Archived Opinion

A second Gilded Age is upon us

By Bob Scott

Steal a loaf of bread to feed your family and you go to jail. Steal $50 billion from investors and you get to stay in your luxury New York apartment under electronic monitoring.

Senators and House of Representatives members will give themselves a $5,000 pay raise this year by not voting for it. That way the “honorables” can tell their constituents “I didn’t vote for that raise.” My solution to the issue of politician’s pay raises is to allow the American public to vote whether politicians should get a raise and how much. After all, the public is supposed to be their employer.

Congress has recklessly given bailouts to companies and banks with little or no accountability to where the money is going. Some of it will undoubtedly save American jobs, but it’s a good bet lots of it will be used to continue the lavish life styles of top executives. Who will bail out the Americans who are the victims of this total lack of ethical behavior?

Newspapers are filled with ads for gated communities so that the privileged class will not have to mingle with people like me. Well, to set the record straight, I’m not sure I want to mingle with you folks either.

A second Gilded Age is upon us. There have been published accounts of executives making over $30,000 an hour while running companies into the ground. There are lots of families who would love to make $30,000 a year.

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In New York, Caroline Kennedy wants a Senate seat. Apparently the children of the privileged class believe they are entitled to such by birth. Didn’t we fight some kind of war with England because we had had enough of that monarchy and privileged/ruling class stuff?

The governor of Illinois allegedly wanted to sell President-Elect Obama’s Senate seat for $1 million. That being the case, I guess my seat on the Franklin Town Board would be proportionally worth about $3.99.

Somehow I got an invitation to the Governor’s Inauguration Ball. To be seated with the big wheels I would only have to come up with several thousand dollars. But that’s where we are now. We have to pay to rub elbows with our elected officials.

The only way I could get to see a congressman or senator would be to show up at their office with a large campaign contribution or hire a well-paid lobbyist.

Want to become a millionaire? Just get elected to Congress or the Senate. The money will follow. The problem is you’ve got to be a millionaire to run.

Harry Truman was probably the last president to go home without all the trappings of the imperial presidency we have now allowed our lawmakers to create. I have read that he had to buy his own stamps after he left office. Can you imagine George W. Bush having to buy a stamp?

Here’s another proposal on my New Year’s rants list. I would like to see every national politician be required to spend one month every year away from the adult Disney World Washington has become. During this month, they would be required to work with local officials who are trying to figure out how to keep budgets within check, fix infrastructure, provide services such as fire, police, water, sewer, health services and education. Local officials struggle daily to maintain essential services without placing greater tax burden on the citizens’ backs.

We have elevated politics to a profession instead of a public service. It’s all about money. The minute these folks get to Washington they start campaigning for re-election rather than paying attention to their constituents. It’s time to change the system to one where a politician can only serve one six-year term and then have to come back home and live under the laws they passed like the rest of us do.

There are a lot of things wrong in this nation. Some see the great dream of our radical, brave and idealist founders fading. Students of history will tell you there are parallels between what is happening in America today with what afflicted other great nations of the past that faded into oblivion.

We can fix things. It will require great personal sacrifice at every socio-economic level; not just by putting the sacrifices on the backs of American workers. American workers are already making sacrifices — through no fault of their own. The sacrifices should be put on the backs of the incompetent and corrupt people who created this mess.

Duty, honor and country. It’s not old fashioned. But it’s time to put it back into vogue.

I just hope the bourbon holds out. Happy New Year!

(Bob Scott is a Franklin alderman and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

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