Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Real world vs. fantasy and hopes. Why I write about both sides of the street.

I received one of my now typical poorly written comments yesterday, accusing me to being inconstant in my writings about government. The person who wrote the comment had an interesting idea, but their work wasn't worthy of publishing (an example from this comment was "Peter = schizophrenic"). Let me frame up their argument for them and write a little about it.

The argument is that I have written that we don't need bigger city government, but that government is needed. I have written I don't think Carbondale should increase their number of building inspectors and make a new tax on property owners, but that the Federal Government's solar rules and tax breaks really have driven that industry. I have also written that building inspection is needed, as are government rules, but that capitalism is a better driver then big government.

How can you have all these things? How do I dare to write that big government exists and that growing our government into a bigger and more intrusive form is wrong? I guess that I understand the difference between the real world, goals and fantasy.

Here are the facts as I see them. The US government is huge and growing out of control. Our military spending is headed toward 2/3 (66%) of the money the US government spends. Under "W" the rich have gotten a free ride, not only tax cuts, but lack of enforcement of all forms of federal rules to make the rich richer. The Federal Government under "W" has damaged the country by cutting funding to the States and Universities, they gave that money to the very rich through tax breaks. The Iraq War and the whole Middle East are a disaster, and "W" has mismanaged his war. The State of Illinois government is corrupt to the core. The State of Illinois has underfunded their retirement system to the tune of $44B! The State of Illinois is growing the government out of control. The last governor of Illinois is going to jail and it is likely the current one will follow him at some point. SIU is a poorly run organization. SIU is and has been in decline. Walter Wendler was a poor leader and manager who did a bad job. James Walker was sick and as a result did a poor job. The City of Carbondale was managed under Neil Dillard, but there were no new ideas and so the entire community stagnated. Brad Cole has provided the good ideas in the City of Carbondale for the last 6 years or so, there have been positive result because of it. Brad has big campaign donars (of the $1000 kind, not $1M kind) and some people think they will own him after the election. Sheila is raising about the same money by using the Democratic Party to do the work and some people thing she will be owned by the state Dem's if elected. There are good and smart people everywhere. The people in Carbondale don't want to see the big picture, it is just to painful. I often can't figure out what form of to/too/two to use and I don't care if I put in commas.

Then there is the world I aspire to. I want to have a happy marriage. I want my kids to grow up healthy and smart. I want to ride my bike fast. I want to bench the stack on two of the Nautilus machines at the Rec Center. I want my company to succeed. I want SIU to get much better. I would like Carbondale to continue on its reasonable path forward economically. I want the madness in Iraq to end. I want government on every level to be run more efficiently. There are many others.

In my fantasy world there are lots of things I wish would happen. I wanted to be Tom Brady once (when one beautiful actress is to pushy, you get her pregnant and move on to a Victoria's Secret model), still be paid millions to play a game and be everyone's hero (of course, I'm to happily married now to want this anymore). I want to race in the Tour de France, not win, that is asking to much, just race and finish. There is a fellow who is working out at the Rec center of late who is really strong, I chatted with him and he is a Indoor Football League player (he is about 6' 2" and 285 and really strong), I want to be that strong. I want to be so smart that I can figure out a new math or science theorem that will make my name be remembered forever (like Newton for example). I want to sing well enough to be on Broadway, but I don't want to work at it. I would like SIU to be come a top 75 research university. I would like Carbondale to become a business mecca and have fantastic economic prosperity. I would like all the rental houses in Carbondale to be fixed up to my liking and zoning to change so we have a downtown like the good old days. I want the city of Carbondale (or the park district) to build a water park that rivals Disneyland, but makes money too. I wish everyone would live in peace and harmony, war and hunger would end, there would be no pollution, that everyone would be happy all the time (sounds like a Grateful Dead concert on acid doesn't it), etc.

I figure (for the sake of simplifying in this blog) that there are 3 levels - hard reality, things that can reasonably be done and a fantasy world of perfection that it would be nice to have (but ain't happening in my lifetime, or at least there is no clear path to get there today). When I talk about almost everything, I look at what I think is true and write about how much better it would be if they did the right things. Mostly, I think about the world in the reality areas and things that can reasonably be done.

When you think about it, this is the real difference between Brad and Sheila. Brad's plans aren't grand and his accomplishments aren't changing everything to an aspired fantasy world of perfection. But, if he keeps going the way he is going, we might get to a much, much better place. Sheila's plans are grounded in fantasy. Her heart is in the right place, the problem is that almost no one succeeds following her methods. There isn't the money, will or talent in Carbondale to make Sheila's big dreams work, and so they will not work.

How do you see your life? Are you thinking you deserve to race in the Tour de France or do you just want to ride your bike around the block? How do you see Carbondale's city government? Do you think that our city government is going to solve all our problems, start businesses, right wrongs, leap buildings in a single bound or should the government shoot to make it so the downtown isn't blighted and set the table for one decent employer of 200 well paid people to have a place to go?

This kind of reminds me of Jessica Davis running for mayor. If she really wanted to be mayor, she should have run for city council this time. The council candidates are very weak and I think she would have won a seat. She can't become mayor by running for mayor, that is a fantasy. She needs to do the hard work first and so she is going to lose this time.

Anyhow, that is how I can write about multiple and conflicting things in the same sentence or blog entry. That is how the world really works, it is complicated.

Your comments are welcome.


dave said...

Peter - Two quotes come to mind, when I have accused of contradicting myself: One is from Walt Whitman's famous poem "Song of Myself":

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

The other was written by another hero of mine, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his early essay "Self Reliance":

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Anonymous said...

Stop saying downtown is blighted.
There are 176 business in downtown Carbondale. That is not blighted !

Peter in Carbondale said...

I'm sorry for saying downtown is blighted. I meant the area that is in our TIF district, just east of downtown on 13. I thought the city government did a great job of getting that area ready for redevelopment, but I'm sure we will hear more about that when I start to pick at Brad's plans.

I'll do better next time. Thanks for point it out.

Anonymous said...

Not to disagree with the general tenor of your post, but Robert Samuelson claims "defense spending is only a fifth of the budget; so-called entitlement payments to individuals are almost 60 percent -- and rising."

Anonymous said...

Peter in Carbondale said...

Ouch, blew that one. ;) Reversed the 50 year trend, sorry.