Fifteen-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was an honor student, volleyball player and majorette who one week earlier was performing with her high school band at President Obama's inauguration ceremony. On Saturday, first lady Michelle Obama flew to Chicago to visit Hadiya -- paying respects at her funeral.
The King College Prep student was one of 42 homicide victims in Chicago during the month of January. Pendleton's story is an all-too-common tale in the Windy City. You wouldn't know it, though, due to the media and political efforts to control the conversation -- using this deadly epidemic for the national cause of gun control instead of actually making life safer back in Chicago.
Last year, more than 500 individuals were murdered in Chicago. The public perception is that the violence is always gang related -- criminal killing criminal. Gun control advocates use this point of view to combat critics who claim that Chicago, which has the toughest gun laws in the country, is an example that gun control doesn't work. What Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel don't want to discuss is that gang related or not, innocent children are being buried in their own backyard.
Fifty-six children -- under the age of 18 -- met violent ends last year in Chicago, while 133 individuals -- nearly one-third of all the murdered victims -- never saw their 21st birthdays. Still, the city and the state don't want to talk about the nightmare that Chicago's African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods have become. Nobody is asking how the disastrous economy of Illinois is contributing to violence on the streets of Chicago.
Illinois has an unfunded pension deficit of $200 billion. It now lays claim to the worst credit rating in the nation. Single-party rule -- controlled by public-employee unions -- has created a business climate that is benefiting neighboring states. The black unemployment rate average in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, was 24.2 percent. That is not a typo -- the unemployment rate in Chicago's black community is almost 1 in 4. The overwhelming majority of the murders take place in minority neighborhoods, which implies this is not a gun control issue -- "it's the economy, stupid."
In Illinois, nobody is talking about the "kick the can down the road" mentality that is killing our children -- literally. Elected officials for over a decade have seen their policies fail time after time. They continue down the same path, knowing full well their policies do more economic harm than good. They are more concerned with power than people. The results are higher taxes, fleeing businesses and no jobs. Minority communities get hit the hardest.
Guns don't kill people -- politicians do.
With the start of the new year, Illinois officials, who take their cue from the Cook County Democratic Party machine, have ignored the financial woes of the state. Driver's licenses for illegal immigrants and homosexual "marriage" have dominated the agenda this year. Regardless of your opinion on these issues, jobs and the economy must take priority.
Unemployment in minority communities is appalling. That story line in Chicago is the same from Detroit to Baltimore and Oakland to St. Louis. The most dangerous cities in the nation have minority communities that see no hope because they have little opportunity. The results have been the same throughout human history -- poverty leads to violence and hopelessness equals suffering.
Mr. Emanuel is undoubtedly a man of his word. He is living up to his most infamous quote: "Never let a serious crisis go to waste." Ever since the horrific Sandy Hook school shooting in December, Mr. Emanuel has led a crusade for more gun control, targeting gun manufacturers and Second Amendment advocates at every turn.
What about the mayor's hometown? Chicago already has the strictest gun control laws in the nation, yet somehow, the city is the deadliest in the nation. We should be asking why. Maybe it's not just about firearms.
Like most issues in the national spotlight, common sense and decency take a back seat to political posturing and agenda-driven partisanship. I don't pretend to have all the answers about how to prevent gun violence. I do know that politicians whose actions prevent prosperity and opportunity from reaching these impoverished neighborhoods in order to protect their own power might as well be driving the getaway car.
Paul Miller is a principal of Pauliegroup LLC, a Chicago-area new media and political consulting firm.