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A perfect example of this comes from the city of Chicago,
which was home to Sandburg for a time before his happy purchase of the large
property in North Carolina which is now his museum.
Forming many opinions about Chicago and in fact naming his
first collection after that city, he was fully aware of the political
corruption of his time. Times have not changed.
An editorial by the
Chicago Tribune which was titled "The Suicide Pacts" reads in
part, "Over the past four decades, many of the folks who run our state and
local governments signed suicide pacts — spectacularly unaffordable
retirement deals — with public employee unions. These pacts have committed
so many of today's and tomorrow's dollars to so many pension and retiree
health benefits that not enough money is left to fund everything else. Hence
the suicide pact analogy: Our governments — our taxpayers, that is — cannot
realistically cover all of these exorbitant retirement promises. And our
public workers cannot realistically expect that their too-generous benefits
will survive as written on paper. Often when these retirement deals were
cut, the public officials and the union leaders were, in effect, seated on
the same side of the negotiating table holding hands." (27 November
2010) The Tribune editorialist is incorrect, for it has been far longer than
only the "past four decades." Corruption is, as so many have noted, "the
When such people supposedly working for the public good are
"seated on the same side of the negotiating table holding hands," then
indeed it becomes a "suicide pact" as the hometown newspaper opines, and
proves Sandburg's observation -- not an allegation, but rather a firm and
enduring truth about politics by "interested parties" -- that they were and
still are in cahoots.
Here is another clear summation, showing politicians in
cahots. "Over the past 40 years, about 1,500 people—including 30 Chicago
aldermen—have been convicted for bribery, extortion, embezzlement, tax
fraud, and other forms of corruption, according to Dick Simpson, head of the
political science department at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Three
former Illinois governors have gone to prison, and a fourth soon could be
locked up if a jury convicts Blagojevich in his upcoming retrial on
corruption and conspiracy charges." In "Why Is Illinois So Corrupt?" by
Shane Tritsch, December 2010 issue of Chicago Magazine.
From an article about a wholly corrupt city government in
California came yet another mention of corruption in Chicago. "In Illinois,
local officials are virtuosos in the art of 'pension spiking.' The
Chicago Tribune reports that the 55-year-old administrator of Bellwood, a
predominantly black, working-class suburb just outside Chicago, retired this
year with a pension of $252,689—based on a salary of $472,255 in 2009,
boosted from $168,593 in 2005. In his final year of employment, this frantic
go-getter was paid under ten different job titles.
At the same time, one of
the state’s most affluent cities, Highland Park, paid three park officials
bonuses worth almost $700,000 as they got ready to retire. One 58-year-old
official will receive a pension of $166,000—more than he ever made as an
executive with the parks district until his final months on the job." In
"How the Road to Bell Was Paved," by William Voegeli, City Journal,
Vol. 20, no. 4.
Easily seen, those involved in 'pension spiking' were and
remain in cahoots with lawmakers who allow this with the mentality of which
Sandburg speaks, "what's to hinder?"
Of course, this is true not only of Chicago but of politics
in general. One reads of the growing budgetary crisis in Newark, New Jersey,
"So the mayor said the union had a chance to save jobs, but did not
negotiate fairly. The union said that the mayor signed a contract
knowing that he would have no money to pay cops down the road. And so,
we have a standoff." CBS New York, 30 November 2010.
there is no money to pay for the terms of a contract is a fine reflection on
Sandburg's notion that these public and union officials were all in
"cahoots." And as with there being no honor among thieves, when the news
gets out that the deal is not working, they blame each other. This is what
the poem suggests, as it reminds that each side in such politics someone
else is always at fault -- "Nothin' ever sticks to my fingers, nah, nah,
nothin' like that...."
This note on a brilliantly simple text by an American icon
tells the truth, about which one could document examples of politicians
being in "cahoots" too easily, and of of too great a number far to list.
Without question, this is what politics so regularly does, in
which whole generations of career politicians have become wealthy by serving
as "public servants," a logical absurdity and yet a truth of politics in
many places and at many levels. For this, I wrote, among many rhymes, my "Politics."
Sandburg has told us the truth, of which politicians lie so frequently and
so loudly that Sandburg's poem is little known, while all the recent
campaign slogans of those in cahoots are repeated like prayers of the
faithful. Such is life sadly.