After my brief concert recently at village hall, one of the VMA-ers called me a “ukulele playing populist.” I do not mind being called names; I grew a rather thick skin after all the name-calling and death threats I received as a teenager when my 1967 lawsuit overturned school dress codes in the state of Illinois. However, I thought some about that name he called me and then it occurred to me that the opposite of a “ukulele playing populist” would be a “non-ukulele playing elitist.” This would be someone without talent who thinks they are better than everybody else. Now that’s something that you really would not like to be called.

“Some rob you with a gun, others with a fountain pen.”

This is an old notion and is very apropos today as state government, local government, federal government, banks, credit card companies and corporations rewrite the rules to vacuum more money out of our pockets. Someone who should know told me the other day that on a per capita basis, meaning number of citizens to total indebtedness,
Oak Park is the most indebted Chicago area suburb. 

When the citizens feel there is a level playing field, you will hear almost nothing from them. When the playing field gets severely tilted toward government or corporations, then the “populist” in all of us comes out, and we begin asking for things to be righted.

At the turn of the century when Harriman, Rockefeller and Morgan were buying Congress and writing themselves the rights to millions of acres of government land, it took a “populist” like Theodore Roosevelt to “bust the trusts” and create the huge National Park Service and National Forest system to save our resources from being plundered.

In the 1920s, when bankers wrote the laws that allowed them to become stock sellers and insurance agents, it took a huge implosion of the stock market and a “populist” like Franklin Roosevelt to right the ship and create laws that protected average Americans again.

Writer Matt Taibbi puts it very succinctly about things in out time:

“In some cases what we’re talking about is the highly complicated merger of crime and policy, of stealing and government, which is both fascinating from a journalistic point of view and ought to be terrifying from the point of view of any citizen, rich or poor.”

I have been wondering about our village finances and where we stand. Let’s demand a proper accounting from our local government. As we have seen all too frequently these past few years from Enron to
AIG, had there been a proper “accounting,” we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today.

Anyone named
Roosevelt want to run for village president?

Paul Hamer is an
Oak Park resident.

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