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Has Chicago’s Soda Tax Popped?

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As if Chicago, Cook County or Illinois itself needed yet another black eye to its ongoing financial woes: Thursday, the federal government stated that Illinois may be in violation of federal law when it comes to the application of Cook County’s sweetened beverage tax, which could cost it $87 million in federal food stamp money.

The sticky situation arose when, in November of 2016, Cook County decided that the penny-per-ounce tax would be the best way to attempt to buffer the shortfalls in the county’s budget. Plus, as we were assured, if the tax dissuaded you from purchasing a sugary drink (as Politifact’s article showed, Chicago’s soft drinks are now the most expensive in the nation), it’s for your own good anyway because of health reasons or something.

Illinois fiscal problems are well documented. Currently, Illinois owes over $250 billion in pension debt, which was part of the reason for Moody’s Investors to downgrade Illinois credit rating to just above junk-status. As Illinois Policy’s Ted Dowbrowski and John Klingner report in their article:

“The state’s fiscal collapse is the culmination of decades of budget gimmicks used to paper over Illinois’ structural spending problems and misplaced spending priorities that favor special interests over ordinary residents.”

The piece goes on to say:

“Illinois has suffered 21 downgrades from the three major ratings agencies since 2009.

The downgrades began when Illinois started borrowing to conceal its growing pension crisis. As governor, Quinn borrowed a total of more than $7 billion in two years to make the state’s pension contributions.”

Instead of trying to tackle the ongoing and well-documented spending problem, Illinois resorted to passing a variety of taxes such as an increased income tax and the much derided Soda Tax. Shortly after passing the bill, Cook County was met with a lawsuit by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and several grocers who alleged that the tax was “too vague and violated the State Constitution.” A few days after that, Illinois Circuit Judge Daniel Kubasiak issued a temporary restraining order stating also that the tax was unconstitutional.

Yet, on August 2nd, the highly contested tax bill went into effect and less than a month later, it is under heat from the federal government. The problem is, as the Chicago Tribune’s Greg Trotter and Ally Marotti reports:

Purchases made with federal food stamp benefits are exempt from the soda tax under federal law, but Cook County has allowed retailers to tax those purchases and provide refunds as a workaround for stores that haven’t been able to program their point-of-sale systems.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services, the federal agency overseeing the SNAP food stamp program — officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — warned Illinois that federal money could be withheld if the problem isn’t fixed.

USDA officials told the county the regulation was “unacceptable” in a phone call in late June, according to its memo to the state.

“It is (Food and Nutrition Services’) strict interpretation that retailers may not charge the tax to SNAP recipients at any time and that providing an immediate subsequent refund at a customer service does not cure the problem or the violation of the law”

Doubtful the fledgling Soda Tax, nor Illinois vast fiscal problems have seen the last of their controversies.

Democrats

Stacey Abrams doesn’t concede in her non-concession speech

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Stacey Abrams doesn't concede in her non-concession speech

Republican Brian Kemp will be the next governor of Georgia. He defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams by receiving 50.2% of the vote, negating the possibility of a runoff election.

Abrams isn’t happy about it. She said today she’s unwilling to concede but acknowledged that Kemp would be certified as the winner. In a strange political doublespeak way, she fought back against a system that prevented her from rightfully winning.

Or something.

Bottom line: She lost. She, President Obama, and Oprah Winfrey failed to get her enough voters to win the election. Whether she actually concedes or not is irrelevant.

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Democrats

Kamala Harris pushes fraudulent ‘petition’ to build her 2020 fundraising spam list

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The worlds of marketing and political campaigning have many things in common. Their intention is to persuade people. They’re both selling something. They employ tested colors, designs, and buzzwords to get people excited. One of the keys to their success is something called “list-building.”

With ballots from the 2018 elections still being counted, Senator Kamala Harris is wasting no time building her 2020 list. To do it, she’s employing a deceptive technique, promoting an online “petition” that’s really nothing more than a way to get people to willingly give her campaign their contact information. These people will be targeted with campaign fundraisers later.

No official announcement has been made about her 2020 presidential run, but it’s hard to believe she’s not running after purchasing 1,100 Facebook ads to promote these “petitions.” A Facebook ad doesn’t have a set cost, but we can assume big money is being put into these list-building ads because of the sheer volume. To put it into perspective, Beto O’Rourke spent around $5 million on Facebook ads for his Senate campaign. Presidential campaigns can easily spend 25 times as much as an expensive Senate campaign.

Unlike a valid petition people often sign to get a candidate or proposition on a ballot, these list-building petitions don’t actually do anything. People are told they’re demanding this action or that, but in the end they’re just giving over information. Some go so far as to ask for everything, including name, address, phone numbers, email, and occasionally even income. These lists grow much more slowly because of the depth of the information requested.

A more common technique is to ask for minimal data to encourage people to fill it out. At the end of the day, all a campaign really needs is an email address they can later use in fundraising campaigns. Here’s an example of an ad Senator Harris’ campaign recently put out:

Kamala Harris Petition

The meta data reveals the page was titled, “Acquisition: 180822 Mueller FB.”

“FB” means it was a Facebook campaign. “Mueller” was the topic. “180822” is the tracking number for A/B testing. “Acquisition” is the goal. Anyone who signed this “petition” has just had their contact information acquired. Mission accomplished. They will soon be receiving emails asking them to donate to the Kamala Harris 2020 presidential election fund.

As for the results of the “petition,” they will go nowhere. There won’t be a Congressional action that is enabled by the thousands of people who “signed” it. You won’t see Kamala Harris standing in front of the White House reading off the names of the people who participated in the “petition.” She couldn’t do that even if she wanted to because the “petition” only asks for a first name. Are there really people out there who believe signing a petition only requires a first name?

Senator Harris is promoting fraudulent petitions with the sole purpose if building her 2020 fundraising spam list. Anyone who “signs” it believing they’re demanding protection for Robert Mueller is a sucker. That’s exactly who she wants to target.

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Democrats

Nancy Pelosi blames misogyny for Democrats opposing her as Speaker

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Nancy Pelosi blames misogyny for Democrats opposing her as Speaker

Nancy Pelosi believes she’ll be Speaker of the House again. Her caucus controls the vote. She was Speaker before. Most Democrats support her. Most.

A vocal group of 17 (and counting) Democrats in Congress have declared they will not support her for Speaker of the House. Though no official challenge has stepped up, there are speculations that a younger, more progressive Democrat will emerge. Given the state of the party and the shift to the left, it’s very possible her path to the gavel will be bumpy.

Predictably, Pelosi is blaming her challenges on misogyny. It’s the patriarchy WITHIN the Democratic Party that is allegedly keeping her down. Because, well, of course that’s the reason. It’s always the reason.

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