The .00001 have again spoken; peasants, go away . . .

Today’s Inky reports that the Chamber of Commerce is getting all up on its 1% haunches about Councilman Bill Green’s proposal to raise the Use and Occupancy tax for the schools. It just gets me the way the “liberal media” goes all wobbly at the knees whenever the Chamber in all its imperial wisdom speaks. Today our lordly overseer says that raising the U & O is a no no because, among many other things, “tenants remain mobile and react swiftly to price changes in this environment." That quote is from Rob Wonderling, the former Republican State Senator and present Chamber President. Several other wise men are quoted in agreement. The Inky can seem to find no one who disagrees.

So what is this horrible U & O tax? It’s a tax on the value of real estate occupied by businesses. It’s been around for thirty years or so as a workaround of PA law which bars commercial real estate from being taxed at a higher level than residential. As the Inky does acknowledge, that means -- compared to other Northeastern cities -- Philadelphia businesses don't pay a whole lot of real estate tax. But you have to scroll down to get to that. Way up high you have the prediction of Mr. Crocodile Tears himself (also known as Robert Zuritsky, president of Parkway Corp.) that increasing the tax would cost 10,000 to 25,000 jobs in two years.

Be scared out of your bejabbers everyone, very scared. Apparently Bill Green who sponsored the U & O increase is appropriately, awesomely scared, because according to the article, he’s abandoned his own bill. Others in Council are listed as skeptical to say the least.

So here’s my slight, slight quibble with all of this. Where were the Chamber of Commerce, Rob Wonderling, Robert Zuritzky and all of those other noble business-elite defenders of the City economy when the School District budget was being slashed to ribbons by Harrisburg? Why weren’t they up in arms? Why weren’t they filling the Inky with their terror-filled dreams of what Philly would be like when the public school system collapsed? Why didn’t they call for some modest increases in state taxes on those who could afford them to preserve our schools? Doesn’t our ability to educate our children have something to do with the welfare of our City that they profess to care about so much?

Where the hell were they when all of this was happening?

These people don’t care about anything but their bottom lines; nevertheless our media and political classes continue to bow and scrape to them whenever they utter their self-interested blather about how the one and only thing that can damage Philadelphia’s economy is to make business pay a nickel more in taxes.

This may not be the time to give money to the School District, but only because the Chamber and its cronies are actually plotting to take over its ruins and bleed it dry. Which is why it’s even more infuriating that as we watch them gobble up that precious asset, we must listen to them lecture us on how to save our City.

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