Friday, February 25, 2011

The Elusive/Obvious

As one grows older the lies that one is told on a daily basis become painfully ever more evident.

The recent election for mayor in Chicago is a good example of such lies. If anyone believes that the election for mayor was ever a contest, then I feel very sorry for them. From the get-go this thing was a done deal engineered by people with connections, power and influence that is beyond the comprehension of mere mortals. Government in most areas, in general, is a closed club of insiders, power brokers and wealthy individuals and corporations that utilizes lies and deceit to obtain and maintain power without regard to lower classes of individuals who have no power and no hope to ever effect what goes on or to garner the truth.

To its credit the press sometimes raises the right red flags and puts the truth in front of us, but even these occasional revelations seem to make little difference as those in power just scoff and go about their business of securing their power and making money for their cronies. Some like the the newly elected Cook County Assessor, Joe Berrios, even flaunt the fact that they consider themselves bullet proof. One suspects it won't take long for the new mayor of Chicago to channel his predecessor and just go about his business regardless of the public interest, the press and the voices of isolated dissidents. What public resource will he find to X out in the middle of the night. What public asset will he "garage sale" off to some rich foreign entity.

The insidious nature of money and power is eternal. It didn't take long for the progressive President Obama to forget most of his campaign promises and focus instead on a path designed to get himself reelected. I'm still waiting for those troop withdrawals and that innovative plan to invest in new, cleaner energy. About all I've seen out of Obama is some arcane new health system that from my point of view does little except to further enrich the insurance industry and some minor changes in the banking system. Otherwise, this guy seems to be more like W-lite without the party hat than some courageous crusader. Who knew that when Oprah cried on the shoulder of that stranger in Grant Park that is was a harbinger of the tears that we should all be crying at being fooled again by Obama the organizer.

There may be some semblance of hope. I have to admit that it is refreshing to see people taking to the street in political protests again. Unfortunately it takes the proverbial neighbor's dog doing it on my lawn scenario before anyone gets angry enough to fashion a sign and march on the capitol.

For decades teachers have had a nifty little thing going for themselves. They have parlayed minimalist educations into cushy guaranteed jobs with great benefits and plenty of vacation time, financed by the over taxed public. It's all about the children, don't you know; quality education, our most precious resource and all that. The problem is that the children are the ones being shortchanged and funneled into a society where even they can't get a job as a teacher any longer because it is impossible to fire bad teachers.

The truth is that those in government are conflicted by money and power and corporations and unions finance the fraud. When the truth is told, those pointing out the naked emperor, like Michelle Rhee, get their feet held to the fire and are ridden out on a rail. I doubt that the governor of Wisconsin has quite the moral compass of a Michelle Rhee, but he is doing the right thing, if maybe for the wrong reasons.

Now that state and local governments are broke, there is no longer the cover there used to be. Any mid level accountant can identify that borrowing money to overpay a huge public labor force is not wise fiscal policy. The time has come to pick up the can that has proverbially been kicked down the road for so long and throw it in the recycle bin and start over. Start by ridding the public of public sector unions and reinvent the public education system to focus on core education. Close the schools that don't perform, fire the teachers that take up space and hire qualified people to run things. The school system needs to be stream-lined to teach basic skills beginning from the bottom up. Kids who can't perform at a desired level need to be held back, not promoted into oblivion. As laudable as extracurricular activities might be they are a luxury. Sports participation can be privatized into club competitions and financed by those who participate and private corporations. How do you justify putting kids in a gym class when they can't read at their grade level or do elementary math? What good is art class for kids with no affinity for art? Music is wonderful, but quite a large percentage will never commit the time and effort needed to play an instrument. Reading, writing, arithmetic and science need to be taught and learned before any of the other subjects mean a thing. I don't know too many people who graduate in life to a career in athletics or music, but I know a lot who can't read a book or do basic math and have no hope of ever making the kind of money we pay teachers because they will never graduate college.

There isn't an accountant on Earth who can tell us what the cost to society is of not educating our children. In a city like Chicago, we see the collateral damage every day, when another innocent individual is gunned down. Weigh the cost per capita of housing someone in the prison system against the cost to educate a child. A twelve year education is worth investing in; a twenty year prison term is not.

The truth is elusive, but it is also obvious. It is time for all of us to pretend that the neighbor's dog has done it's part and get involved. The job/future you save might just be your own. It is also time for the bullshit to walk. Governor Quinn and the Illinois State Legislature need to pick up the poo and go talk to the neighbor. Fix the financial crisis in Illinois, end the debacle that is public pension funding and reinvent the school system now. The protesting in Madison is a good sign. It is a sign of government making the right choices, the hard choices. The right decisions are never popular ones or easy ones. They are not elusive, but they are obvious, if distasteful. They need to be made now.

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