Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Flashback: A Post-Fed Employment Lunch with Billy the Kid.

[More than fifty years of politics for my kids and grandchildren].

“Well,” said Billy the Kid, “we little people back in Illinois read about you in Evans & Novak. Did you come back bitter?”

No, I told, Bill Stratton, the former two-term governor, two-term state treasurer and U.S. Congressman—not bitter but bruised.

“What did you learn?”

I learned something I had forgotten a long time ago. Government is molten clay molded by political ideology which in turn is fashioned by the media which in turn is headed to a red-hot force by the liberal universities. I survived after a fashion by turning the liberal media against the conservatives—something I’m not always proud of but, in a battle of survival, you use what weapons you have.

“I don’t follow you.”

In the Commerce battle, Stans and the Nixon people were right and I wrong. When Stans sold me on going to Commerce it was as result of a letter Nixon had written to him pledging activism which was deleterious to free market no matter how thin you slice it. By the time I got there, Nixon had changed course which was to return to free market principles. There never was—and shouldn’t be—a role for minority enterprise in government any more than there should be much of a role for majority or white enterprise in government aside from certain regulatory functions that make sure we’re all on an equal footing. But I found myself in a spot. I had given up a perfectly good job and was expected to do nothing for a couple of years with zero results. But my dander got up and so I decided to fight `em. I fought `em with the only thing I know—using the liberal card: Jack Javits, the media. While I got fired, it was still a positive kind of firing. But essentially, I went there as a residual liberal, was betrayed and used liberal means to get back at them—but that doesn’t mean I was right.

“You don’t think the stuff you did on automobile dealerships was good?”

Sure I do. But that stuff was virtually all private sector with the feds cooking up political spin. The only use of the public sector was to misuse the White House switchboard to get hold of Ford, Roche, Chapin and Townsend. Everything else was done via the private sector book—getting Whitney Young to approve the Urban League as a training mechanism for black entrepreneurs…meeting with the Big 4 chairmen. The only use of federal power was the White House switchboard and my own time and travel.

“What about the set-aside?”

Bad stuff. I did it because I decided out of ego that my agency would score some points. In fact, set-aside can and will be abused by white tokens pulling the strings behind the scenes. I’m not overly proud of that.

“From what you said about your national strategy, that was mostly private sector, too.”

Yeah. A public-private corporation like Comsat. Federal loan guarantees but generally private.

“But what about the idea that the Republican party could make inroads with the blacks and other minorities if the program were to really take off?”

I think I was wrong about that. There is room for two parties with different philosophies in this country not two parties that think like one. A Republican party that prides itself on subsidizing blacks in order to keep up with the ongoing role that the Democratic party does with enlargement of the welfare rolls and other federal goodies does not serve the public purpose all that well. First of all, for those blacks who want to be subsidized, the Democrats own them and we can’t buy our way in. Second, I’ve come to believe that the Republican party should be largely a private sector-based operation. That means the ideas of Rockefeller, Ogilvie and liberal Republicans are duplicative and not valuable in the public conversation. Let there be two parties—one which promises subsidies and the other that promises deregulation, free market and tax cuts. There’ll be black and white and some grey between the parties but that’s the way the public would be served best.

“Well, I think you’re condemning our party to a lifetime of defeat. I’m on the Ogilvie, Rockefeller side.”

Governor, you see yourself on the opposite side in that formulation but looking at your administration, there were relatively clean lines of demarcation. You never asked for a state income tax; you never campaigned, so far as I remember, by saying nothing and once in, pitch for an income tax. I think you’re unfair to yourself.

“Well, maybe but I can see how Dick Ogilvie came to that conclusion. I would probably have come to that point had I won again. I can see myself doing what he did.”

I’ll say this. I’ll bet you lunch at this same place—the M&M Club—that Ogilvie loses in 1972 because of that tax. And I daresay if he had veered away from the tax, had taken the heat to cut spending and substantially reduced government he would have a good chance of being reelected. The point is he didn’t want to—nor did Russ Arrington since they’re entrepreneurial, big government Republicans. It takes a repented one like me to know one.

“Ogilvie loses in `72? We’ll see about that. I think he will get reelected just as I was the first time. How can you deny needed social services, aid to education and get reelected?”

I think you can. Everybody knows—or should—that this more money for schools stuff is a canard, about 80% of which goes to teachers’ salaries to pacify the teachers unions. Everybody knows—or should—that public welfare subsidies breed further dependency.

“Well, you sound like your old pal Charlie Barr.”

Going away to the federal government will do that to a guy.

“My bet is Ogilvie will be reelected.”

And the Republican Senate?

“Reelected too.”

Ogilvie lost and Arrington’s backing the income tax cost him his majority as well.

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