Daley: We're a 'country of whiners'
Posted by Rick Pearson at 6:59 p.m.
Retiring Mayor Richard Daley contended today that America is a “country of whiners” that’s spent the last four decades fearing the impact of foreign governments on the nation’s economy instead of showing the confidence and sacrifice to lead on a global stage.
Daley also said he believed taxpayers can no longer finance the current level of government and suggested priorities need to be placed on municipal services that can be privatized or outsourced to cut costs. And he blasted a teachers’ union he argued was more concerned about pay than in taking responsibility for educating the less well off.
The comments by the mayor, who is giving way to Rahm Emanuel after 22 years on May 16, came during a lecture before several hundred people at Wheaton College. The visit was in support of the school’s J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy. Hastert, a former U.S. House speaker from Plano, is a college alumnus.
Daley delivered a 44-minute wide-ranging speech and then spent another 15 minutes answering written questions from students. The Democratic mayor noted that he and Republican Hastert worked together for the region despite their partisan labels and bemoaned a lack of respect that had gone beyond politics into “society in general.” Daley’s talk had the appearance of a tryout for a post-retirement career that includes paid public-speaking gigs.
Responding to a student question about how to restore America, Daley said, “We have become a country of whiners” as the audience laughed and applauded. He noted Americans feared a Japanese takeover of the economy in the 1970s and later bemoaned the loss of manufacturing jobs to Mexico.
“Now we’re whining about the Chinese and the Indians,” said Daley, who has cultivated Chinese leaders in an effort to make Chicago a tourism and business gateway to the United States. “We should have the confidence that we can compete with people if we all sacrifice a little bit for the common good. And, if we do that, we can compete with any nation.”
With the city facing a huge budget deficit and having spent much of the proceeds from a controversial 75-year parking meter lease to paper over previous budget holes, Daley criticized a federal government that created a huge debt by spending money it didn’t have.
“The cost of government has to go down. It can’t keep growing. It has to someway level off,” Daley said, adding that it was “unacceptable” to burden another generation with the costs of paying down debt.
“I don’t think the taxpayers at the present and in the future can afford the costs of government,” Daley said. “I don’t believe they can, because the cost of government is going up faster than the cost that you can bear in your own pocketbook. I firmly believe that. It cannot go up so significantly each year for the cost of government. And that’s why you have to look at the value” of various government services to taxpayers.”