Monday, July 26, 2010

THE NEXT TIME YOU’RE IN TROUBLE, CALL A COMMISSION

7/26/10

In response to the crime wave that seems to be overwhelming our city, our governor, Pat “No Relation” Quinn, who bills himself as a different kind of politician, has done what every similarly pusillanimous politician typically does under these circumstances: He has taken what passes in the political world as decisive action by forming an anti-violence commission to gather testimony from those affected by violence.

The end of this bold action is eminently predictable: people will talk about how violence has permeated their lives, their stories will sound eerily, and sadly, familiar. Politicians will nod their vacuous heads in mock displays of earnestness and sympathy. Some will even feign empathy. The panel will conclude that the “underlying causes” of violence must be addressed by more “programs” and “resources,” the beneficiaries of which will not be the people stuck in crime-ridden neighborhoods but the various political hacks, hangers-on, and toadies that will be awarded contracts and jobs designed to pour money into pointless, and largely counterproductive, efforts at appearing to address a growing problem while ignoring solutions that are obvious but derided by the cognoscenti as “simplistic.”

The short term solutions, or at least ameliorants, of the violence problem are indeed simple but are by no means simplistic. First, Chicago desperately needs more cops. The ranks of the police department are woefully depleted and are about to get even thinner as older officers retire. However, it looks like the force will remain undermanned because the city, after many years of fiscal mismanagement compounded by several years of severe economic difficulties, simply does not have, or is unwilling to spend, the money necessary to bring the police department to full force.

Second, the cop on the street has to have the support of the department and political hierarchy as s/he goes about his or her job. S/he has to be confident that s/he will not be thrown over the side when some lowlife thug brings up a fallacious charge of “brutality” and Commissioner Jody Weis, the Mayor, or some preening popinjay on the City Council sees an opportunity to curry the favor of what the political types consider a vital constituency that can vote and/or feign indignation at the direction of their self-appointed “leaders.” In short, police officers have to be confident that they can do their jobs without risking those jobs…or worse.

Longer term, parents have to be responsible for their children and people who have no qualifications, beyond the physiological, to be parents ought not become parents. The government could do its part by not subsidizing parenthood by those who have no business being parents. What the likes of Governor Quinn considers “vital needs” arise largely from the poor, yet heavily subsidized, choices of those whose “needs” become “vital.”

Of course, these approaches will not be attempted because they involve diverting money from the frivolous to the legitimate and necessary functions of government and telling people that not everything is someone else’s fault, that they must take some responsibilities for the actions they take and the children they create. Instead, the politicians will form commissions to display their sympathy and solidarity and otherwise take advantage of the misfortunes of others to advance their own careers and ladle out your money to their friends and cronies.

And the violence will continue, serving no one but the politicians who have no shame.

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