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Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Jesuit Politics: Managing the Masses

Mayor Michael Nutter: 'Let Us Pray'
Nut and Burger

By Jackie Atkins
[Writers Clearinghouse News Service]

Gino Marchetti was no ten o’clock scholar, but an All-Star defensive end who played for the Baltimore Colts when six-year-old Michael Nutter started parochial school at Transfiguration of Our Lord Parish in West Philadelphia.

At some point Marchetti broke his leg playing. This led to an early retirement and a new career as the owner of a popular chain of burger restaurants, Ginos.

Although born in West Virginia, Marchetti lived on the Main Line.

Life had been good to him and he decided to spread his wealth in a way that would affect Philadelphians (for better or worse) in the last and foreseeable next four years of their high school education.

Marchetti believed the greatest gift he could offer young earnest Catholic School boys was to hand eager minds over to the Jesuits and let the soldiers of the Lord do their thing. So he set up scholarships for them. Little Michael Nutter, like other Afro-Americans, was tapped, and in 1970 he showed up at the door of St Joseph Preparatory School on Girard Avenue.

And the rest, as they say on the football field, is history. Young Michael studied hard and applied himself as the Jesuits taught him rhetoric and dictum, traits that would catapult Nutter into the world of politics and eventual to win the mayorship of Philadelphia. One reason for his success, quite frankly, was, again thanks to the Jebbies, his acquired diction: he was understood by white people; white people who matter, like bankers, captains of industry, and doyens at the Lombard Swim Club.

Later, four years at Penn's Wharton School polished Nutter’s manner. Wharton also taught accounting and how to maintain the bottom line.

The bottom line for the mayor of Philadelphia goes like this, “Keep them happy.”

Now you know I am not talking about “them” (the business establishment) in the same breath as “them” (citizen taxpayer).

Of the “them” I care about, like me, I care about garbage collections, street repairs, a reasonable maintained school system, and prompt responses from the police and fire departments. Bottom line: I am not happy.

My dismay does not bother Michael Nutter one bit. I do not matter in the lexicon of grandee ideas he was taught. I can be ignored. I exist to fill up the coffers of the city’s revenue office and for no other reason. After all, he does not need to appease me because he knows my vote will not count. It will not count because I live under the tyranny of a Democratic “one party city." Once the power structure has decided on a candidate, a voter’s participation involves just rubber stamping that minion. This is much like the “free” elections they used to have in Egypt.

A contender who wins in the Democratic primary need not appease angry voters because they will not have a choice in a viable election. Thus is the state of democracy in the People’s Republic of Philadelphia. Michael Nutter won his primary on May 17, 2011. He will be our mayor again for four more years.

The mayor has signed more executive orders (thirty-five so far and counting) than any other mayor in the past, thus curtailing the ability of City Council to check and balance his administration.

Instead of providing the children with adequately funded swimming pools, Mike gave us bike lanes on West River Drive. Instead of manning firehouses, he closed many and gave us a no smoking ordinance in city taprooms. He has proposed “Twinkie Taxes” to keep up the failing revenue instead of off-setting the lack of funds with truly innovative (for Philadelphia, at least) taxes -– like taxing corporate real estate (most of which is now exempt).

This way Mayor Nutter can kill two birds with one stone. As the Jesuits taught him, it is his duty to lead the masses, not listen to them. The mayor, although a practicing Baptist, likes this Catholic, hierarchal approach.

Recently, the most glaring example of this benevolent despotism was His Honor’s attempt to impose a two-cents per ounce tax on all sugar sweetened carbonated beverages. After all, children are too fat. The city’s proposed take would be a good because it would discourage parents from buying “killer pop, reducing, at a young age, the number of Philly's infamous fatties.

Fat people have heart disease. And unsightly rear ends. Plus, if this legislation passed, Philadelphians could keep their teachers. Otherwise, Nutter had threatened to reduce teacher rolls, employing this time another Jesuit approach, the carrot and the stick.

In the end, business (McDonald franchises) won out. (Not smart to bite the hand that feeds you, even if you are mayor). Cooler heads prevailed, and now all Philadelphia, except corporations, are faced with the burden of increased property taxes.

Unemployed Philadelphians, no longer paying the city's exorbitant wage tax, are now being asked to fork up more for a house that many cannot afford to live in.

Reason No. 2 not to eat at a fast-food joint. Including Ginos.