For the vast majority of people, if a decision is to be made that benefits them, their expected reaction is to be in support of that decision. Therein lies the theory that seems to be the basis for our political system; folks are polarized to one side or another in the hope that the outcome they support will be best for them.
As elections approach, politicians appear to thrive and encourage this dissimilarity among citizens. The media takes full advantage of it in order to secure more readers or viewers and thus more advertising revenue. The outcome of all this is that every decision ends up with winners and losers no matter what level of government is taking the action or what the issue is that is being discussed.
Across the nation changes are being proposed and made in order to adjust to the new economy that has impacted budgets from the lowest municipality, to state offices and may soon finally impact the federal level. A lot of people are getting hurt in the process, as what they have become reliant upon during the good times when our economy was booming is simply not going to be sustained. That may not necessarily be the desire but it is today’s reality.
So what do we do when the most important elements of our society are feeling like they have again been forgotten? How do we manage the essential workers who provide us with our security, safety and the education of our children, who make our water flow and properly manage our trash and the wide variety of other services that are essential to keep our lives reasonable?
There are a lot of government services we can live without. Many are so discretionary they have become luxuries; things we like and we benefit from but could easily adjust to if changes are needed. These are by far the secondary levels of services that pale in comparison to the essential functions of government.
During the golden age of growth employees were fleeing from the government sector where they received basic training more or less, to only get snatched up by the private sector which at the time was paying premium wages while government positions were paying far lower. In order to retain people better government employees, benefit packages were introduced as a means of leveling the playing fields.
My how times have changed. Government work right now is the stable arena and many who once left are anxious to go back. While the private sector can respond to changes in the economy quickly, government cannot and the benefits once supported by high tax revenues are not easily or quickly changed when revenues no longer can support them.
Odd thing is, government workers paid their dues when the times were good and their wages were resoundingly lower than the private sector. Those who have stuck it out in many cases are still employed while the private job market is in the trash and even if work is again found, the rates and benefits are nothing compared to the recent past.
All of us are adjusting to the fact that less is better than nothing. Things that have been earned should not be taken away yet we do need to make adjustments going forward. The benefits of the private sector are not as readily protected as they are in government service. As such, meeting the commitments already made should be a top priority in government budget cuts and cutting of the non-essential discretionary expenses must occur before or concurrently with any changes in future benefit packages.
It is an easy decision to make when comparing issues side by side. Do we want to continue with better law enforcement, good teachers and other essential personnel or do we want to change the mulch in the medians more frequently just for appearance sake? Adding more roads and bridges also seems foolish when our population is declining and housing vacancy rates are higher than they have been in years; so should we consider losing lifesaving services to pay for such things when they can be postponed to better times?
It all rests in what we consider essential government services and how far the essential elements can go to compromise in a time when it is absolutely necessary to do so. Protests and disagreement will only polarize our nation at all levels, compromise will bring us together. Things will improve, but until they do current levels of expenses cannot. That does not mean we are tied forever to the reductions needed today.