May 20, 2013

JOHN KASS: IRS scandal a reminder of how I learned about The Chicago Way.

The Internal Revenue Service scandal now devouring the Obama administration — the outrageous use of the federal taxing authority to target tea party and other conservatives — certainly makes for meaty partisan politics.

But this scandal is about more than partisanship. It’s bigger than whether the Republicans win or the Democrats lose.

It’s even bigger than President Barack Obama. Yes, bigger than Obama. It is opening American eyes to the fundamental relationship between free people and those who govern them. This one is about the Republic and whether we can keep it.

And it started me thinking of years ago, of my father and my uncle in Chicago and how government muscle really works.

Because if you want to understand The Chicago Way of things in Washington these days, with the guys from Chicago in charge of the White House and the federal leviathan, there’s one place you start:

You start in Chicago. . . .

This is America, I said.

“Are you in your good senses?” said my father. “We have lives here. We have businesses. If we get involved in politics, they will ruin us.”

And no one, not the Roosevelt Democrats or the Reagan Republicans, disagreed. The socialists, the communists, the royalists, everyone nodded their heads.

This was Chicago. And for a business owner to get involved meant one thing: It would cost you money and somebody from government could destroy you.

The health inspectors would come, and the revenue department, the building inspectors, the fire inspectors, on and on. The city code books aren’t thick because politicians like to write new laws and regulations. The codes are thick because when government swings them at a citizen, they hurt.

And who swings the codes and regulations at those who’d open their mouths? A government worker. That government worker owes his or her job to the political boss. And that boss has a boss.

The worker doesn’t have to be told. The worker wants a promotion. If an irritant rises, it is erased. The hack gets a promotion. This is government.

So everybody kept their mouths shut, and Chicago was hailed by national political reporters as the city that works.

Read the whole thing.

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