Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

January 11, 2014

Politicians work for us, not other way around

Last month my local town council voted to prohibit the playing of recorded messages from residents at its meetings. The disgruntled or enthusiastic can still show up and speak, of course, and they can write letters galore, but gone are the

days when you could send your voice in your stead.

I have no particular problem with the new rule. But it got me thinking. To hear elected officials tell it, one of the major headaches of public office is dealing with an often furious public. The tea party summer of 2009, this story notes, was too “traumatic”: “Gone are the packed, freewheeling town halls of the past, where voters stood up at microphones and pelted elected officials with questions on just about anything.” And even when there are meetings, says another report, congressional offices are doing their best “to conceal when and where the meetings take place.”

It’s easy to understand why politicians at all levels are so frustrated. A Florida county commissioner told me not long ago about his experience being berated in the supermarket aisle by a constituent who was angry about some vote. A friend who’s an elected official complains of being constantly targeted by well-bankrolled critics. It must get exhausting. Everybody seems to be angry. In opinion polls, respect for government institutions is at historic lows.

No doubt there are lots of complicated reasons for this collapse. I suspect, though, that the biggest is simple: By and large, we don’t trust the government and we don’t feel that we hold much influence over it.

This sense of exclusion is as old as America. If you read through the colonists’ complaints in the Declaration of Independence, few carry true revolutionary import. To understand the document’s moving spirit, skip over the self-evident rights and the list of the Crown’s many wrongs until you come to this:

Text Only
Opinion
  • Remember the pledge Editor:The county board chairman is not being factual with his recent comments concerning the Public Safety Tax Pledge made by the 2004-2010 County Board.First of all, the debt we were facing was caused by the foolish actions of nine board members of

    July 31, 2014

  • Back to the future for death penalty? The surreal national debate over the death penalty reached a climax of sorts July 23 in a prison execution chamber in Florence, Arizona. Double murderer Joseph Wood was put to death by lethal injection shortly after his lawyers went to the Supreme Co

    July 31, 2014

  • Reduce property tax Editor:The regular July meeting of the Rend Lake Conservancy District Board of Trustees is always interesting, and this year was no different. It is at this meeting that the board makes the annual tax levy for the district. Like every year, the debat

    July 31, 2014

  • Away from the tyranny ‘Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency,” the late poet Maya Angelou reflected in an interview with USA Today in 1988. “We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous or honest.”What a poem Angelou might have written about

    July 31, 2014

  • No Headline Provided House and Senate conferees have agreed on a $17 billion bill to address the scandal over poor health-care service at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The legislation is now on a fast track to pass Congress before its August recess, showing that Re

    July 31, 2014

  • Shackled by 'dead men' In theory, the American people’s elected representatives decide every so often how much to tax the public and how to allocate the revenue among various priorities, both short-term and long-term. In practice, however, Congress and the president have a

    July 31, 2014

  • Close the tax loophole that sends US corporations overseas Since we last overhauled our federal tax code, in 1986, countries around the world have lowered their tax rates, leaving the United States with the highest corporate tax rate in the developed word. At the same time, the system has become full of inef

    July 29, 2014

  • Israel and the U.S.: Whose survival instinct is stronger? There’s something darkly coincidental in the fact that the latest weapon to be deployed against the survival instinct of both Israel and the United States is an alleged “heartlessness” when it comes to children. The people of Israel are castigated in

    July 29, 2014

  • College cost isn't big problem for poor students To judge by this summer’s banner policy proposals, the most important question for higher-education reform right now is giving students easier access to loans. But evidence from Canada suggests those changes won’t address the greater need: Getting mo

    July 29, 2014

  • Ducks, geese a blessing I would like to respond to the “Geese and ducks causing problems in Veterans Park” article that was published in the Mt. Vernon Register-News on July 16, 2014. I must share that I do understand that at times there have been a great number of the Cana

    July 29, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks