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Letters: Climate change should be a top priority for voters

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The University of Chicago’s recent GenForward Survey, which polled the political attitudes of more than 2,000 voters younger than 40, not surprisingly showed that most are concerned about the economy and inflation. What is surprising is that the environment as an issue didn’t rate high among those who will be most affected by human-caused climate change in coming decades. Notable is that in this category, the lowest rate of concern was among young Black voters, who are disproportionately affected by heat, flooding and other climate impacts.

One of the reasons for this lack of concern about climate among voters is how issues that are arguably less existentially important are being prioritized by candidates, parties and the media. For example, immigration wasn’t a top issue for voters until the 2016 election, when Donald Trump made it one. And abortion was not a top issue until the religious right took over the GOP in the late 20th century, making it the top “pro-life” issue, even though climate change has killed more worldwide than abortion.

More importantly, climate change should rightly not be a political issue, since it is a scientific fact that will impact the future of all humanity. The fact that the earth is round is not party-dependent, so neither should climate change. Unfortunately, climate change was made political thanks to decades of oil industry lobbying to conservative lawmakers and the spread of disinformation about its existence and connection to fossil fuel emissions. Meanwhile, millions of people have been impacted by climate-driven extreme weather and heat, drought and flooding, famine and disease. And millions more have been affected by climate-related costs for groceries, gasoline, home and health insurance, and taxes to fund emergency response and recovery.

Voters concerned about the economy, young or otherwise, would do well to finally make climate change a top political issue this year — and then elect leaders who take climate change seriously.

— Michael Wright, Glen Rock, Pennsylvania

Illinois’ business climate

Opposing the newly enacted Interchange Fee Prohibition Act (“Repeal the ill-considered Interchange Fee Prohibition Act and avoid credit card chaos,” June 3), the Tribune Editorial Board notes that the legislation raises “one more barrier to doing business successfully in Illinois, a state already rightly perceived as less than friendly to business.”

How unfriendly to business is Illinois?  According to the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, Illinois’ business tax climate ranks 37th. Neighboring states all best Illinois, ranging from Iowa at 33rd to Missouri at 12th and Indiana at 10th.

Then there’s the litigation environment. In 2019, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform polled corporate attorneys, and 89% thought that “a state’s litigation environment is likely to impact important business decisions at their companies, such as where to locate or to do business.” Illinois ranked dead last in the country among states.

Illinois furthermore is among the most regulated states. According to the Mercatus Center, as of 2020, Illinois ranked below only California, New York and Iowa in the number of regulatory restrictions — at more than 270,000. Any regulation, whether necessary or not, carries compliance cost that must be borne by the regulated entity and/or recovered from its customers or employees.

The unfavorable tax, litigation and regulatory burdens on businesses have almost certainly contributed to Illinois’ lackluster economic performance and its higher unemployment rate. For the fourth quarter of 2023, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Illinois’ annualized growth in gross domestic product stood at 2.3%, lagging the U.S. rate of 3.4% and even further behind the GDP growth of 4.3% in its neighbors Indiana and Wisconsin.

Illinois also has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in Illinois for the most recent month was 4.8%, almost a full percentage point behind the 3.9% rate for the entire U.S. and even further behind Indiana (3.6%) and Wisconsin (2.9%). Only Washington, Nevada, California and the District of Columbia had higher unemployment rates than Illinois.

In this context, yet another burden on business as represented by this interchange fee legislation? As a well-known Washington octogenarian has been known to say, “C’mon, man.”

— Bob Foys, Chicago

Credit card industry is wrong

While the credit card industry claims the sky is falling at any hint of regulation, it was disappointing to see the Tribune Editorial Board accept such unfounded speculation in a recent editorial. The legislation in question represents a commonsense approach. It merely says that retailers in Illinois shouldn’t be charged swipe fees on money that isn’t theirs — that is, tax amounts and tips for employees. Currently, because of processing fees, retailers have to reach into their own pockets to pay tips and taxes that are supposed to go directly to employees or the state.

Credit card industry arguments of pending doom simply ignore the intentional way the legislation was written. It clearly provides that fees on taxes and tips can be excluded at the time of the transaction or through reimbursement up to six months after the fact. This was done because the credit card industry already does after-the-fact reimbursement of billions of dollars on credit card transactions every year, and sometimes, those take as long as six months to complete.

There will be no need for two swipes of a card or any other imagined problems that the credit card industry conjures.

Frankly, the doomsaying is part of a pattern. When the Durbin Amendment regulating debit card swipe fees became law in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the credit card industry claimed small banks would go out of business, banks would impose monthly surcharges on bank accounts and free checking would go away.

The actual experience, however, was that small banks gained market share, banks did not impose the surcharges that the industry threatened and free checking increased.

The criticisms are every bit as wrong now as they were then.

— Josh Sharp, CEO, Illinois Fuel and Retail Association

History runs counter to claims

Recently, Dorval Carter Jr., head of the CTA, and the Rev. Ira Acree, chosen by Mayor Brandon Johnson to  serve on the Regional Transportation Authority board, said criticism directed at them stemmed from racism aimed at Black men in power. Acree said “opponents of African American empowerment” do not want him elevated to the RTA board, and Carter proclaimed that “this city has a history of attacking and trying to bring down their African American leaders.”

Public statements like these dispute Chicago’s rich history of having three elected Black mayors, including our current one; a Black Cook County Board president; and a Black Chicago Police Department superintendent. And it further belies this city’s legacy in producing famous black Americans such as Barack Obama, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey and John Rogers.

It is unclear to me what role Carter and Acree believe is unachievable based on their race, as evidenced by these esteemed individuals. This narrative also further perpetuates a powerlessness to Chicago’s minority youth when the truth is Chicagoans of all races can achieve any position.

— Kevin Sussman, Chicago

CTA president’s deflections

It is almost amusing to see yet another race card played by a Black politician in this town. The fact that the guy playing it has been criticized by minority CTA riders holds no water for CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. or his few defenders. The fact that the past and extant problems have been well documented and go back to three mayors proves their veracity and the lack of progress in dealing with them.

Carter had to be nearly dragged kicking and screaming to even speak to the City Council about myriad CTA problems during Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s time as mayor.

Only our current mayor, a race card player himself, and a few aldermen defend Carter. It’s long past time for new blood at the top.

Carter will leave with an inflated pension and a far from enviable track record.

— Tom Sharp, Chicago

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