If you pay attention to politics, you may feel as though all this presidential-election rhetoric doesn’t include any ideas that really pertain to Philly’s problems.
I know that’s how I feel.
Right now, the Republican-primary talking points are a mix of social-issue blabber and meaningless buzz words — like “job creators” — spoken with little context or nuance.
I’ve heard more meaningful political ideas from the grumpy Fishtown drunks I play Quizzo with on Wednesday nights — and President Barack Obama and the Democrats aren’t any better.
As much as Tea Party-inspired Republicans want to shred the social safety net, the Democrats don’t seem very interested in reforming entitlements to make them more effective or affordable.
Philly is a nice example of all this talking-point idiocy coming together. I rarely hear any local Democrats talk about keeping welfare cheats from reaping SSI checks for having extra babies while, at the same time, Gov. Tom Corbett thought it was a good idea to cut funding to state universities.
I guess he just wanted to make sure the nation’s best and brightest minds aren’t lured to Pennsylvania to attend Temple University or Penn State.
But the talking points get attention, which is why they’re so popular.
It’s much easier for pundits and armchair politicos to shout “Socialist!” at President Obama and “Plutocrat!” at Mitt Romney than it is to urge citizens to vote accordingly.
I’ve found, however, a few rarely mentioned topics in our national political discourse that affect Philly directly.
Unions: Very few elected Democrats will ever speak out against the clunky, irrelevant nature of modern unions.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pro-union guy. I’ve worked at union and non-union jobs and, guess what, it’s nice to have paid sick time so you don’t have to drag your butt into work when you have the flu.
From this alone, unions allow innumerable Philly families to pay their bills.
But these days, unions don’t seem interested in helping non-union workers organize. That’s because the federal government has — under both Republican and Democratic administrations — worked to undermine the influence of organized labor ever since the Taft-Hartley Act, which basically made it illegal for union workers to go on strike without first politely asking permission.
Wildcat strikes — which are strikes organized by workers without permission from union officials — have been illegal in the United States since 1935.
Republicans want to trash unions and Democrats won’t reform them. In a union city like Philly, there are scarcely less important issues.
But hey, Rick Santorum is worried about who’s-marrying-who and Obama loves that labor vote, so don’t expect to hear anything about it.
“Job Creators”: Everybody agrees that capitalism creates a lot of money. Philly certainly knows this, especially since all the capitalism left the city.
Kensington used to have capitalism. Now it has methadone clinics.
All we hear about capitalism and “job creators” are cliché arguments about how the government should get out of the way and let market competition do its thing.
The whole point of American capitalism and its job creators is that big businesses in competition with each other will bring lots of jobs and low prices, right?
Well, what if there’s not as much competition as you think?
Yes, there is a law barring a company from having stock in another company in the same industry. General Motors can’t own stock in Ford, for example, because that would destroy competition in the auto industry.
But there’s a thing called “interlocking directorate” that is perfectly legal. Not many voters have heard of it. Interlocking directorate means that large banks can buy small amounts of stock in competing companies, and then sit on the board of directors of those competing companies, thus having control over both.
Basically, if every corner store in the neighborhood is controlled by the same handful of people, are they really in competition with each other?
If competing businessmen are “job creators,” what happens when they’re no longer competing?
Democrats and Republicans are basically the same.
Since 1989 we’ve had 12 years of Republican presidents (George Bush and George “Dubya” Bush Jr.) and 12 years of Democratic presidents (Obama and Bill Clinton).
In that time, really, how much has Philly changed for the better?
Unions are still clunky and shrinking, jobs are hard to come by, and there are just as many “businesswomen” working on Kensington Avenue.
There has been such little noticeable change that sometimes I wonder if it even matters. Essentially, Philly is in dire need of new options when it comes to who’s running our country, or at least some new concrete ideas from the people who do.
Richie Antipuna for president? ••
ldquo;Riverward Rants” reflects the opinions of Joe Quigley, a Fishtown resident, area native and writer of the Web site PhillyNeighbor.com, where he makes cynical (and uncensored) comments about life in the riverwards. He can be reached at JQuig1984@gmail.com