In this first of a series, I have a guest post for you. Written by a friend of mine, it touches upon several of the issues we often cover here. Feel free to provide "feedback" in the comments section.
This Can’t End Well!
I am just an average Midwestern guy with a family, nice home and a solid job. I suppose in most respects many people would say I have achieved the great American Dream! I am at a point in my life where I should be able to begin to relax a little and enjoy more of the fruits of my labor! Though I have had success both in my professional and personal life I see things going on around me and I worry…sometimes a little too much!
This past weekend while enjoying some college football, a cold beer (or two) and some good conversation with a buddy of mine I found the occasion I found myself uttering the phrase “this can’t end well”. I was telling my buddy about something I had read earlier in the week about a city in Michigan that could no longer afford to pay their electric bill so they were turning off, and in some cases, removing street lights. Now I’m guessing the average person might have seen that and not thought much more about it other than “glad that’s not happening in my city!” And while it may not be happening in your city or neighborhoods today there is chance that it will happen in many more and soon. I am sure you have seen in the headlines the problems that states/cities/municipalities are having in balancing their budgets. One of the biggest cost drivers that they have to deal with are the unsustainable levels of pension and healthcare benefits that have been promised to public employees. Now before you go and feel sorry for the governments, they got themselves in this mess (with a lot of help from unions) because it is always easier to promise things to people that won’t come due while you are in office.
When personnel costs become too excessive in the private sector, businesses will reduce staff and the level of benefits they provide or they won’t be around long to provide them. This doesn’t seem to happen often in the public employee world. There have been a few state and local governments that have tried and usually it results in public protests, harassments and threats against the individuals who suggest that some fiscal sanity is a reasonable path forward. As we’ve seen for the past several months in Greece, the idea that those living off the public largess would have to make some sacrifice results in mobs and riots and violence. Surely that kind of thing can’t happen here….right? While it didn’t quite reach the true riot and violence level there was certainly a fair amount of “protests” in Wisconsin when the Governor was trying to limit the ability of public workers to put such a strain on the government that it had to cut services or perhaps even go bankrupt. Heck, just watch the “Occupy (fill in blank)” crowd and they don’t even know why they are protesting! What if government actually cut their subsidies…
The fact that a city would cut off a service as basic as street lights got me to thinking about what could be next. If reducing the light bill doesn’t fix the cash flow problems what is next. Do they cut back on road maintenance? Water treatment? Police? Fire protection? Do you ever wonder why when money is tight the first things that get mentioned to cut are the things that governments exist to provide in the first place! As I stated before I consider myself the an average guy who does the right things and meets his obligations but I got to wondering what if my city no longer could provide the basic service that they are paid by me (and my other law abiding , responsible neighbors) to do? So what would happen to a community/society where the producers (i.e taxpayers) no longer receive the basic benefits that their taxes are supposed to fund? How many of us knowingly continue to pay for a good or service that we no longer receive. So we stop paying, either in the form of civil disobedience or simply by moving to another community that we believe will provide the basics we are paying for. If that happens, it will only exasperate the local governments’ problems even more. Now we will have protest both from those that pay and those that live off the system……this can’t end well!