News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Sacred cows and good ol' boys
Oct 27, 2013 - By Randy Tucker
In case you hadn't noticed, the first begets the second.
Andrew Jackson often is referred to as the first "western" president. The rough-edged frontiersman came to Washington devoid of the fineries of class and etiquette that marked the presidencies of his predecessors. He is the only president known to have killed a man in a gun duel. He shot Charles Dickinson in 1806.
Jackson broke many societal mores when he took office in March of 1829, but perhaps his most insidious contribution to the oval office, and to politics in general, was the establishment of the "spoils system."
The term comes from a comment made by New York senator William Marcy in 1832 in defense of Jackson's placing friends, supporters and business associates in high paid or esteemed government positions.
"To the victor go the spoils," is often attributed to Marcy.
Jackson was heavily criticized for practicing blatant patronage for the first time in a nationally elected office. It would be far from the last.
If you have a pet project that needs funding, now is the time. Whether the project is local, state or needs the big bucks of the deep federal pockets, your elected officials probably are eager to comply.
Voters are disgusted with politicians. The latest stunt in holding the government hostage for almost three weeks has given Congress an overall approval rating less than 15 percent with republican representatives scoring as low as 5 percent in voter approval. Those are the worst levels in the history of our republic.
At the state level, the unexpected consequences wrought on the Wyoming Legislature's good ol' boy network by their underhanded fullcourt press of SF104 and the elimination of the people's voice in their children's education produced similar results. These guys still don't get it . They've now allocated more than $700,000 in a futile attempt to legitimize their lynch-mob mentality in making the Superintendent of Public Instruction's position a mere figurehead.
Civics classes and the constitution itself tell us that the traditional recourse to elected idiocy is to simply vote the clowns out of office. That used to work, but in our Balkanized republic now it is nearly impossible. Money talks, and whether that money is spent on slanted advertising or on pork barrel projects designed solely to get an official a few more years on the public dole doesn't matter.
At the state level, going along to get along currently pays dividends in the form of lucrative "consulting" contracts. Consultants swarm through the governor's office, the Wyoming Department of Education, and on the payroll of the newly redesigned state board of education. Sometimes playing along means your spouse gets appointed to a high-profile office. Pay some people enough, and they'll say anything to support your position.
In Cheyenne $100 million for an office building addition is slipped quietly through, hidden in other legislation. In Casper the new Natrona County High School comes at a cost of just over a third-of-a-billion dollars. Yes, approximately $342 million, with the anticipated addition of an $80 million fieldhouse for the football coach who is also a legislator in the good ol' boys club.
While Wyoming's present energy surplus allows questionable amounts of money on buildings in key legislative districts, America as a whole cannot afford it. The federal deficit is approaching an astronomical $19 trillion (trillion with a T) and while the cuts necessary to bring us back from the brink of insanity are obvious, there are few elected officials brave enough to take on health care (i.e.: Medicare not Obamacare), pensions, the military and welfare. These four areas take up 83 percent of the entire federal budget. Take on Medicare, and you're killing old people. Take on pensions, and you're cheating the same group. Take on the military, and you're a (fill in the blank with the latest pro-Nazi, commie, pinko, terrorist, etc., insult). Take on welfare, and you're killing children.
The breaking down of these four areas into simple phrases is also part of the problem. Two generations raised on 30-second sound bites find it impossible to pay attention long enough to understand the issues. So, instead of facing them seriously as they are required to as our elected representatives, these career politicians buy us off instead.
If your community needs a recreational or justice center, make it well known and your local state senator and representative will be quick to have their photo taken behind a group of smiling people and one of those big, fake checks. Disgusted voters just might toss out the incumbents, and the incumbents can't risk that, so they promise bags of state money. Think of all the opportunities these people would lose if they weren't re-elected ad infinitum, ad nauseum as they are now. The voters realized this in 1991 when term limit legislation passed with 83 percent of the vote. But in Wyoming term limits are unconstitutional even when passed constitutionally.
At the federal level the amount of money to be spent before the primaries late next summer boggles the mind.
This is common knowledge, but next November 90 percent of the incumbents will remain in office if they run. To the victor go the spoils. Evidently, the victors go to the spoils as well.
Editor's note: Staff writer Randy Tucker is a retired educator. He farms in rural Riverton.