Shake Down Politics – Chicago Style

The behavior of many on the Left has reached new lows.  The President has led by example with how he’s conducted his campaign.  It was always apparent to some, and now apparent to many, he was paying attention to his radical preacher for all those years.  We deserve better than to be subjected to this nonsense – especially our kids deserve better.

We’ve got a fringe group out there who did a “shock video” using old people swearing and threatening violence – nice.  We’ve got a union organization that sent out an intimidating mailer saying in essence,

“WARNING:  We Know How You Vote!”

It reminds me of a first-hand experience of Chicago thuggery that happened to me.

Years ago I was setting up for a trade show at an Expo Center in Chicago (I won’t name them here).  My booth was small, self-supporting and had panels that joined together with twist-lock connectors. There were three spotlights that each squeeze-clamped onto the top of every other panel.  I was just attaching the last one of the three lights, when a guy with a clip-board approached me. He said, “What are you doing?” “Setting up my booth,” I said, as I clipped on the last light.  He glanced at his clipboard and said, “You know you have to hire an electrician for that.”  I said, “What do you mean? They just plug in,” as I held up a plug from one of the lights.  He said slowly and firmly, “You need an electrician.”  I asked, “How much is that?” He said, “The minimum charge is $35.” I said, “To plug in 3 cords? I’m NOT paying that!” He got right in my face, starred me down and said, “You know, it’s an awful deep lake out there,” turning in the direction of Lake Michigan.  I said, “What do you mean by that?” Regaining his glare on me, he replied, “I think you know what I mean.”

I paid the $35.  The guy with the booth next to me didn’t.

He had a larger booth but the electrical complexity was the same – to plug in a few cords. The next morning I arrived early to see him very upset.  It seems a forklift had been driven through and damaged his wooden transportation crate.  I walked around the crate with him to see a nice size hole in the side of the crate about five feet up.  He said he inquired about the damage but it was “a mystery” how it happened.  What wasn’t a mystery was why, over the next few years, more and more people pulled out of that show – until the show was no more.

People don’t like being shaken down but most pay the $35 like I did. Today though the cost is much more and people are lucky if “the value they get” amounts to the plugging in of three extension cords.  Many are tired of it, and the tide is changing.  Look at what happened in Wisconsin.

Listening to some, you would have thought, the world was going to end.

Wisconsin elected Democrats fled the State to Illinois in order to prevent a quorum for a vote.  All kinds of boorish people camped out and trashed the area in and around the Capital.  It looked ugly and it must have smelled pretty bad since many hadn’t showered in weeks.  So that’s the state of our discourse today.  What happened to the days where we could debate an issue civilly? Now, when good points are raised and the other side doesn’t have a rebuttal, they go on the attack, a personal attack – that’s crazy.

Question:  Is it too much to ask government workers to pay a small percentage of the cost for their own health care insurance or pension benefits, yet the share of what they pay is still much less than what private workers pay?

Look at the behavior around the Wisconsin Governor’s private residence during the Capitol chaos; or look at recently with Hurricane Sandy, while some were still stranded and others just starting to recover, the Occupy Wall Street folks were celebrating the destruction.  The rebuilding will proceed in spite of the Occupiers.  The Common Sense reforms will be put in place but only when the people are ready.  In Wisconsin, the people were ready, as evidenced by the recall vote – where more people voted for Walker than in his original election.

What has been the outcome of the reforms in Wisconsin?  You can research it for yourself to see that they have succeeded and they make so much sense.  Having an employee be responsible for at least a small portion of their benefit costs means they are “invested in the cost” of those benefits.  Absent that, premiums and/or other costs could skyrocket and what does the employee care? They still pay zero.

With the reforms however, if the cost of benefits goes up, even a small amount, basic free market principles go to work to bring the costs down – workers put pressure is put on the benefit company and/or they look for alternatives.  Insulating workers, public or private, from the free-market has significant consequences.

Competition goes away.  The incentive to improve goes away.  Costs necessarily go up and quality goes down.  Rewards separated or disconnected from outcomes (the results or the lack thereof) causes resentment (on both sides).  Good performers are lumped in with the bad.  Greatness is under-rewarded and the bad actions of a few continue to be tolerated.  Good workers are dis-incentivized because it makes the average worker look bad.

For those wishing to keep the status quo, it is understandable that they might fear being judged by standards put in place.  In a truly free-market though, the rewards match the value brought to it.  Perform ok – get rewarded ok, perform great – get rewarded great, perform not so well, there’s the door.

I am NOT against unions but when they,

  • stop serving the people they represent,
  • resort to intimidating tactics,
  • function as a pass-through for a political party,
  • have no accountability and a “blank check” signed by their own special interest person at the expense of unrepresented taxpayers, well…

Before the 2008 election I spoke with a guy who was one of the “higher-ups” in a local union who went to a national union meeting and when he came back, I asked him how it went.  He said after the meeting he got in the car and said to his wife, “We are on our own.”  When I asked him what he meant, he said, “All the “big dogs” (I think that’s what he called them) talked about were themselves, what they wanted and their own political agenda.  Nothing was mentioned about worker benefits or how concerns, common to all the workers, were going to be addressed.  He said, “My wife and I are going to have to put money aside for ourselves and save for our own future.  We have to look out for ourselves because the union sure isn’t looking out for us.”

Thinking about that local union guy up against the big national self-interested organization, what can he do?  He “has to” continue paying his dues, put his head down and that’s just the way it is. Like me, he’ll pay his $35 and then some.  He and his wife chose to turn inward, understandably because you know, you can’t fight “the big dogs” and “it’s an awful deep lake out there.”

Note:  I should also mention that in Wisconsin the biggest reason, in my opinion, for all the fuss was not about sharing the cost of benefits – it was about giving the worker the choice to join or not join the union – how’s that for incentive to get “the big dogs” to pay attention to what really matters for the members.

Time flies and it seems like yesterday when President Reagan made the statement,

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Not long after those words were spoken, the wall was gone.  It may seem obvious but it’s easy to overlook the fact, Ronald Reagan did not personally tear down the Berlin Wall – the people did.  The conditions were right for the people to do it for themselves.  Ronald Reagan played a huge role but the people got it done.

Russia has made many course-changing decisions since the Wall came down and some would say they are working to rebuild new walls – time will tell.  As for us, we have a course-changing decision to make for ourselves.

We have an opportunity and a responsibility to decide what direction America takes. This should not be taken lightly.  I believe there are two paths, the path of Opportunity and Abundance or the path of Dependence and Debt.

Note:  Don’t misread the word “dependence” because we are ALL dependent on some things right now and throughout our life.  I’m talking about:  Do we want to depend on Government for every aspect of our life right down to the calories and type of food we eat? Do we want Government involved in all of our healthcare decisions to the point of regulating every medical procedure, right down to the cost of tongue depressors and cotton balls?  Some things Government does well, others not so well.  I think you get what I mean about dependence, so back to the two paths…

Which path will we choose?  Opportunity and Abundance – or – Dependence and Debt.

I believe Mitt Romney is the right person to lead us in a new and prosperous direction for all Americans.  His character and experience are solid. He has solved tough problems, and while in government, he has done it in a bipartisan way.  Do your own research, ignore the name-calling and spin. Together we can solve even the toughest problems and get this done.

I don’t know but maybe in the not too distant future, we might look back on this time and say, “Wow that was a close one – I’m glad we went this way.”

Now let’s go vote!

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