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. If I were a developer I would be looking at the Fountain Square and Fletcher Place neighborhoods instead of Broad Ripple. I would avoid the dysfunctional BRVA with all of their headaches. It's like deciding between a Blackberry or an iPhone 5s smartphone. BR is greatly in need of updates. It has become stale and outdated. Whereas Fountain Square, Fletcher Place and Mass Ave have become the "new" Broad Ripples. Every time I see people on the strip in BR on the weekend I want to ask them, "How is it you are not familiar with Fountain Square or Mass Ave? You have choices and you choose BR?" Long vacant storefronts like the old Scholar's Inn Bake House and ZA, both on prominent corners, hurt the village's image. Many business on the strip could use updated facades. Cigarette butt covered sidewalks and graffiti covered walls don't help either. The whole strip just looks like it needs to be power washed. I know there is more to the BRV than the 700-1100 blocks of Broad Ripple Ave, but that is what people see when they think of BR. It will always be a nice place live, but is quickly becoming a not-so-nice place to visit.

  2. I sure hope so and would gladly join a law suit against them. They flat out rob people and their little punk scam artist telephone losers actually enjoy it. I would love to run into one of them some day!!

  3. Biggest scam ever!! Took 307 out of my bank ac count. Never received a single call! They prey on new small business and flat out rob them! Do not sign up with these thieves. I filed a complaint with the ftc. I suggest doing the same ic they robbed you too.

  4. Woohoo! We're #200!!! Absolutely disgusting. Bring on the congestion. Indianapolis NEEDS it.

  5. So Westfield invested about $30M in developing Grand Park and attendance to date is good enough that local hotel can't meet the demand. Carmel invested $180M in the Palladium - which generates zero hotel demand for its casino acts. Which Mayor made the better decision?