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The [Wednesday] Papers

"The word 'entitlements' is often used by politicians and pundits to describe government programs and tax money targeted to help the poor, children, the elderly and minorities," Phil Kadner writes for the Daily Southtown.

"But former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-18th, is only the latest in a long line of elected officials forced to resign, or be sent to prison, because they thought they were entitled to more than a good salary and benefits at the public's expense . . .

"I wonder if any of these people ever tried to personally place a telephone call to a government agency to get help like a regular person, without the assistance of an aide or their official title to get special treatment. Have they even tried to find a telephone number that connects them directly to some government employee who can answer a question?

"Of course, they wouldn't stoop to wasting their time on such matters. They have more important things to do."

I thought about this the other day when I was trying to reach, navigate and resolve certain (ridiculous) tax issues with the Illinois Department of Revenue. And, of course, it doesn't end there because the Illinois Secretary of State's Office handles the corporate charters and determinations of "good standing" often harmed by such (ridiculous) tax issues.

And don't even get me started about Medicaid.

If poor folk are scamming the system, I say give them a bonus! They must be brilliant. I'm a reasonably intelligent person and I can tell you getting the system to work right in the first place is exasperating, much less scamming it.

But it's not just government - think Comcast and AT&T, both of whom I've battled like so many others.

To Kadner's point, I was wondering the other day when the last time was that Rahm actually saw a bill. I'm guessing he has people to do that for him, right? The bills go straight to the accountant? So he has no idea what it's like to wonder what the fuck those mysterious charges are for, and how long they've been there. He's never had to work the phones to find a customer service rep whose mission isn't to make your life miserable. At least not for many years.

That's what it means to be in touch with "the people." I'd like to see Barack Obama try to get Comcast to explain why they're still billing for a service that was long ago cancelled. He'd probably find working with House Republicans a joy after that.

Anyway . . . back to Kadner:

"[Jesse] Jackson [Jr.] eventually pleaded guilty to a felony in connection with charges that he spent $750,000 in campaign money illegally for personal expenses such as fur capes, sports memorabilia and those elk heads, among other things.

"He's in federal prison, but the real question that may never be answered is why he felt entitled to something more than the rather lofty title of U.S. congressman and the six-figure salary and extensive benefits that went with the job.

"Now Schock is under federal investigation for his high-flying lifestyle as a congressman. He spent $40,000 decorating his Washington office in a Downton Abbey motif. He accepted rides on a private jet owned by a campaign donor. He allegedly billed taxpayers $90,000 for 171,000 miles in gasoline reimbursement on his personal vehicle, a Chevrolet Tahoe, which had only 81,000 miles on it, according to the Chicago Tribune."

I'll have the Tahoe he's having!

Kadner is right in that our public officials should be the last ones feeling entitled; being unentitled is supposed to go with the job.

But it's not just a problem with public officials, as Kadner also notes - we have an entire class of people in America who feel entitled, from rich kids born on third base to corporate executives looting the treasuries of their own companies while laying off workers by the thousands.

Even folks from rough backgrounds can fall into the entitlement trap. Take this guy*:

WESLEY: Christ, I'm just like you. I came up the hard way, from the streets of Chicago. When I came to this town after Korea there was nothing. I brought the mall here. I got the 7-Eleven. I got the Photomat here. Christ, JC Penney is coming here because of me. You ask anybody, they'll tell you.

DALTON: You've gotten rich off the peopIe in this town.

WESLEY: You bet your ass I have. And I'm gonna get richer. I believe we all have a purpose on this earth. A destiny. I have a faith in that destiny. It tells me to gather unto me what is mine.

*See, this is why Road House is such a great movie; there's a lot going on here. ("Oh, it's all legal-like . . . ")

Anyway . . . back to Kadner:

"I've heard congressmen complain about how hard they have it. They have to split their time between Washington and their home districts, which means leaving their families behind for extended periods of time. And the cost of renting an apartment or home in Washington is so high that they often have to share expenses, or as in the case of U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-3rd, for many years, sleep in their office. There is some merit to such complaints."

There is. That's not an easy life.

Then again, it's an easier life than mine - and my life is easier than many others'.

"[C]ongressmen sometimes seem to forget that while they're flying red eyes from Washington to their home states, there are young men and women who are walking through mountains, trudging through deserts and creeping along on their bellies while being shot at in foreign countries throughout the world where they are fighting for the right of elected officials to show their abs on magazine covers."

Preach it, Phil!

"This sense of entitlement extends to the private sector as well, and that's part of the problem. Entertainment figures and businessmen feel they're entitled to a lot of things that seem extravagant, a waste of money, to those of us who live ordinary lives.

"Elected officials often spend time with such people and get to thinking they're just as deserving, maybe more so, than the fat cats who feel no obligation to the people who have made them wealthy and famous."

This was Dan Rostenkowski's problem. He would hobnob with incredibly wealthy businesspeople - fly on their planes, dine at their clubs - and write the tax laws that enriched them even further and get stuck with a measly six-figure congressional salary. He resented it, as James Merriner recounts in Mr. Chairman.

He forgot his purpose - if he ever really knew it. His job was to hobnob with us regular folk and make the tax laws more fair. The result would have been improving our lives, not theirs. But that's not as much fun.

"The thing that too many of our elected officials seem to forget is that it is an honor to be chosen by the public to serve their interests."

It should be, but is it really? Does anyone truly think Rahm Emanuel is "honored" to be chosen mayor? Rahm and his buddies gain office by manipulating the public, not honoring it. That's what all that money is about - and the commercials, and the lies.

We've never had a mayor more entitled than this one. Just check out his security team. Dude thinks he's president of Chicago, not mayor.

The difference between him and Schock and Jackson, though, is that he's come by his entitlements "honestly." Playing the game by the rules is a lot more prosperous than cheating if you understand how the rules are written to your advantage. And that's why Rahm is the mayor, Jackson is finishing a prison term and Schock is likely about to begin one.

*

See also: The [Rosty] Papers.

Really. See that. It's really good, and another depressing window into the minds of our esteemed Chicago journos.

*

The first link above to Rostenkowski is to a Michael Miner column from 1992 that includes this:

"I don't doubt that someone abused Andrew Wilson after he was arrested," Royko wrote last week, nearly three weeks into the police board's hearings for Commander Jon Burge and two detectives. "But we don't know who did it, and we'll never know. It could have been the three facing dismissal. It could have been others. Since the city doesn't know, it should let it go."

By the time I got to Chicago, Royko was a putz.

*

This is a more powerful reminder, too, of the media blackout about Burge that I've referred to often recently in light of the local press corps' reaction to the Homan Square story. This was the mentality - and still is.

*

Back to Miner:

Should the city now have shrugged and said, "Well, maybe they were torturing people at Area 2 and maybe they weren't, but it's water over the dam"? A handful of loud, persistent critics - the sort of people Royko says should "get a life" - thought not. They began campaigning for a serious investigation by the Office of Professional Standards, the kind of investigation that wasn't made back in 1982. The results were striking. One OPS investigator sustained Wilson's allegations against Burge and the detectives. Another concluded that "the preponderance of the evidence is that abuse did occur [at Area 2] and that it was systematic. The time span involved covers more than ten years."

Royko ignored these reports. He probably hasn't read them. He granted that the current hearing "might be justified if these three cops were known to be dirty. But they aren't. To the contrary, they have excellent records."

Go read the whole thing. You'll find a dimwitted Amnesty International reference that is also repeating itself these days.

*

These are examples of how this profession has broken my heart - and the hearts of many others.

-

Mayor 1% - The Song
A must-listen from Penny and the Jets.

Before Chuy, There Was Miguel
How prescient were these ads?

-

Beachwood Music
Playing catch-up.

* Last Week In Chicago Rock.

Featuring: Negative Scanner, Hollywood Undead, Klingande, Jazmine Sullivan, and Funktastic.

* The Weekend In Chicago Rock.

Featuring: Whips, Coal Chamber, North by North, Caloncho, Fatal Figures, moe, Sustain, Gregg Allman Band, Kill Coin, Dionysus, Lloyd Cole, Filter, Mat Kearney, Manic Focus, Daryl Stuermer, Judah and the Lion, New Found Glory, Citizen Cope, Joe Renardo, and (ugh) Mike + The Mechanics.

-

The Antlers Of Ireland!
At the Art Institute, natch.

-

The Trews
* Long Black Vs. Flat White: Can Starbucks Solve Racism?

* If Politics Is Dead, Is The Election Its Funeral?

The Trews is like the news, if the news were true.

-

BeachBook
* What The New York Times Paid Ochs-Sulzberger Family Members In 2013 And 2014.

* Aaron Schock Fundraiser: I Feel 'Sad, Angry, Cheated.'

* When Explosives In School Weren't A Big Deal.

-

TweetWood
A sampling.

*

The kicker is that the game was at the new A's facility - which is the old Cubs' facility that the team, including Jackson the last two years, used until this season.

*

*

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: There go the late fees.



Permalink

Posted on March 25, 2015


MUSIC - Fan Note: Malcolm Young's AC/DC.
TV - Trump FCC Opens Corporate Media Merger Floodgates.
POLITICS - Illinois GOP Puts Voter Data At Risk.
SPORTS - The Connor Barf Game.

BOOKS - Inside The Book Of The Dead.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Record Waterfall At Two Rivers.


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