Sickening news and a kick in the pants

David Strand


It’s bad news that our nation is in deep trouble. The good news is that over 80 percent of Americans know it and want the Bush administration’s mess fixed.

The Star Tribune reported Aug. 13 that the St. Paul Police revoked an earlier permit granted to the Welfare Rights Committee allowing an assembly in front of the Xcel Energy Center at the Republican National Convention. The advocacy group had planned to gather low-income families with small children and people “with mobility issues.”

The city of St. Paul and its Police Department should be ashamed! That goes for all Minnesotans that have brains that work.

St. Paul spokesman Brad Meyer said the permit was canceled “for security reasons.” Also cited was the permit had been granted before they knew President Bush would be speaking on the first night of the convention. Heaven forbid that the president might accidentally see poor families with little kids and people in wheel chairs as he enters the Xcel to read his teleprompter.

This is a reminder that what passes for public policy in America is disgusting. In the last column it was noted that the Plutocracy index in 2006 smashed the earlier record high of 1928, three decades after it had hit an all-time low. Since 1978 incomes for 90 percent of Americans have actually declined when adjusted for inflation. Those at the top now earn about 1,000 times more than nine of 10 Americans.

At 70, I recall a life of good fortune. This included working for an affluent corporation and traveling on a generous expense account. We flew first class to foreign countries, stayed in luxury hotels and dined in the finest restaurants. We worked with well educated people to build factories and to start new businesses. We were treated like royalty, and it was more than nice.

Even considering four decades of exhilarating professional life, my most powerful lesson followed retirement in 1996. This happened when I volunteered as a guardian ad-litem for Hennepin County from 1998 to 2000.

Guardians are court-appointed advocates assigned to help Juvenile Court judges decide the fate of children removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. It is part of the Child Protection System in our state.

The hardest was to look into the eyes of these unlucky kids and realize that they had no chance for a normal life. I could only take that for two years. It was a “kick in the pants” that opened my eyes.

I finally saw the truth. Unlike other advanced countries where public policy stands or falls based on approval of the public, America’s policies are determined by the power of money. In his book The Wrecking Crew, author Thomas Frank reveals that the richest counties in America are not in California or near oil rich Houston, Texas. Numbers 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7 all encircle our nation’s capitol. Special interest money pours into the federal lobby industry which makes sure the outpouring of taxpayer money is many multiples of the inflow. Moreover, lobby costs are also tax-deductible business expenses. Guess who picks up the shortfall?

Minnesotans will behold this lavish influencing firsthand during the upcoming Republican National Convention. The public demonstrations will be minor distractions compared to real power marketed in fancy cocktail parties, upscale dinners for rich contributors, and in fleets of limousines embellished with wet bars and virtual reality internet.

Republicans and their friendly influence peddlers are mostly to blame for this debacle, but Democrats have earned a share, too. Some Washington Democrats need a “swift kick in the pants.” People everywhere are hurting, especially American kids growing up in poverty, a stat where we disgracefully lead the developed world.

Now the St. Paul police use security concerns as an excuse to keep underprivileged families from getting too close to the rich and powerful who run this country.

What do they fear? That some child will hold up a sign asking for a place for his family to sleep at night?

David Strand is a former volunteer guardian ad-Litem in Hennepin County and currently director for the county DFL party.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Tell us your story, comment, or perspective.  Think of someone you would like to send this to?  Press the share this button below.