Forget Washington

Scottie Hughes

7/13/2012 12:01:00 AM - Scottie Hughes

Let’s face it, this country is going broke. It doesn’t take a graduate from the Harvard School of Business to figure out that pretty soon China will soon be putting an eviction notice on our countries borders. 

But let’s ignore the trouble that is happening on the national scene.  It is the local municipalities that should really have every American worried. 

Day after day, we hear politicians and media analyst screaming on the networks about what the federal government should and should not do to save this country.  While I agree with taking care of the figurative roof over our head, unfortunately most Americans will not begin to pay attention to what is going on until their daily lives are strongly affected by the lack of funds in their communities. 

I don’t want to down play those who have lost their jobs after the economic crash of 2008, however even in these desperate times, there have always been jobs available.  The work might be well below a person’s expertise level, it might cause a reduction in the quality of life, or it could cause someone to relocate but they have always been available to those who were willing to work.  Whether it is flipping burgers at the local fast food chain, bagging groceries at the food mart or pumping gas, no job is too degrading when it comes to feeding and providing shelter for your family.  These jobs are still available and should always be in demand however, what happens when a municipality goes bankrupt?

The latest rash of bankrupting cities is because of a public perception that the only business, which continues to flourish is the government and walking around DC, I can see where people would get that impression.  Nowhere else in America is there more building and construction in progress with most improvements occurring on Government buildings and monuments. 

Another example that would give the general public the impression that America was rich would be on the blocks surrounding the downtown DC area.  In the past, one would never look to Washington DC as an epic for fashion however I can promise there are more designer labels walking the streets of DC then those in Beverly Hills these days.  Gone are the days of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.  Now it seems as though it is Mr. Christian Dior and Ms. CoCo Chanel ride to Washington in their E Class Mercedes Benz.  No wonder why the general public thinks that the Government owes them pay increases, great insurances packages and top dollar pensions.   When you look at the Capitol of our Government, you would get the impression that we have a plethora of treasure just needing to be distributed amongst the people.

Unfortunately, the wealth of DC is not the realistic situation of our state, county and city governments.  The crisis, which has been snow balling for years, was set in motion back in the 1950’s and 1960’s with the emergence of public sector unions and the Great Society. If anything good could result from the current situation, I would hope it would be the continued awakening of local governments to their ability to decertify or eliminate any public worker unions from their organization.  If a policy of zero tolerance of any union association was adopted by a local government, I guarantee they would see a resurgence of interest by the business community.  It has been proven time and time again businesses thrive in an environment with low taxes and less government intrusion and where the leadership of the company is allowed to make decisions from the top down.

Local municipalities who have to cover everything from funding public education, safety, recreation, transportation and much more were already strained by a reduction in tax revenue thanks to the economic downturn.   However when the stimulus package was passed, these communities were given a false sense of security.   Most local officials were looking for a quick solution to their overstretched budgets with hope that the repercussions would only surface after their terms expired.  Therefore, in a time when the warning signals were being sent to tighten budgets and save, many local governments did not heed the warnings, Instead, they hired additional employees and expanded services. 

Part of me wonders if these same elected officials thought that when the stimulus funds eventually ran out, a rainbow would appear and a little green man would emerge and give them a pot of gold!  Unfortunately, there is no rainbow and pots of gold in today’s economy and while we can continue to analyze why cities like Mammoth Lake are in the economic crisis, I would encourage everyone to go find their own local municipalities budget and take some time to read and understand where exactly your tax dollars are being allocated.

If you are frustrated with the politicians in DC and feel as though your words do not make a difference to those elected officials, I suggest you turn to your local representatives.  These public servants are more likely to take notice of your questions and concerns and you have a better chance of getting an honest personal response from them rather than a generic form letter.  These are the elected officials who are most responsible for your day -to -day life.  These are the ones who are charged with the oath to protect your property, educate your family and provide for the overall well being of your community.  These are the officials who must answer to you not only at the ballot box, but also in the grocery store, the local watering hole as well as your church parking lot.