The Job Creation Secret

Chatting with Willie the security guy in the bustling hallway of the City Hall/County Building in Chicago when the swirling gold elevator door swooshes open and four shadowy figures in black trench coats and sunglasses pop out, scan the hall as if their necks were all attached to the same string, and then walk briskly to the LaSalle Street entrance and circle outside through the revolving door.

I had noticed that they all came from the 5th floor. The Mayor’s floor. Three men and a woman. I knew it was a woman because the trench coat was form fitting. Long black hair to her shoulders. The silver funnel tin hat perched on her head.

“What the hell was all that about?” I asked Willie.

“Big meeting.”

“Like for a movie or something?”

“Hah. Should be that!” Willie chuckled. “But it’s about jobs.”

“For those four? They looked like the Marx brothers trying to sneak into a country club.”

“Well, you ain’t all that far off. They all dressed up like that cause they don’t want anyone to know they asking for advice from Mayor.” Willie said.

“So who are they?” I asked.

“They four of the folks who want to be the next President.”

“Of what, the Screen Actors Guild?”

“Of the United States. That was Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney and Michelle Bachman. She’s the one with the tin hat.”

“What do they want advice on? Fashion?”

“They want to know how to create jobs. Seems like no one’s really cracked the code on doing that in a way that wouldn’t piss no one off.”

“Yeah,” I said. “That’s a bitch. Getting something done without pissing someone off. That can be tough.”

“I think what they all doin is making up stuff that sounds good but doesn’t really mean nothing.” Willie said, folding his arms and taking up his post in front of the golden elevator.

“Like what? What did they all come up with on their own?”

“Let’s see if I remember this right,” Willie looked up at the ceiling as he thought. And he continued. “Rick Santorum said that he’d create jobs by taking away health care and drilling for oil.”

“Big thinker huh? Gosh, maybe I should go out on Clark Street, step in front of a moving car, get hit and not be covered. Maybe that would create a job.”

“You crazy Roger.”

“What about the other 3 knuckleheads? What did they come up with on their own?”

“Well Santorum. He also said that this time we would REALLY let the wealth trickle down. Pawlenty said that tax cutting would bring out the job creation fairy and put her to work. Mr. Romney didn’t have a plan. And that lady with the tin hat, she said that getting rid of the EPA would create jobs.”

“Getting rid of the EPA? Would create jobs?”

“Uh huh.”

“I wonder if Richard Nixon ever thought about that when he created the EPA? I wonder if he ever said to his wife, ‘Pat, this EPA is a great thing because we’re destroying the planet, killing the air, the rivers and streams. But we might have to stop controlling all that destruction some day because you know that it could kill jobs?”

‘I don’t suppose he did say that.” Willie nodded.

“So what happened in the meeting with the Mayor? What advice did he give them? I bet it was a long meeting.”

“Actually,” Willie said, “The meeting lasted 90 seconds.

“90 seconds! That can’t be right. These are complex issues. Not just local. National. These are global issues. There are policy people. Thinkers. David Brooks writes columns. Lobbyists. International monetary factors. Economic trends. Polling numbers. How could the Mayor cover all that in 90 seconds? Did he just tell ‘um all to f— off or something?”

Willie narrowed his eyes and scoffed. “Roger, you know that whole trash talking train left the station long ago. Why don’t you ask me if Al Capone is having a drink down the street while you’re at it?”

“Ok. Sorry. Yeah, I do know that. But what I don’t know is what he told these people. What’s the secret to creating real jobs? Which policy? Which plan? If we cut the national Institute of Health will that create even more jobs? What do we do? What did the Mayor tell them to do?”

“He told them to ask.”

“Huh? Whattya mean ‘ask”? That’s too simple. How could that work? Ask who?

“Ask the people who have jobs to fill them in Chicago. Just ask.”

“Just ask? That’s crazy. How does he know this will work? Were their studies? Commissions?”

“No, there was a Bulls game.”


“At a basketball game, the Mayor asked the CEO of Motorola to make Chicago home for 400 brand new jobs. Good ones.”

“That it? 400? What kind of subsidy did he have to give to make that happen?”

“No, that’s not it. The number is inching up to three thousand. Three thousand new jobs in the first month of office. Three companies. GE Financial, United Airlines and Motorola. No government subsidies. No promises of future business. Now Motorola already does business with the city. But there was no horse trading there. There was just ‘the ask.”

“Just the ask?”

“That’s it. That’s the secret. You ask.”

“Damn. That’s pretty simple. Probably gonna piss a bunch of people off. Something that simple. Something that works. That already has worked.”

“Well,” said Willie. That’s what he did. He told ‘um, ‘just ask.’ “

“Then what?”

“Then he told them to have a nice day. And they left.”

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