Gov. Frank Morrison was a gent that I enjoyed visiting. I greatly respected him. I'd known Frank since high school when his son Biff (actually Frank Jr.) and I played football together. At the time, Frank was a successful attorney in McCook. Even my dad had great respect for Frank having sat on the jury of a local murder trial while Frank was the defense attorney. Dad was impressed that Frank pulled no stunts to get his guilty client off but simply portrayed him as the unsavory character that he actually was. A fair trial? You bet. The jury's decision was easy and correct and the perp went off to his just reward.
An Air Force career took me to the far reaches during the time that Frank embarked on his political career culminating as governor of the Great State of Nebraska. Years later, we spent many hours visiting at Hillcrest Nursing Home where both Frank and his beloved Maxine were residents. I went daily to spend time with my mother and he always searched me out. At the time Frank's body was growing more infirm but his mind remained sharp as a tack.
Now Frank was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat and I a true blue Republican, but we listened to and respected each other's opinion. At the time, I was writing my usual political screed chastising local politicians for liberal- leaning actions. Frank told me that he enjoyed what I wrote and kept telling me that I should syndicate my work, whatever that means.
I vividly remember the day that Governor Frank told me why he had become a Democrat. It was during the depression of the '30s when people everywhere were hurting from the terrible economy. For many, it was a desperate struggle just to keep food on the table. Frank was looking at the efforts by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to get our economy back on track and agreed with the idea that infusion of government money could help get things moving again. And it seemed to work! New Deal farm programs gave money enough to farmers to allow them to "hold on." The CCC employed thousands of young men who had no opportunity to find a job anywhere. A bonus was the many public works projects such as the municipal auditorium that has been a center of public life over the years right here in McCook. Then, too, FDR initiated the Social Security program where monies were extracted from working men's paychecks and set-aside to be paid back to those who managed to live to the ripe old age of 65 years. Then World War II happened, the economy of the USofA revived and we never looked back.
Frank never mentioned it, but FDR and the Democrats learned something else in their efforts to break the economic doldrums of the Depression. They found that when you showered government money on the public, voters tend to show their appreciation by voting the spenders back into office. It works yet today. That is why our honorable U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson is always out front announcing how he managed to get the money, our tax money, to do some magnificent project. The latest largess to come our way is the $10 million or so allocated to fix the dam over the Medicine Creek just north of town. It used to be called "pork" but that term fell into disfavor so "earmarks" became the standard but that term is thankfully becoming tarnished. Ben issued several press releases to announce that he was putting the request for the funds for that repair into the budget request a year or so ago but I haven't heard much about it lately. "Investments" in infrastructure?
The unions found that politicians, mainly Democrats, could be influenced in their favor by spending their members' dues as campaign donations. Nothing in this world is free, so those politicians were expected to vote in turn for legislation that favored the unions. A recent example is how GM and Chrysler were "saved" from bankruptcy by using our tax dollars to bail them out. With bankruptcy the union contracts would have been set aside, the company could have been reorganized and production continued using the more reasonable labor rates paid by Toyota and others producing domestic autos.
Fortunately Nebraska was wise in passing legislation declaring that we are a "Right to Work" state. Unions are still allowed, as they should be, but they have no right to declare that all workers in their shop be union members and they have to collect their own dues.
We look at the news of the moment and see Wisconsin teachers on strike, demonstrating in and around their state house day after day. Union members across the nation, and even Jesse Jackson are front-and-center yelling and carrying signs to protest that Governor Walker is "union busting."
Yes he wants to put restrictions on the teachers' union by restricting collective bargaining, but what they don't mention is that the state of Wisconsin collects union dues from every teacher, no matter if they are members of their union or not. A large portion of union election campaign contributions, somewhere around 95 percent, have gone to Democrat candidates who return the favor by passing union-friendly legislation. The unions fear that if membership is voluntary, a large portion of the teachers will opt out and their campaign war chests will be greatly diminished. I'd opt out, too. if my union was funding a campaign for a politician that I didn't want in office! Wisconsin voters have had enough and sent a new slate of legislators to the state house to get the resulting debt under control and diminishing the power of their teacher's union is a big part of that solution.
And that is the problem with long-time earmark and unions buying political influence. They both irresponsibly spend someone else's money and the money is running out. The crisis is here and now. The liberal solution has always been to raise taxes to cover their debt. High taxes depress the economy and the public has begun to object at the ballot box. Earmarks have fallen into disfavor because an informed public figures out that we have to pay for projects that are of no benefit to us in far flung states like Sen. Murkowski's (R) Alaska. We the taxpayers have seen the light and are now demanding a stop of both practices. Thus the turmoil.
Good intentions gone bankrupt; what is a politician to do?
That is the way I saw it.