By Fiona Moran
J.B. Pritzker, the Democratic candidate for Governor of Illinois, owns two adjacent mansions in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago. Last year, it was reported by the Chicago Sun-Times that Pritzker had disconnected the plumbing of one of the mansions before the property was assessed, leading county tax appraisers to consider it uninhabitable. This meant that the property tax owed on the mansion was reduced by over $300,000. A leak by Cook County’s lead watchdog reported by the Chicago Sun-Times has found that Pritzker’s misrepresentation of the value and condition of his property may constitute as “scheme to defraud.” We haven’t even held the election yet and he’s already shaping up to be a real Illinois governor.
300 grand is literal pocket change for a billionaire. Forbes sets Pritzker’s net worth at 3.4 Billion dollars. That tax savings was only about 0.009% of his net worth. To put it in perspective, the Census Bureau puts the average net worth of a household whose head is under 35 as a little under $6,700, and that percentage would be worth a mere $0.60. For the comparative financial burden of what can be found between the couch cushions, Pritzker made his own property uninhabitable and possibly fraudulently deprived the City of Chicago of hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have been put towards city infrastructure or public schools. Pritzker has said he would support an amendment to the state’s constitution that would implement a progressive tax system, but given this previous behavior, I doubt his commitment to the cause.
Being born into such immense wealth, Pritzker lives almost on an entirely different planet than I. Our interests are in conflict; he stands to lose wealth with a unionized workforce and an increased tax rate, while I and the rest of the working and middle classes stand to gain. I have zero faith in his ability to represent me as a student, as a worker and as someone who believes that hoarding such immense wealth while others can barely survive is fundamentally immoral.
I’m going to vote for him anyway.
Voting is not a statement of what you value, it’s an exercise of power. In a two-party, first-past-the-post, winner takes all system, voting “against” someone is a perfectly viable strategy. Voting gets the people you want in power in power and the people you want out of power out of power. If you find the “best” candidate is still a complete deal breaker, then yeah, write in somebody. But non-votes aren’t counted. Literally. It’s not a grand moral gesture to not vote. The people that do vote will simply decide without you.
Pritzker does have some merits on his own. His website advertises a policy plan to open Illinois Medicaid to the public through a public option. He’s in favor of legalizing marijuana and reforming overly punitive sentencing laws. Even though Pritzker isn’t the friendliest candidate for labor unions (he recently had to reverse union-busting efforts made by a cruise line owned by his venture capital firm), it will be far easier for workers to organize under him than under Rauner, the man who helped bring us that dreadful Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case. The goal of electoral politics is to create the best possible environment to enact the changes that you want to see. Pritzker is not perfect, not even ideal, but he is the best option. So come November, I am going to hold my nose and vote for him.