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“Is anybody there? Does anybody care?”

By Tom Morgan


Come with me on a short trip. We’ll travel from a North Syracuse repair shop to a tent in the Revolutionary War, and then to a Connecticut hotel.

Donna Curtin from Syracuse sends a simple plea to me. It brings to mind George Washington, as well as national politician George McGovern. 

In her letter, she explains that she owns Grace Body and Paint in North Syracuse, a collision-repair shop. She writes after she reads my column about how out of touch our politicians are and how they inflict uncertainty and difficulties upon business operators.

“Talk about laws we have to follow!” Donna writes. “It is mind blowing how lawmakers, supposedly intelligent folks, cannot see the horrible impact their decisions have on people, especially business owners. As one of my neighbors pointed out to a local official: If he were to go up and down the road we are on, he would see that most of these small businesses (like mine) employ under 10 people, not 50.

“Small-business laws have huge impacts on businesses our size. They create expenses that will eventually bury us. (The official never went down the road to talk to anyone, by the way.)”

Her words echo those of George Washington. When he leads the revolutionary army against the British, he writes 15 times to the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia. He gets no replies. Finally he asks, “Is anybody there? Does anybody care?”

That Congress is filled with men who do not listen to what Washington writes. Because of that, they nearly bungle the war for independence.

Our politicians do not listen today to the thoughts of Donna Curtin in Syracuse. Nor to the laments of hundreds of thousands of business owners. At every level of government they burden businesses with more taxes. And more regulations. And more rules and conditions. Business owners complain endlessly about this burden. In one way or another, they ask of the legislatures that rule them, “Is anybody there? Does anybody care?”

I write this in the present tense for a simple reason: The problems of George Washington’s times exist as much today as then. You realize this when you know he writes also of the burdens government lays unnecessarily upon men and women. He marvels that they have the patience to put up with them.

He also describes government as force. “Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” 

I suspect that today he might drive up and down that road in North Syracuse. And he might listen to a few of its business operators.

One of the most eloquent descriptions of the mess politicians create comes from the pen of George McGovern. He was a liberal, Democratic senator from South Dakota. He ran for the presidency in 1972 and lost in a landslide.

In 1992, he writes a piece for the Wall Street Journal. It is about his experiences — after his years in politics — in owning and running a small hotel in Connecticut. He has gone bankrupt. McGovern writes how his business was nibbled to death by needless regulations. Federal, state, and local rules. 

McGovern writes about how expensive it is to deal with frivolous lawsuits. The sort of lawsuits politicians can put a stop to with tort reform, but never do. I urge you to Google the article.

He might be having a drink with the woman from Syracuse when he writes: “I wish that during the years I was in public office I had had firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. Senator and a more understanding presidential contender.” 

If every politician had to work in the private sector before running for office, our government would improve beyond recognition. And, Donna Curtin from Syracuse would rarely have to ask, “Is anybody there?”

From in Morgan.   

Tom Morgan writes about financial and other subjects from his home near Oneonta, in addition to his radio shows and new TV show. For more information about him, visit his website at 

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