U.S. Figure Skating manages that sport in America. It pays some office workers but the officers and directors that run the sport are unpaid volunteers, elected by the local skating clubs around the country. While that sounds a far remove from an American Congressperson, the parallels are striking.
First, let’s analyze that ‘unpaid’ thing. The officers and directors elected are invariably, long time skating officials, usually judges. Their work consists of some correspondence and a couple of weekend meetings annually. Their positions result in invitations to officiate at several U.S. events around the country, all expenses paid. Plus for the more politically connected, at least a couple of events in nice places in Europe and Asia, also free of expense. And of course the usual bowing and scraping whenever one shows up at a figure skating venue. Not a bad deal, in exchange for continuing to hang at the rink after hanging up ones’ skates.
Some of the sports’ managers control a considerable budget; others control the promotions (or lack of same) up the official rankings for officials. Still others pick the lists for travel to favored events. It’s important then to please these people if one wishes to get ahead; much thought and effort goes into both getting ahead and preventing some others from doing so. In other words, these folk are politicians working in a politicized atmosphere. Each will tell you she is working only as a voluntary contribution to the sport she loves and is motivated only by whatever is good for the sport. I imagine any sober Congressperson will assure constituents he/she/it is working only for the official salary and the good of the U.S.A, too.
We all note now that Congress continues to spend legally counterfeit money in lieu of genuine income in order to stave off the collapse that the enormous debt now going on $700,000 per American family is bringing us. Add what the papered-over real estate and other investment losses festering in the banks will ultimately visit upon the U.S, after the elections. Back at the rink, U.S. Figure Skating has been defunded by the exit of its TV coverage and related sponsors, depriving it of the money to send multiple teams of skaters to all those nice, foriegn places. That deprives the officials of events to attend via expense-paid trips, too.
A decently managed country wouldn’t be broke from multiplying social and military spending beyond its capacity and a decently managed sport wouldn’t spend more than it takes in to keep its high-ranking officials traveling to nice places. However, back at reality, we know what they’re doing to us in Washington, at least if we’re willing to look. And the skating officials are doing the same thing, not by printing money but by spending down the carefully accumulated investments the sport wisely put away during the golden years of TV in order to handle emergencies.
U.S. Figure Skating and Washington, D.C. will each shortly hit the end of its financial tether going a hundred miles an hour; both sets of politicians will be looking for someone to blame. They will in each case, find the guilty party in a mirror but they will refuse to open their eyes when the mirror faces them. It will have to be Bushes’ fault, right?
When one gets to the bottom of these sorts of things, there seems to be a single, very clear, common denominator. Whether the subject is a country or a sport, the managers are selected from the same species, subject to the same behavior for millennia. And the voters who have selected them are no different.