Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Who's The Boss?

Whatever your feelings about Barack Obama, you cannot deny that last night was an historic night. And our President-Elect is quite an eloquent speaker. He had that crowd, and anyone who was watching on television, enthralled. He’s certainly got things going in his favor—commanding electoral vote mandate, a decent popular vote mandate, and a Democratic Congress. Expectations will be high.

Let’s hope that Barack Obama lives up to the oath he will take on January 20th. Let’s hope that he is able to rise above the demagoguery and partisanship prevalent in Washington, and actually govern. And let’s hope that he never forgets that he has been elected to serve us, the citizens.

That is a lesson that his buddy Edward Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania, would be wise to remember. During the never-ending election coverage last night, Governor Rendell was asked if he would consider leaving Pennsylvania and serving in the Obama administration if asked.

Rendell’s answered by chuckling and then saying, “No, I’ve been my own boss for over 30 years.”

Excuse me, Ed? You were elected District Attorney of Philadelphia in 1977, Mayor of Philadelphia in 1987, and Governor of Pennsylvania in 2002. You are NOT your “own boss.” Your job is to serve the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They elected you to do a job. Their taxes pay your salary. You are accountable to them.

This is the problem with politicians in our country. The founding fathers never expected public service to be a career. You spent some time serving your constituents, then went back to your real life. It was, to them, akin to military service, something to be proud of, something to do for awhile and then go back to being a regular citizen. George Washington, John Adams, James Madison, and James Monroe all went back to being farmers after their presidencies. Thomas Jefferson went back home and ran his farm while at the same time writing political philosophy, very little for which was he actually paid. These men weren’t creating dynasties for themselves. In fact, James Madison died almost penniless.

Many others who served in these presidents’ administrations served out their terms, then went back to their regular lives.

Imagine that happening today. Anyone who achieves a high position in government stays there or runs for higher office. They almost never leave public service voluntarily; if they do leave, it’s because they are voted out or offered lucrative jobs in the private sector. The only ones who retire are presidents, and even then no way would they ever end up like Mr. Madison. Millions and millions of dollars in book deals and speaking fees see to that. There hasn’t been one president in my lifetime who hasn’t become richer since leaving office than before or during their term. No one in this day and age is going to be the statesman Jefferson was, and use his knowledge and insights for public good without making several bucks off of it.

Governor Rendell’s attitude is indicative of this. The man thinks that he is his “own boss” instead of an accountable public servant. A quick google search revealed that this is a chronic attitude of his and not just a one-time slip of the tongue.

This attitude will only continue and prevail among people whose salaries are paid from public funds until the electorate wakes up and demands more. Hopefully, the enthusiasm of some and disappointment of others over Barack Obama’s election is indicative of a renewed engagement of the electorate.

Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.

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