background – my father was a abusive alcoholic, he got found by Sobrieties, and we became great friends years later – that is a story I’d never told anybody; in fact, a lot of friends, in fact, there are some details in there that my wife didn’t even know; but I thought it was important, and if I had to tell the story, it had to be the story. You couldn’t tap dance around it, you couldn’t make it fiction to make it have the impact it had. Actually, we ran on Medium.com recently and had like 5 million shares, so yeah; what’s been interesting about it too is I did a presentation at LID Fest about it, and that was hard; that’ll be the last time I’ll talk details in public about this thing, because it was too hard, but afterwards, for the Q&A, there were no Q’s; they were all men – mostly men, standing up, and the most moving part of the whole thing was, this guy stood up, a south side Irishman, quintessential, stereotypical, he must have been six something and massive, and by the time he was done, that room was in tears, as was he, talking about the stories of overcoming this stuff, and so, for me, there’s a couple of things about coming from an abusive upbringing, and one is that you’re told never to talk about the family outside the family. That’s a rule, right, for obvious reasons. Dan Proft: Right. Scott Stantis: Hindsight, but at the time it just gets engrained in you; and the second thing is you think you’re alone. You think this only happened to you, or it’s very rare, and it turned out that it’s not. I had literally tenths of thousands of e-mails from that thing. And that’s good. Dan Proft: I understand that what was going on in the NFL was the backdrop for this, but as a general, do you feel like it’s better to keep your professional distance from your readers and your subjects, or when appropriate kind of open yourself up and share personal story that connects you more deeply to this – because you know, about the people in the public eye, and op-ed writers, and politicians, they go both directions. Some people get more closed off, and some people feel like sharing experience that other people have endured as well is a way to better connect and build a relationship. Scott Stantis: I think I have a relationship with the readers, and for me it’s a postcard, it’s a little note to the readers every day. The internet has allowed for more engagement, which is phenomenal. 9 times out of 10 people call, even if a write now or a comment, and even if it’s really nasty if you respond – oftentimes a person will respond back saying ‘Hey, listen, I’m sorry, that was a little bit over the top’. Dan Proft: Only if you respond even more nastily than they responded. That’s the approach that I take. Scott Stantis: You’re trying to be a nice guy. So, for me, I’m out there, these are my opinions. I’m lucky enough that the Chicago Tribune views my cartoon as an individual opinion, and so there are times when they don’t like the cartoon and it gets pulled, which is always frustrating, but for the most part, they view it as my comments to the world, and so I take it very personally, I mean you can tell, I’m not a closed off person. I don’t think. Dan Proft: Please, keep your professional distance here, I am a closed off person. I don’t want us making out by the end of this, so just relax. So that’s an interesting point, right? Your cartoons are treated the same way as an op-ed writer’s appends, which is to say, if I don’t like this piece, if it’s rambling, if it doesn’t make sense, if it’s incendiary in some way, then we burn an obligation to run it, that’s I guess the same with the cartoons, so is that just an individual case by case judgment call, or there’s some kind of rules of the game that are set so you know more or less where the boundaries are? Scott Stantis: More or less, I mean, the field moves somewhat, but yeah, it’s basically I know what can and cannot be talked about. It’s odd too, and I don’t know how to combat this. I don’t know sure if it should be. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but the view of the newspaper is so correct and almost puritanical, and it’s a view of language, particularly. So I do a comic strip that’s called Prickly City, and I can still – to this day, this is the 21st century – can’t say ‘that sucks’ in the comic strip. And so, the notion that for some reason, you know, Dwight Eisenhower is still president, is still a head scratcher. Dan Proft: If only, if only Dwight was still… Scott Stantis: I don’t want to drop the f-bomb. Yeah, no kidding. Dan Proft: It’s interesting, on radio we have George Carlin’s nine words, and you have more words than those nine. Scott Stantis: Yeah, it’s strange, and it’s viewed – I did a caption contest as well, and this week’s is Rahm Emanuel at the end of a cigarette, and the ash is about to fall off; I’m about to fall in my ash stuff, a lot of jokes like that, which could not run as finalists for to vote on. It was kind of strange. Dan Proft: I’m about to fall on my ash. Scott Stantis: Yes. Or, I’ll make an ash of myself. Obviously, because people might actually think that the word ass was involved in that somehow, and people would be shocked. Dan Proft: You apparently weren’t listening to president Obama’s speech to the General Assembly, where he called for more civil discourse in our political dialogue, and you are coloring outside the lines, as a pretense to that. Scott Stantis: Yes, I’m trying to coarsen the culture, I’m sorry. Dan Proft: And so… right, yeah. Scott Stantis: Too late. Dan Proft: How does that play out to the extent that you can give us a peek into the editorial board, to the editorial decision making process? They say this goes too far and you say it doesn’t, and you have a pillow fight, how does that go? Scott Stantis: Yeah, well, I do it rough. It’s a very quick sketch of my idea, and then I send it to Bristol, who’s my editorial page editor under John McCormac, who is a deputy editorial page editor, and they come back with suggestions, or not; it’s better when it’s not. Sometimes they have comments and say ‘Change this, change that’, but sometimes I’ll say ‘Why?’ and they’ll have a reason that I think is either good or bad, and if it’s bad, then I’ll say ‘I think that’s a bad idea’, and then they’ll tell me do it our way. It’s pretty simple. Dan Proft: So it’s not quite The Agony and the Ecstasy, where Michelangelo is an ass to when is the Sixteen Chapel going to be done, and he says ‘When I’m finished’. It’s not quite that way. You don’t have that kind of platitude. Scott Stantis: No, although I do, there is a papple element where he does wrap you with a stick once in a while. Dan Proft: So let’s just go city and state level. Who is your favorite character to the extent that all these politicos are characters to draw? Who provides the most fodder for your fertile mind? Scott Stantis: Well, Rahm, clearly, because he’s the guy in charge, and he came in – the arch of that story is so interesting. He came in because he was the SOB; he was charmless. Dan Proft: The sheriff. Tough guy. Scott Stantis: Yeah, he was charmless, he was just a nasty piece of work, but he could get things done, and then after the first term he realized, he really can’t, and yet he got reelected – sadly. You and I had that discussion – I have to give you your props – you suggested that Chuy, regardless, would be a better choice, and you were right. So, on video in front of here. Dan Proft: Finally, I get my due. Now I want a cartoon that memorializes that for all eternity. Scott Stantis: Sure, ok. Dan Proft: Shared on Medium and all the other outlets so that I’m shared million two times like your work product. As it pertains to Rahm, though, one of the topics that I see you cartoon most on is violence in Chicago. How is that received – not just by the political ruling elites in the city – but also your leaders, the residents that actually live in some of these shooting galleries on the west side, or the south side, or people who live where we live, and are frankly – at least to this point – insulated from a lot of that. Scott Stantis: The most surprising response to a cartoon I’ve had since I’ve worked here was Tyshawn – last name, help me, the kid who was executed, the nine year old boy. Dan Proft: Oh, yeah. Scott Stantis: And it goes, Monday he was executed, and drawing this beautiful kid, and then the next scene is just an empty Chicago street, and said ‘Still waiting for the outrage’. The idea being that black lives matter, obviously massive protests all over the country on that, on that subject, which I thought was legitimate as well; but this is legitimate too. It had hurt nothing, and I got calls after calls after calls, and the Twitter verse – whatever the hell it’s called – got castigated for the cartoon because, ‘How dare someone like me’ – and I guess that means white and male – ‘would say that there’s no outrage. Of course there’s outrage!’ And I’m like, ‘Well, you have protests, and they’re led by preachers, led by mothers, but you don’t see the kids who are actually – the 18 and 25 year olds who are directly responsible for this. What? Dan Proft: I concede your point; do you have protests, or is the ark of those stories, ‘Oh, it’s terrible, we’re outraged for a day, we do a midnight vigil, we put the child victim’s image on a t-shirts, we call for an end to street violence, there’s a couple of walks around the neighborhood, and four days later we’re onto the next child victim. Scott Stantis: Yeah, and you know, you would hope for a bigger response than that from that community, and you don’t; and that was my point, and of course I got raked over the coals for that by my liberal friends as well. I just don’t understand. Dan Proft: What is it that you don’t understand from their perspective? Scott Stantis: That they are outraged. They just don’t voice it. Dan Proft: They outrage in silence and they continue to perpetuate the status quo that produces these outrages. I see. Perfect, makes perfect sense. Scott Stantis: Yes. Sure. Dan Proft: What about the police? Sticking on this topic of violence and caricaturing former police chief Garry McCarthy, these incidents that maybe it’s tough – it’s tough to draw ha-ha a cartoon about, like Lequon McDonald, or Quintonio Legrier and Betty Jones on Christmas Day; how do you treat subjects where a punch line not appropriate. Scott Stantis: One thing I come back to - my cartoons are postcards to the readers, and to me I’m not angry every day. Sometimes something just needs levity, but there are also times where there’s sadness – I have a drawing style that allows me that latitude, because it’s not very broad, it’s not very cartoony, and so when there is a serious issue at play here; all this violence just keeps piling up and piling up, we’re losing kid after kid; I mean, kids, children; and so it’s just a teddy bear with a t-shirt on that says ‘I Gunshot Chicago’ , and it’s very stark and it’s very telling, and it’s very dark, and for me, that was one way to express myself; I’m lucky I have that, but I really did develop an artistic drawing style that allows me to do that. Dan Proft: So are you trying to channel the emotion that you feel about the subject or the emotion that you think that the city feels, by a larger populace? Scott Stantis: No, both, I would suspect that we’re all flummoxed by the violence on the south side; we’re all incredibly frustrated by this dead, we’re incredibly aghast by the school system that puts what? Seven hundred and thirty million dollar bonds out there at eight and a half percent interest? I mean, yeah, there’s rage, there’s anger, there’s sadness, all of that. Dan Proft: Did you ever feel like you need to produce cartoon different than the tone that is - the majority tone, the majority response to something, so that there’s a little bit of leavenings – leavening not necessarily in terms of parody and comedy, but just leavening in terms of ‘How about looking at it from this perspective rather than just these conventional wisdom perspective?’ Scott Stantis: Right. I was speaking to a group, mostly – I was at the library of congress, and mostly are obviously very liberal – my take on the police shootings, was that the police were shooting themselves in many ways, and of course, the panel didn’t think that was the right way to go; you have to blame them, but there’s two victims here; law enforcement is incredibly difficult, but you bring up a great point: I also happen to be a conservative in Chicago, Illinois; that creates its own dynamic where yes, I’m going to approach issues differently than I think most commentators in this city would. Dan Proft: It’s interesting, because we’ve talked to other guests about this on the show all the time, the virulent strain of Stockholm syndrome that afflicts Chicago. In part, you’re describing – what we talked about – the lack of outrage; you don’t have the city up for grabs, not that I’m suggesting it should be, but you don’t have the kind of response in Chicago to Laquan McDonald that for example, you saw in Baltimore with Freddie Gray; you just don’t. Scott Stantis: Precisely. Dan Proft: You have some protests, and then they subside, you some recall move on Rahm, and then it subsides, and people get on with their business, and people want to talk about people disrupting shopping in Michigan Ave, and kind of ancillary issues. I wonder if you see those responses and you say ‘People aren’t getting it and the conventional wisdom is insufficient to describe what’s happening; I need to come at this from another angle, such that’, and you do so, and you actually have people that disagree with your worldview, philosophically, that come and say, even including in your news room or your editorial board ‘Oh well, I never thought about it that way; do you see any possibility?’, because this is one of the fatalistic aspects of Chicago, everybody believes certain things that’s never going to change that it’s liberal and all this. Do you see movement on different issues among people that don’t otherwise agree with you but agree with the take you had on an issue that they hadn’t considered before? Scott Stantis: I think we’re seeing – in the city and in the state - we’re seeing the problems finally reaching critical mass; we have a Daley who spent us into oblivion. I think they’re finally recognizing that, and the solutions that are being offered by the same old guys are the same old things. We’re going to borrow more; you have a mayor who’s borrowing more; another 2 billion dollars just to pay his bills? I think people finally are seeing that, and they’re seeing their taxes go up and up; we have the largest property tax increase in the city’s history, not to mention sales tax that are through the roof. At what point do people stop coming here? And the violence is another example. The young woman who was – they still don’t know how it happened – my wife and I took our son and his wife down to the Pilson the other day, and we saw the posters saying ‘Any information, $1000’ for this woman that was show in your car while she was talking to her dad on her cell phone. Dan Proft: Right, straight bullet, right? Scott Stantis: Right. That’s what we think, we don’t know. We’re seeing that kind of thing happening more and more. At what point do people stop coming to Chicago? At what point do people stop coming to Illinois? We’re hemorrhaging jobs, I don’t care what anyone else says. I asked an unnamed liberal radio personality here in Chicago, when I was on his show, ‘Would you start a business in Chicago?’, and there was a long pause, and to his credit, he said no. I said, ‘well?’ You have to imagine, eventually, either it catches up, or we become Benton Harbor. Dan Proft: How are you treated in Chicago, as compared to how you’re treated in Birmingham or other stops along the route? Scott Stantis: Well. I think people get what I do. There’re a lot of people, especially in the news room, who’ve never talked to me, who hate me, because they see the work, and ‘He’s just a knuckle dragging’, and so on. Talk to me, ask me, confront me, and then a couple who made that invitation, a couple of them have, and that’s great. I like to have that discussion, but for the most part it’s been terrific, it really has been, and let’s face it; once you get to city or state issues, less so here, but still that liberal conservative thing melts away a little bit, and there’s just right and wrong and what works and what doesn’t, and we’re doing the doesn’t a lot. Dan Proft: Yeah, but do you get the sense particularly from your editorial board that what doesn’t work, based on the evidence, is something they recognize as not working? Because it doesn’t work, and the Chicago Tribune endorses president Obama for reelections, it doesn’t work and the Chicago Tribune endorses Rahm for… Scott Stantis: Not just that. If you remember, we gave him a report card his first year. We gave him an A-. That wasn’t my idea. Dan Proft: A little room to grow. Scott Stantis: I proposed this, and it’s not just the Chicago Tribune. It’s every editorial page I worked on, virtually; particularly when you’re becoming ensconced to the community. In this next election cycle let’s just say, up front, we’re not going to endorse a single incumbent. Period!. And you make that face, that’s the face they make, but the fact is. Dan Proft: Well, because there are some people that are first and second termers that are actually fighting the fight, that are trying to change the paradigm, so why would you throw the baby out with the bath water. Scott Stantis: Because I’m not sure that it is. I think that, yes, we’re going to throw a handful of decent public servants, but you’re also going to have gobs of public servants who were god awful. I have this discussion off every two or four years. Dan Proft: Right, and we have some primaries again. I’m just thinking for the March 15th primary upcoming, you have some primaries where the primary challenger represents a continuation of the same, where the incumbent represents something at least somewhat different. It’s a culture problem, fundamentally, in my view, but it’s also a personnel problem, as to the extension of that, so why would you want to dump the people that are working as punishment. Scott Stantis: They’re probably not, because I would argue that the results argue differently. It’s an extreme view, and no one has taken it up – you know, 3-5 year career – and no one’s taken me up on it, so. Dan Proft: So let’s level up to the national level, because obviously, your purview is national, internationally even; you’ve drawn cartoons related to the war on terror, and combatting ISIS. Scott Stantis: I’m very popular in [Inaudible 00:36:38]. That’s where my clients… Dan Proft: Yes, and the presidential campaign as well. The cartoons, the national perspective that you try and provide for the Chicago Tribune, is it something that you’re just trying to provide an unique take on what’s happening on the national scene, or are you trying to translate it down to relevance, to your Chicago readers? Scott Stantis: Sure, I mean, why would I care that North Korea launches a missile? Well, because it can hit the West Coast of the United States, you might have relatives there. There has to be some kind of relevancy to your life that hopefully I can bring, but I’m also a different voice on that paper. I’m prolife, the paper is prochoice; things like that. And again, to their credit, let me run those cartoons. I am not a great fan of this administration. I did not think we should have endorsed it for reelection. I lost that discussion. Dan Proft: I actually think that’s been established by the record. The figure favored presidential candidate to draw in the current field. Scott Stantis: I’ve drawn Hillary for 20+ years, so she’s easy, that’s like I can do that in my sleep. Dan Proft: And how do you caricature her? Scott Stantis: Dower, she has very heavy eyes, and she’s very jowly, and she’s had some work done, but from here down it’s just McKane-ish – many, many things going on. Dan Proft: How do you draw mannerisms like her cackle? Scott Stantis: Here’re some inside baseball: I have been berated by – we have some older women on our editorial board who don’t like the way I draw, that she is… she has a very – this is maybe the strangest conversation you’ve had on this program – she laughs like this, and her eyes, she just looks demonic. So you draw that, it’s not hard. On the republican side, and plus, Barry. Barry - why do I keep saying Barry Sanders? - great running back; Barry Sanders, he looks like Albert Einstein’s love child; his hair is pleah, and that’s easy to draw; republican side, clearly it’s Trump; that hair. Dan Proft: It draws itself. Scott Stantis: To this day, I cannot understand the architecture of it. Dan Proft: It’s a physical impossibility. Scott Stantis: Yeah, just should not happen in nature, and yet there it is. It’s also a color. His victory speech in New Hampshire – can he get more orange? – because that was weird. Dan Proft: He could get more orange. He got more orange in the South Carolina debate, because that red back dropped. He actually did get more orange. That’s surprising, but true. Scott Stantis: Cruz looks like Joe McCarthy. There are similar facial features. Dan Proft: Or Tom Rickets. Scott Stantis: Yeah, actually. Rubio is now – have you noticed – he’s trying to do the strategic hair combing now? Dan Proft: Yeah, because he said it’s going away. Scott Stantis: Oh, it’s going away, so he’s doing the forward and over. See, we have editorial board meetings, and it’s very important people come in and when they leave they go like ‘What did you think of his view of monetary policy in China?’, and I go ‘Did you see his shoes?’ Dan Proft: That’s the detail that makes it fun, I guess the point is – this is my take – I never think we should treat politicians with reference. Even the politicians I like, I think they should all be lampooned; I think they all should be made fun of so that we remember that they’re not our betters; they’re just some guy who happens to be a congressman or a senator, or even the president of the United States for right now. Scott Stantis: And he works for us. Dan Proft: Right, and to keep a sense of proportionality that we’re not looking at them as our exalted rulers, right, but as you suggest, people who work for us. Is that your take, do you pick a favorite, like in the republican primary, or the democrat primary, and say I’m going to go after the ones I don’t like more and try to protect the ones I like a little bit more? Scott Stantis: That’s a great question. I actually tend to – it’s odd going through my body at work – that I tend to go after republicans harder, and the reason for that is I expect them to be better. I expect them to be the grownups in the room, I expect them to be honest, I expect them to do the right thing, and when they don’t, I really get mad, I tend to just go crazy. Dan Proft: If there are any republicans in Illinois, you could probably draw those, it’d be hard on them. Scott Stantis: Are there any? Because… we have some that’s sort of a governor. Dan Proft: Technically, yeah, technically we have a governor, and then there’s the governor, and then there’s the governor. Scott Stantis: But the lieutenant governor. I guess we have one, right? Dan Proft: It’s like a tail, it’s a vestigial organ. Yeah. Not so sure. Not sure that’s going to captivate your readers. Really sticking it to Evelyn Singuenetty – finally. Scott Stantis: Yes. And you and I, this was from our first conversation that we ever had was me trying to understand the republicans in the state of Illinois, and how there aren’t any, how even though they’re in a super minority now in the House. Dan Proft: And Senate. Scott Stantis: Is there a super minority in the Senate? Dan Proft: Oh yeah. Scott Stantis: So why aren’t they more… what do they have to lose? Can you be – I guess you can be more minority, but it just seems, this whole cadre of that political class hoping for… they’re like the runt hyenas. That’d be funny. Dan Proft: I feel a cartoon coming out. Scott Stantis: We’re in the back of the pack, we’re just hoping against hope that some piece of bone or something gets flung back there, and they are so grateful. If I hear one more thing about ‘We have to work together’… Why? The democrats in the state don’t want to. They don’t want to do the right thing, they don’t want to do what obviously has to be done, and that’s what’s incredibly frustrating, is someone like me coming to this state; especially coming from Alabama, which was predominantly a democratic state when I got there, shortly after I left it’s now a republican state. It’s a good thing to see, and you mentioned it earlier in this discussion – I can’t get my hands around the politics of this place. Why do these people keep getting reelected? Why is Madigan scoring – his district, I’m told, he is very where liked; even though they can look around him and see the squalor and the destruction; the burning buildings. Dan Proft: Here’s a cartoon idea for you. I’ll invoice you later. Scott Stantis: I’ll take it. Dan Proft: Banana republic – it’s a cleptocracy, and so it’s cut me in or cut it out, and Madigan cuts in his constituents, so they’re the have’s, they’re the more’s versus the less than’s, and the more’s reelect the guy who’s giving them more to the exclusion of others for certain, but that’s the whole play, and what is rent seeking behavior in gender? Not outrage, more rent seeking. Oh. I see how it works! You have to have clout, you have to know the right people, and you have to get in line so you can get your cut. Scott Stantis: Is that number so big in this state that it allows that class to stay in the position of power for this long? Dan Proft: Well, think about the city of Chicago? Who are the top employers in the city of Chicago? Scott Stantis: Well, it’s got to be the city county, cops and firefighters, right? Dan Proft: The city, close. Institutions, the city of Chicago, CPS, Cook County, the state of Illinois. Those are four of your top 6 employers. So you tell me, is there enough spoils of war to pass out? At least to pass out until the lights go out? And that’s essentially been the spoils of war model that both parties have abided since I’ve been involved in Illinois politics, since I graduated from college 20 years ago. That’s been the model, and both parties have essentially adopted the model, and so you adopt the spoils of war model, and to your point about the little hyena cubs in the back, just hoping for scraps, that’s the posture that the republicans have taken, because they adopted the underlined philosophy, that it’s about distributing the spoils of war. And someday, if we ever get the majority again, and we narrow the super-minority into minority, or even a closer minority, then we’ll get a few more scraps. Scott Stantis: Well, that’s a sad commentary on the future of this state. It really is, and so guys like you, guys like the Illinois policy institute, others who are fighting the good fight, and are trying to do the right thing. I get the sense that we’re placed to actually move in that direction; that that argument is finally getting to action with people. Dan Proft: Based on? Scott Stantis: Hope. Dan Proft: Right. Unbounded hope. Scott Stantis: What I’m seeing, and Lou from the hockey game, the other night; I was test marketing him; we were sitting next to this guy, and you’re hearing it more and more, so people are recognizing that Madigan is not good for this state. Dan Proft: Yeah, it’s a problem, and what was Lou's solution? Bernie Sanders. Scott Stantis: Well, there’s that. Dan Proft: They didn’t it was a perfect conversation, but the status quo is terrible. You know what the problem is? It’s not big enough! Scott Stantis: It’s not status enough! Ah, Lou, Lou. Dan Proft: Let me ask you another question about another institution that doesn’t get enough coverage in my estimation – and this might be a little bit too close to home – because it is your home, it’s the question that used to say kind of ‘What will take it, why are things the way they are?’ There’s another institution, The Fourth Estate. Scott Stantis: Yes. Dan Proft: Well, who watches the watchmen? Who watches the media, who lampoons the media? Who takes journalists to task when they’re complicit, when they have their own sacred cows that they protect to the exclusion of their job. Scott Stantis: I agree! Dan Proft: I mean, where is the – I could name names, and I’m happy to do so – but what about that, what about those internal conversations about some of the ‘news coverage’ – forget the op-ed page for a second – the ‘news coverage‘ that’s provided by the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun Times, the network affiliates, the Chicago media. How complicit is the Chicago media in this complex that we have here, like how complicit is the Washington Press Core in this complex that we have in DC. Scott Stantis: Well, look at how the Washington Press Core covers this White House. It’s preposterous. It doesn’t. Dan Proft: It’s fawning. Scott Stantis: Well, it is fawning, and if you’re ever spending time with them, it is, it’s a strange alchemy, it’s hard to imagine. I think what you have to do is move people in and out, and unfortunately newspapers and television don’t have that person that would do that with them. Dan Proft: We’re talking accountability mechanisms, so other than forcing people out, which is difficult – you want to talk about term limits, or you want to talk about longevity – take a look around at the political reporters in this town. Scott Stantis: Exactly. Dan Proft: Not exactly a bunch of cubs running around, maybe at Fox Chicago, but by large, that’s not the case, so what about those individuals and institutions as a target for your wicked pen? Scott Stantis: It’s tough. And you did mention it; it’s a good question; and there are times that I do talk about the media, but it’s hard for me to do when they’re right down the hallway. We do keep a separation there. Dan Proft: Is there any prohibition on a reporter who’s in the tank – maybe this is even a bit of inside industry knowledge – and taking that reporter to task, pictorially? Scott Stantis: I don’t know, I’ve never done it, so I’m not sure that I couldn’t. I could guess that I couldn’t, to be honest. Dan Proft: There’s only one way to find out. Do you want me to give you a list of names? Scott Stantis: Alright. After Rahm. Dan Proft: And it’s not just the Tribune. We’ve known this for about – look, the idea that reporters are any less transactional than politicians is folly. I know too many reporters for the last 20 years in this town to know better, so what about that? I think that this is really kind of an under-disgust topic. These are the guardians, these are the gate keepers. Scott Stantis: I think it is, and a lot of them are very good. And a lot of them try very, very hard, but… Dan Proft: So do a lot of politicians, so what? Scott Stantis: Right, but you and I have our filters, they have theirs, so that’s what you’re going to get. You have it, but here and states across the country, something – which I think is wonderful that’s happening; things like Illinois News Network, is one example where people have a free option to go to someplace that doesn’t have that bias, of that perceived bias, even, if that’s what you want to do; and places like Alabama, California, there are new sites now that are cropping up all over this country, that are calling these guys on their coverage, and that can only be healthy. Dan Proft: What’s the culture like in the Tribune, and your sense of the culture Chicago Media, more generally: is it very much like academia, where you have a certain kind of orthodoxy, and there’s so much inertia behind that orthodoxy? And even though people are tenured, so to speak, in Chicago media, like there, in Academia, there is still this group think, so for example, in Washington Press Corp, this has been tracked since 1960, anywhere between 84 and 92% of the Washington Press Corp votes for the Democrat candidate for president. So do you think coverage would be different if 84 to 92% of the Washington Press Corp. were voting for the republican nominee’s president? Scott Stantis: Of course. Dan Proft: So, it’s the same thing in Chicago. Scott Stantis: Yes. And so, do you think it would be different if the majority of contributions at Harvard weren’t going to Hillary Clinton – 91%, but were going to Ted Cruz – would Harvard be different? If the majority of people in Washington Press Corp and the editorial board in this city, and the network affiliates in this city – and state – we’re voting for Bruce Rauner instead of Pat Quinn, or republican candidates for legislative office, instead of democratic candidate, would the coverage be different? Scott Stantis: I don’t think that you could argue that it wouldn’t. Dan Proft: Right, but this is the under-reported story, and these are the opinion shakers that drive this political culture that we all de-cry, but are we really serious about trying to expose it, be transparent about it, like you were talking in Birmingham, so that your readers and the body politic can make and form decisions and understand what’s going on, and also have some accountability mechanisms for these folks? Scott Stantis: What accountability would you have, other than… Dan Proft: It’s not that you’re wrong, it’s ‘Do you think you should be reporting on the story when your wife has a job in that office?’ Conflicts of interest; clear and manifest conflicts of interest, for example, do you think you should be reporting on the story when you have some other kind of business relationship or personal relationship with the subject, or the subject’s principle – this happens all the time. Scott Stantis: Even more so now, as journalism gets more and more eroded… Dan Proft: Oh, the relationships. Scott Stantis: You see more and more reporters going to work for – they don’t go to work for republicans, generally. Dan Proft: Correct, and that’s another good example, right? Any time you have a member of the Chicago media leave to go work in politics, where do they wound up? With the democrats. Scott Stantis: Right. Again, and I’m not going to be a sycophant for these guys, but I’m going to say that a lot of them really do do a great job, and they really work hard at doing a great job. Dan Proft: What about for the ones that don’t though? I mean if you don’t make examples of people, then the bad people – whatever percentage they represent, people that are in the tank, they get away with it- they can operate with impunity. Scott Stantis: I think that comes to the for – and it’s becoming more and more obvious – as I said, news organizations and news providers, and just people who are generally interested in one subject or another, will bring that to the attention of the public, and so ‘Is there a mechanism that we could put in place that would take care of it?’ I don’t think so, I don’t want one. But I think people like you people – again, the Illinois News Network is one area where you can go and say ‘Here is another take on that same news story, oh, I didn’t know that’. There’s a reason why Fox is number one news network on cable television; because they are covering things differently than the traditional – certainly MSNBC, but CNN as well. Dan Proft: No, I mean, a different angle is refreshing, and it expands the parameters of debate, but you still have this who watches the watchmen, and it’s not just those watchmen in Springfield, or Washington DC, it’s those watchmen with the pens and who buy in the old time sense of it, buy ink by the barrel. Scott Stantis: That’s so charming. Dan Proft: Thank you very much, yeah, over with the harkening back. So kind of last bit of business on this: with respect to the cartoons that you draw, I forget politicians or individual characters. What about on cultural issues? Death penalty, abortion, the redefinition of marriage, policy matters and cultural matter, how do you try and tackle those to take something that’s abstract and turn it into something concrete that’s meaningful for the readers. Scott Stantis: That’s the hard part of the job, and it’s the part I love, and those are the issues I love, because those are the ones that people actually care about. Politicians, they come and go, but those issues will always be there, and how do you frame it? What do you use to frame it? Part of my job is to look at these things and say, ‘ok, this isn’t Nazi Germany’. But this also isn’t like a tea party; this is someplace - ‘a tea party’, not ‘that’ tea party. Dan Proft: Right. Scott Stantis: But someplace in-between, so where on that scale is it, and how do I demonstrate this, so people who see that will immediately get that this is what I’m talking about and this is my position on it. Meanwhile, on abortion, I’m prolife across I’m against euthanasia, I’m against the death penalty. But abortion, and especially the planned parenthood thing, one cartoon that got a huge reaction, was – it’s a butcher shop, and you got a fetus with parts, like rump and shoulder and all that stuff, and it says ‘so, how many parts you want?’, and it’s planning parenthood person with a… Dan Proft: I bet that got a reaction. Scott Stantis: That got a reaction. It got a big one, and I thought it was an important point to make. I love the blowback from that whole story, because they don’t get charged with anything, and no one said they were doing anything illegal, which in my mind makes the story that much more heinous. But that they’re charging the guy who did it because he showed a fake driver’s license or something, right? Yeah. That’s one of those issues that I tend to go off on, and I also had – what was the breast cancer Grogan who gave a lot of money to plan parenthood, and I showed the little ribbon kicking a baby into a trashcan – that got a reaction. Dan Proft: And now, when it comes to taking on those hot button issues, is there content oversight, or is it just kind of tone and language oversight, from your editorial point, from your uptance. Scott Stantis: Right, it’s tough, but for the most part, that’s the one area where my editor, Bruce Dold, gives me a very free hand. He seems to be actually very grateful that they have that other voice on the editorial board, on the editorial page. Dan Proft: So it’s time – place – manner restrictions to borrow a first amendment construct. You don’t feel like you’re ever censored in terms of ‘You can’t tackle this topic area’? Scott Stantis: No, which is great. Dan Proft: What’s next for the Chicago Tribune, and what’s the next iteration as you’re in this very small collegial universe of cartoonists, and it may be a shrinking universe of newspapers, how do you see this playing out in five years both for cartoonists and newspapers? Or ten years? Scott Stantis: Boy, if I knew that I don’t know what I’d be. Dan Proft: What’s the dialogue internally in the Tribune about where we need to be versus where we are to continue to be viable. Scott Stantis: Well, we’re going digital first, that’s the edict, and I think that’s wise to a point, although the newspaper still makes 70% or more income currently from their print edition, so getting rid of the print edition is insanity, but looking to the future, I feel… do you want a really practical thing done? Dan Proft: Yeah. Scott Stantis: It’s the cartoons, if you look at my cartoons today, versus, to say, five years ago, they’re much simpler, because I know that people are going to see them in 72 dpi, on their smartphones, so something as simple and practical as that Dan Proft: Adapting to the technology, and how people consume the cartoons that you draw. Scott Stantis: And this is one of the frustrations of dealing with newspapers. I approach my syndicate about this recently. I do a comic strip, which is usually multiple panels; why don’t we change this out a little bit, when they look on it on their phones it can run horizontally instead of vertically? Vertically instead of horizontally, the comics are traditionally like this. I’ve done it on my blog, and you can actually scroll up and read the comic like that, and it’s really very intuitive and it works really well. And they just look at me like, you know when you blow in a dog’s face? They have that same look, like ‘Okay, never mind’. Trying to move this thing in the 21st century, it’s hard. Dan Proft: But you don’t see political cartoons and comic strips going away, I mean it’s like letters to the editor, the most well read section of the newspaper; it’s the most visited section of the newspaper. People want a little levity; they want something that crystallizes their thought, or an issue, or a personality in a picture, or in a strip. Scott Stantis: I don’t think we go away, I think that we take different forms, and it’s a question that everyone’s asking, so I’m talking monetize that’s going forward. Is it worth having a cartoonist on staff? Should you get syndicated work? Well, almost 70% of my work is Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. They can’t get anywhere else. Part of my Scott Job protection program is doing that. Where else are they going to go for a Rahm cartoon? Where else are they going to go for a Madigan cartoon? There’s no place else for them to go. So that’s part of my plan going forward. Dan Proft: Alright. He’s Scott Stantis, we hope that his job is protected for years to come. Chicago Tribune, political cartoonist, Scott Stantis, thanks so much for joining us. Scott Stantis: Thanks for having me.

Dan Proft & Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL6)

Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL6) succeeded the venerable Henry Hyde not only to hold the seat Hyde once held but also to occupy the void of conservative intellectual leadership that was left when Hyde passed.

On this edition of Against The Current, Roskam addresses the fundamental question, what policies are Republicans willing to stake their majorities on to accomplish?

Roskam reflects on how the House has changed in the last decade, posits the change that will come under the leadership of House Speaker Paul Ryan, and describes the transformative changes to the federal government that are achievable with a Republican President and Republican-controlled Congress.

Roskam also discusses his work on the House Benghazi Select Committee as well as the investigative work he has done into the IRS' targeting of Americans based on their political and religious views.

Finally, what's next for Roskam? Find out the answers to these questions and more with Congressman Peter Roskam on Against The Current.

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Chaired professor of political science Charles Lipson, the rare academic who is both clever and wise, sits down with Dan Proft for a timely discussion about the new, more virulent strain of political correctness on college campuses and on the evolution of race relations from the time he grew up in Marks, Mississippi, during Jim Crow to present.

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Dan Proft & Chicago Broadcasting Legend Bruce Dumont

Fellow White Sox season ticket holder, Bruce DuMont, discusses his 35 years hosting "Beyond the Beltway" ("from coast to coast"), how he took an idea to the reality of the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago, and the more pedestrian matters of city and state politics -- could we have a Republican mayor? Will Rauner be a one-termer?-- including his not-so-secret Mike Madigan tapes.

Dan Proft & Brian Timpone

What is the future for print, radio, and TV in the 21st Century? Is television the new television? How much longer can Dan Proft count on a job in radio? Is the practice of building fake audiences to generate real advertising rotting the Internet? These questions and more are explored when Dan Proft sits down with Brian Timpone, President/CEO of Local Labs (LocalLabs.com).

Dan Proft with Doug Johnson and David Christian

Everyday experts Doug Johnson, a tech entrepreneur, Director of Touchstone Magazine, and congregant of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, and David Christian, a Chicago-based bankruptcy attorney and devout Catholic, discuss faith and freedom in post-Obergefell America.