HETRICK: The fools who tarnish our shining city on the hill

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Bruce Hetrick

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”

Matthew 5:14

En route from England to America in 1630, Puritan minister John Winthrop laid out a vision for his fellow colonists: “We must always consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill,” he said. “The eyes of all people are upon us.”

President-elect John F. Kennedy picked up the mantra in 1961, sharing Winthrop’s story and saying, “Today, the eyes of all people are truly upon us—and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, state and local, must be as a city upon a hill—constructed and inhabited by men aware of their great trust and their great responsibilities.”

And from his nomination to his final day in office, President Ronald Reagan carried the torch.

“I’ve spoken of the Shining City all my political life,” Reagan said in his 1989 farewell address. “But I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

Two decades after Reagan, I watched the debt-ceiling debate, with all its bickering and backstabbing.

There were no “rocks stronger than oceans,” just sand swirling in a riptide.

There were no “people of every kind living in harmony and peace,” just partisans teeming with anger and self-interest.

As for doors “open to anyone with the will and heart to get here,” well, no.

In 2011, if there are congressional leaders “aware of their great trust and their great responsibilities,” leaders who care that “the eyes of all people are truly upon us,” they’re not showing it. Our dysfunctional government smacks more of Paul McCartney’s “Fool on the Hill” than the Book of Matthew:

Well on the way, head in a cloud,

The man of a thousand voices talking perfectly loud,

But nobody ever hears him,

Or the sound he appears to make,

And he never seems to notice.

But the fool on the hill sees the sun going down

And the eyes in his head see the world spinning round.

When our representatives were running for office last year, they told us the big issue was jobs. House Speaker John Boehner likes to ask President Barack Obama, “Where are the jobs?”

Well, I’d like to ask Boehner a question: Where is the promised job-creating legislation?

Sure, some say extending the Bush tax cuts, reducing the federal deficit, capping the debt ceiling, limiting regulations, weakening labor unions, rolling back health-insurance reform and slashing the federal payroll will help create jobs.

Some believe small-business owners like me will reap big savings from such measures and use the money to grow our companies.

But it’s not working. And if past is prologue, it rarely does.

As Will Rogers said during the Great Depression: “The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night, anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands.”

In 1980, then-presidential candidate George H.W. Bush called it “voodoo economics.”

Yet his son, President George W. Bush, put the practice into play with two tax cuts and a trickle-down promise. Our current leaders extended those tax cuts.

Net impact: A 2011 Washington Post analysis says the Bush tax cuts have, so far, added $1.3 trillion to the national debt. Yet the resulting trickle didn’t translate into jobs. On the contrary, a 2009 Wall Street Journal analysis said the George W. Bush presidency delivered “the worst track record for job creation since the government began keeping records.”

During the Bush presidency, and despite the alleged tax-cut windfall, I had to stop creating jobs and start eliminating them. I found myself swimming in excess office space. I struggled to sustain the compensation and benefits my employees expected and deserved.

And with today’s dysfunctional government, it’s only gotten worse for my small business and others.

The dirty word, you see, isn’t taxes or government. It’s uncertainty—uncertainty born of chaos, gridlock and a focus not on, “We have your back, Ms. Business Owner,” but on, “Let’s stab the other party in the back so they won’t get re-elected.”

If you want to create jobs, dump the fools-on-the-hill routine. Be worthy of the Shining City. The eyes of all people are, after all, upon us.•


Hetrick is chairman and CEO of Hetrick Communications Inc., an Indianapolis-based public relations and marketing communications firm. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.


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  1. A couple of issues need some clarification especially since my name was on the list. I am not sure how this information was obtained and from where. For me, the amount was incorrect to begin with and the money does not come to me personally. I am guessing that the names listed are the Principal Investigators (individual responsible for the conduct of the trail) for the different pharmaceutical trials and not the entity which receives the checks. In my case, I participate in Phase II and Phase III trials which are required for new drug development. Your article should differentiate the amount of money received for consulting, for speaking fees, and for conduct of a clinical trial for new drug development. The lumping of all of these categories may give the reader a false impression of physicians just trying to get rich. The Sunshine Law may help to differentiate these categories in the future. The public should be aware that the Clinical Trial Industry could be a real economic driver for Indiana since these revenues supports jobs and new job creation. Nationally, this account for 10-20 billion which our State is missing out on to a large degree. Yes, new drug and technology development has gotten most of the attention (e.g. CTSI, BioCrossroads, etc.) However, serious money is being left on the table by not participating in the clinical trials to get those new drugs and medical devices on the market!!!! I guess that this is not sexy enough for academia.

  2. The address given for the Goldfish Swim Club is the Ace Hardware, is it closing?

  3. Out of state management and ownership. If Kite controlled it, everything would be leased. Of course, due to the roundabout, there is limited access to the south side of 116th now also. Just have to go down to the light.

  4. Hey smudge, You're opposed to arresting people for minor crimes? Sounds great! We should only focus on murders and such, right? Let's stand around and wait until someone shoots someone before we act. Whatever we do, we should never question anyone, frisk anyone, or arrest anyone unless they are actively engaged in shooting or stabbing. Very sound!

  5. You guys are being really rude to gays in the comments. (Not all of you, I presume). You need to stop it. Gays have just as much of a right to marry as straight people do. It's not fair how you guys are denying them equal rights. They're acting more human than you'll ever be. We obviously haven't matured since the bible was last updated. Hate the sin, not the sinner. You've all committed a sin at least once in your life. You've lied, you've stolen, etc. (Those are just possibilities). We should have a planet for people that support gay rights and a planet for people that don't. Then, gay people could get married without you bigots interfering with their love life. How would you feel if straights couldn't get married? How would you feel if teenagers were afraid to come out to their parents as straight? If straight people got hate everywhere they went? If straight people were afraid to go out in public, because they feared being judged? It's never going to happen at the rate society is going. You haven't seen the side of me where I act obscene. You're glad my inner demon hasn't been released. I would, but oh no, my comment would be removed because of my very strong emotions about this subject. I love gays, and love how they show their affection for each other. I just ADORE how a state is going to give same-sex couples a marriage license, then changes their mind. (I was obviously being sarcastic there). I just LOVE how society thinks gays are an abomination to our society. You're caring about marriage between two men or two women. That's a small thing. Just grow up, and let them marry. Let them live their lives. You can't make them change their sexuality. You can't make them change their lifestyle. In my opinion, gays are more than welcome to marry. Please, grow up and realize that people should be allowed to marry, even if it's same-sex marriage. You guys are saying that "the bible said gay marriage is wrong." Well, guess what else is wrong? Read Matthew:7 and you'll find out. (I am in no way breaking that. I am saying a fact). I'm stating that gays have just as much of a right to marry as straights do. (: