Political Racket

Good mawnin', doc!

“A racket is the surest and most profitable profession, if it may be called a profession. There is hardly a single form of human activity that is beyond the reach of a racket Broad-shouldered young men in light hats walk into a store and ask the merchant to pay them – these young men in light hats – a salary, regularly, every month. For that they will try to reduce the taxes which the merchant pays the state. If the merchant does not agree, the young men take out machine-guns and begin to shoot at his counter. Then the merchant agrees. That constitutes a racket. Later other young men come in and politely ask the merchant to pay them a salary for ridding him of the first group of young men. They, too, shoot up his place. That is another racket. Trade-union officials receive money from manufacturers for calling off strikes. From the workers they likewise receive money for getting them jobs. That, too, is a racket. Artists pay ten per cent, of their earnings to employment agents even when they find the jobs themselves. That also is a racket. A doctor of internal medicine sends a man whose liver is out of order to a dentist for consultation and receives from the latter forty per cent, of his fee. That is likewise a racket.

And other things happen. Here is one told us by a Chicago doctor:

“Just before elections to the Congress of the state of Illinois,” said the doctor, “a man whom I had never seen before in my life came into my house. He was a politician of the Republican party. A politician is a business man whose profession is only politics. Politics is his means of earning a livelihood. I detest people of that type: they are brazen, crude, impudent. They always have a wet cigar in their mouth, their hat is always askew, they have stupid eyes, and an imitation ring on a fat finger. “Good mawnin', doc,” the man said to me (meaning “Hello, doctor!”), “who are you going to vote for?” I wanted to hit him in the mug and throw him out into the street. But having appraised the width of his shoulders, I realized that if anyone were thrown out into the street, it would most likely be I. Therefore, I said modestly that I would vote for my favourite candidate. “All right,” said the politician. “I believe you have a daughter who has been waiting for four years to get a job as a school-teacher.” I told him that that was so. “All right, then,” said my uninvited guest, “if you will vote for our candidate, we will try to get a job for your daughter. We don't promise you anything definite, but if you vote for our opponent, then I can tell you quite definitely, your daughter will never get a job, she will never be a school-teacher.” That was the end of our conversation. “Good-bye, doctor,” he said in farewell. “I'll come in to see you on election day.” Well, of course, I was very much ashamed. I was indignant at this outrage. But on election day he actually drove up in his automobile to call for me. Again his fat cigar came in at the door of my home. “Good mawnin', doc,” he said, “can I give you a lift to the voting booth?” And, do you know, I actually went with him. I thought to myself, in the end does it make any difference who is elected a Democrat or a Republican – and maybe my daughter might get a job. I haven't told this story to anyone except you – I was so ashamed. Hut I am not the only one who leads such a political existence. Everywhere there is compulsion in one form or another. And if you want to be really honest, you must become a Communist. But to do that I must at once sacrifice everything, and that's too hard!”

Ilya Ilf and Eugene Petrov
«Little Golden America», 1937