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Steven G. Percifield  Author and consultant
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On government dependency

 

December 24, 2012

For friends, family or whomever may be reading this from anywhere outside the formerly great state of Illinois: Merry Christmas. For my friends and neighbors still living here: Many Condolences.

It's hard to say what takes a state from a position of economic and cultural preeminence among all the United States, to the brink of moral bankruptcy and a seemingly unrecoverable fiscal dilemma. Of one thing I am sure though: the two are related. The fiscal bankruptcy of a government dooms it and the people living under it as surely as the cultural bankruptcy of the citizenry dooms the government.

But deciding which precedes the other--whether the fiscal and moral insolvency of the government causes or results from the cultural disintegration of the governed--is a chicken/egg consideration. The fact is, the more eggs you have the more chickens you get and the more chickens you get, the more eggs you have. And so it goes.

During my college days, I volunteered evenings to teach remedial reading to junior high school aged students in a near north-side neighborhood in Indianapolis. The neighborhood then (and I assume now) was considered to be an urban ghetto--poor and almost exclusively black. Two things surprised my naive young mind at the time:

1) the kids I taught were friendly, intelligent and (other than being black and poor) were pretty much the same as the kids I'd grown up with and
2) their families were almost all on the public dole: their grandparents had gone on it during the Roosevelt administration, their parents had been on it, and they were being raised on it.

These kids, as with any group, had disparate personalities; individual likes, interest and abilities many of which I shared or could at least relate to. But they also had something in common which I did not share: in the inevitable conversations spawned by current events and problems, they had a certain proclivity to view the solutions to those problems as being within the provenance of the government. Problems, whatever their nature, were to be solved by the state. Opportunities, such as they were, were likewise meted out by the state. 

This was a totally foreign concept to me as I had been taught, from my earliest recollections, that come bad luck or good we are all responsible for our own destinies.

These attitudes of state responsibility are reflected almost daily in the local news here in the former great state of Illinois.

Barely a day goes by up here in Chicago-land without murders, 500 this year (as of this writing), most committed with firearms. The response from the masses: the city is to blame because it doesn't provide enough policeman. The gun lobby is to blame because it fights against the banning of firearms. Drug dealers are to blame for their corruption of youth. Everybody, it seems, is to blame except the perpetrator(s). But somehow, the blame always ends up--one way or another--being passed around until it lands in the lap of the government.

Even the formerly conservative Chicago Tribune has jumped onto the "...it's the government..." bandwagon. It would be hard to argue that Chicago Public Schools are not at the bottom of the big-city barrel. There are as many reasons for this as there are snowflakes in an average Chicago winter. But today's headline, a "TRIBUNE WATCHDOG" article, summed it up pretty succinctly. It seems that one of the reasons for the failure of free public education in Chicago is that a remarkable number of students just plain, don't bother to show up for it. Truancy is pandemic in Chicago. But, thanks to the Trib's investigative reporting, we at least know where the problem lies: you guessed it, the government.

The problem, according to the Trib, "...is emblematic of Chicago's historic lack of will and follow-through on the fundamental issue at the heart of every school system: ensuring that youngsters are at their seats in the classroom."

Just so I understand:

  • the government (read: taxpayers) provides free schools

  • the government provides free books

  • the government provides free school supplies

  • the government provides free breakfasts

  • the government provides free lunches

  • the government provides day care before and after school hours

  • the government provides cash or free goods as payment to some students to even attend...

...and yet, they don't.

And who's responsible? The government!

At least there is some poetic justice in the state being blamed. After all, the politicians of Illinois have achieved what they've been working towards for as long as I can remember--the dependency of dependable voters.

Now that they've got it, how are they going to pay for it?

Merry Christmas.