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Finneran: Two Questions

Friday, July 13, 2018


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Two questions.

They are never asked. Therefore, they are never answered.

No wonder the press is held in such low regard. No wonder that our politics seems so full of slogans and so devoid of meaning.

The media’s habit of anointing “rising stars” is a joke. It reeks of glitz, of celebrity, of Madison Avenue manipulation, and of lazy reporting.

Let’s get to the questions:

Question 1: What have you done?

Question 2: What is your solution?

Regarding Question 1, you would think that some form of actual achievement would be necessary in order to be considered a “rising star”. Some measurable achievement, some meaningful accomplishment is certainly in the mix when we assess potential in other real-world realms. Have you ever sold something? Have you discerned an emerging opportunity? Have you anticipated and analyzed a social or economic need. Have you lead something? Have you run a business? For example, the rising star label in sports requires actual performance. Mike Trout and Mookie Betts are legitimate rising stars. As is Jayson Tatum of the Celtics. They have actually done something, going far beyond words to substantive and impressive deeds. The same is true in the realms of law, medicine, business, banking, and countless human endeavors.

I’ll concede the point that in the realm of politics and public office there are no easy yardsticks of performance. Elected officials can be very good at their jobs and yet lack “runs batted in” or “points per game” measurements. Those officials are sometimes forced to operate in dysfunctional arenas as appears to be the case today in Washington D.C. Yet they do their jobs and they do them well---reading, listening, thinking, reaching out, building relationships, asking questions, establishing credibility, and accumulating both wisdom and respect. Think Lynch, Neal, Kennedy, Keating…………

Which brings us to Question 2, the “what is your solution” inquiry.

Consider the media furor over the political victory earned by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in last week’s New York congressional primary over a long-term but distracted and slow-footed incumbent. One would think that Mother Teresa had descended from the heavens, bringing with her insights beyond compare and redemption for the human race. Such lavish praise for a bartender! Having tended bar for several years myself, and appreciating the skill set of anyone who gives a good pour, I harbor no hostility to hospitable servers. As the saying goes, some of my best friends are bartenders…………………

Ms. Cortez has identified “income inequality” as an imperative concern. The issue certainly seems to have the du jour cachet that aspiring pols latch on to. But, to break the reverie of adoration and wonderment, might some reporter actually ask the “what is your solution” question?

Is Miss Cortez’ solution a tax increase? If so, on whom should taxes be raised? Would she raise taxes only on the “wealthy”? How does she define “wealthy”? Is the utterly exhausted couple working two or more jobs and earning six-figure incomes “too rich”, “too wealthy”, or merely too comfortable for Ms. Cortez’ political taste? On what basis would she take money from the “rich” and give it too the “poor”? How much money would she give each “poor” person? Would she raise the minimum wage? If so, how high? Should that minimum wage be twenty dollars an hour? Why not thirty dollars an hour? Wouldn’t fifty dollars an hour make a real difference in people’s lives? What is her upper limit? And, more importantly, what is the philosophical basis of any upper limit she might embrace? Does she concede that job loss might be the companion of minimum wage warfare? You get the idea……………………

Instead of persistent legitimate questions—the what have you done/what would you do standard---we get fawning nonsense about “rising stars”.

None of this, of course, is Ms. Cortez’ fault. She is merely the beneficiary of a troubling media trend of anointing “stars” for our uninformed adoration. All together now, let’s swoon.

The habit reeks of Hollywood. Spare me the hype. Spare me the nonsense. Ask the questions.

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio


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