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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

President Kennedy Theory Still Applies

December 15, 2008

People are looking to be in good spirits during the Christmas season but with all the bad news being reported on both the political and economic fronts, the nation is holding its breath and waiting for better things when Barrack Obama is sworn into office in January.

The focus on the political side is on President-elect Obama’s appointments. The cast of characters who will make up his new team are mostly people we’ve seen in past administrations. While that’s not all bad – it does raise some concerns.

We are catching a glimpse of why Presidents can be tarnished from the mistakes of political allies such as the case involving the shenanigans of Democrat Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Things don’t get much lower than what federal prosecutors have outlined in their criminal complaint against Blagojevich, and it must be sobering to the voters of Illinois to see the kind of state leader they have elected.

The Blagojevich problem must be dispatched with as soon as possible by Obama because it is not going away any time soon. We have yet to hear publically from Blagojevich – but when we do - more bombshells will drop as this man is not going away quietly. The sooner he's dealt with by the criminal justice system - the better.

The Blagojevich scandal is a reminder of what President John F. Kennedy said long ago when asked about political corruption in his day. President Kennedy held the belief that elected officials are a reflection of society - and it is from the societal pool that public officials are appointed or elected. If some in society cheat on their taxes - why is it a surprise that certain public officials do the same, he reasoned.

What has changed since Kennedy’s time is the dynamic that public servants can financially prosper once they leave office because of the connections they make and the knowledge they now bring to the private sector. For some, a minority, that has become a priority as the case of Blagojevich demonstrates.

Someone in a high-profile political position can easily command a fat cash advance for a book deal, large speaking fees, or even a monthly retainer fee from one of the many broadcast networks who hire these people as television "contributors." Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee even got his own television show on Fox Cable News.

High-level government appointments are also in demand because there are tremendous "perks" that go with them. Most appointees enjoy the use of government-paid chauffeur-driven automobiles, an energetic staff that will do just about anything the appointee requests, and tickets to the best events in Washington - a "perk" that even money can’t buy.

All this being said – it is important to remember that this is the capitalist system at work. As former President Ronald Reagan once said, "All systems are capitalist - it’s just a matter of who owns and controls the capital - ancient king, dictator, or private individual."

Some political individuals have simply figured out a way to enhance their own economic standing and market themselves as they are free to do in a capitalistic society.

While many worry about this type of political marketing - and there are abuses sometimes as in the case of Governor Blagojevich - the alternative is for the government to own and control the economic futures of individuals and that’s not a good alternative.

It is unlikely that we will revert to the good old days when political appointees served a President as a way of paying the country back - all the while expecting nothing in return.

President Kennedy had it right when he said government officials will always reflect society and we shouldn’t be surprised when the country gets both the good and the bad as a result.