John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Snow on My Mind

Posted on February 10, 2010

Snow On My Mind




For obvious reasons, I have snow on my mind.

In between snow emergencies, I was walking to work yesterday down Pennsylvania Ave, when I hit a predictably bad stretch of sidewalk.  Except for one-thing.  This stretch of sidewalk was right in front of Chevy Chase Bank.  For some reason, they didn’t bother to shovel their snow.

This ticked me off.  The bank wasn’t open (I wonder how much TARP money they got), so I pounded on the door.  An employee came out and I had a simple message:  Shovel your damn sidewalk.

He mumbled something about how the property management company was in charge of sidewalk shoveling, and about how he didn’t have a shovel, an excuse I found to be completely unconvincing. I didn’t belabor the point.  I didn’t want to get into a long conversation with a bank employee about why he snow wasn’t shoveled, so I moved on, my point being made.

The rest of the block, by the way, was completely shoveled by other small businesses (and another bank), so this wasn’t a systemic problem, and in fact, I have been working on my own theory about snow shoveling and its implications for health care reform.

That fact is that most businesses take care of their sidewalks.  They know it is better for their customers and for their employees.  And most people take care of their own sidewalks back at home.  It is when you get into public spaces, where the system tends to collapse (especially in the District of Columbia).

The reason we have government is to take care of those places where either businesses or individuals can’t or won’t take care of.  The problem with the District of Columbia is that they usually don’t do the job they are supposed to do.

Now, the mayor could call for a tax hike to pay people to do the job that the government is supposed to do, but if he did, it would be political suicide.  It would be suicide because taxpayers in the District already pay a lot in taxes, and they simply don’t trust the government to use their tax dollars wisely.

Same thing when it comes to health care.  Business takes care of the vast majority of the American people's health care in this country.  They do so, ultimately, because it helps their customers.  A healthy and relatively happy work-force makes better products for the consumption of the general product.

Where business doesn’t take care of health care, individuals take care of themselves.  Yes, it can be expensive, but there are plenty of families that can take care of their own health care needs.

Undoubtedly, there are families who can’t take of themselves, and that is where government has to step in.  But the problem for the Obama Administration is that the American people simply don’t trust the government to efficiently deliver health care to those in need.  They think they already pay too much in taxes, that the government will waste their hard-earned tax dollars, and worse, any scheme that the Democrats come up with will endanger their own health care.

Yes, we need to strengthen the safety net, and yes, we need to make sure that the market is fair, and yes, we need to make sure that all businesses are good corporate citizens, but most Americans don’t trust the government to use their taxpayer dollars wisely.

The President think he can continue snow the voters under with rhetoric, but what he really needs to do is learn from District of Columbia’s experience with the last couple of blizzards.  The people want to see government that works before they agree to pay for more government.