The View From the Granular Level
Posted on February 22, 2010It’s always good to get home to Chicago, which I did this weekend for my brother’s 40 birthday. He seemed surprised to see me, a good thing since it was a surprise party.
I got a chance to talk to a few folks about the economy, politics and the nature of the world, and I must say, the national mood (as seen from the prism of a family party) was pretty sour.
Probably the most popular political figure is Glen Beck. Being not a huge fan of Beck myself (I find him completely over the top), I was in the distinct minority. If the subject turned to politics, one of the first questions I would get is: “What do you think of Glen Beck?” The man has a following out there. No question about it.
Disgust with the political class is pretty rampant. Two examples.
First, one family friend, (his name and his affiliation will remain secret for his protection), manages an apartment complex that is owned by a town near Chicago. The complex houses senior citizens who need help with their every day lives.
The town recently requested additional money from the State to help take care of essential maintenance, things like leaky roofs and defective heating units. A local politician helped to secure the money (he is a very powerful state politician). But it became clear that if they wanted to actually get that money, they would have to hire a local company to help clean the facility. It wasn’t clear what the relationship was between the local company and the politician. What was clear was that unless the company got hired to do cleaning and shoveling, there wasn’t going to be any state money.
So, of course, the politician’s favorite maintenance team pretty much didn’t show up to do their jobs. My family friend can’t fire them because they haven’t got the money from the state yet. Who suffers? The senior citizens who have to live with the mess that the cleaning guys who don’t show up to do their jobs leave behind.
Sounds like the Sopranos, doesn’t it?
Another family friend, who serves on the local park district board, told me about his frustrations about trying to bring some rationality to his budget. He wanted to economize by having the Park District hire some high school kids to take care of the grass, but he ran into strict union rules that demanded that Park District pay Davis-Bacon prevailing wages. He got frustrated because those union rules mean that less money can go to pay for sports programs enjoyed by the citizens. When he raised objections at the meeting, he was told in no uncertain terms that he had to go along to get along.
What kind of country are we living in?
Politicians steering contracts to people who don’t show up to work? Local park district boards forced to pay wages that they can’t afford to pay? This is the kind of stuff that is happening at the local level that is driving the American people to distraction and driving our government (at all levels) to bankruptcy.
While I was in Chicago, Ron Paul won (fairly easily) the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Committee meeting in Washington D.C.
Part of the reason that Paul won was that he has some active and aggressive supporters who will follow him to the end of the earth. But another part was the fact that people are really sick of the political class, and they see Paul as someone who completely rejects what that class stands for.
Seeing what I saw in Chicago this weekend, I don’t really blame them.
To most people, reforming government doesn’t mean adding more political cronies to the payrolls of the government. It means getting more accountability, transparency and productivity from a smaller, smarter government. It means getting the government to work for the people, not having the government shake down the people.
At a granular level, the view isn’t very pretty. Government is broken at many levels, and the worst way to fix it is to create more government.