Publisher's Note: Losing a fixed game
By Jody Reese
It’s hard for local, state or federal government to raise money in a fair broad-based way when its citizens don’t think it spends its money wisely. Citizens feel the game is fixed.
No matter who is in office, the crooks prevail — that’s the feeling anyway. And it’s hard to really blame people for thinking that way.
We’re not blind. We see Republicans now complaining about huge deficit spending in Washington when just a few years ago it was them racking up those huge deficits; and we saw the Democrats complaining about high deficits just a few years ago when the Republicans were in power, and now the Democrats are the ones racking up huge deficits.
There are no good guys. Instead of dealing with the cost of government in advance and how to control it before we reach the budget season, most politicians are happy to ignore it and then play the tough guy by urging flat spending or some other nonsense without laying the framework for flat spending. In Manchester, for example, Mayor Frank Guinta picked a number that would keep taxes flat, but did nothing to control spiraling employee costs. Governor John Lynch is not much better. At the state level we’re using one-time quick fixes to plug holes instead of looking at how we can restructure government to perform more efficiently.
And that’s my single biggest peeve about this entire process. Politicians know we feel that we’re not getting our money’s worth from them, so they use one-time revenue sources, taxes on booze, cigarettes, gambling and hacksaw cuts to level things out. For example, in many communities where teachers are being laid off it’s the teachers with less tenure who get laid off. Why is that? Shouldn’t the worst-performing teachers go first? I’m sure all of us can remember a few teachers who should have been in a different profession. It’s not possible that all the best teachers are the most tenured.
Many taxpayers feel squeezed in their profession by disappearing retirement plans, layoffs and wage clawbacks. Then they see government employees hired on their behalf earning above-average wages and million-dollar retirement plans. There’s an unfairness there that no elected officials have yet fully addressed and it goes to the feeling that the game is fixed.
The net result in all this general feeling that we’re not getting a square deal is that people don’t want to support government — heck, they don’t even want to vote. On a very practical level that means we the citizens get the worst of both worlds. We get an expensive government that does very little.
This is particularly frustrating to those of us who believe in good government. The nine scariest words in the English language are not “I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” as President Ronald Regan liked to say. They are, “It’ll be several days before we can help you.” — just recall Katrina.