It is a fact that virtually every material thing that exists on this earth is in limited supply. Chief among them is money. Each of us attempts to operate within a budget that is determined by our income and the purchases that we must make. Of course credit allows us to sometimes buy things that we might not be able to afford in a cash only world. Our homes are a perfect example of that kind of thing. Unfortunately many Americans are under water financially due to an inordinate reliance on credit. They are barely able to make minimal monthly payments and fall further and further into debt. Thus it also is with our federal and state governments, but most of us who vote and make demands on the tills often ignore the reality that we can’t just print more money to fulfill our desires, nor does money grow anywhere on trees. We instead insist that each of our favorite causes be funded without concern for the many many expenses that are required to keep all of the various programs running. Like individuals with a penchant for using charge cards to fund their desires, the government is bloated with debt without considering ways in which expenditures might be curtailed to get a handle on the runaway tab.
In a home if things get really bad we have to learn how to trim the budgetary fat. We may cut back on eating out, attempt to lower utility bills by turning out lights and raising the temperature on hot days. We cut off the cable and shop for better deals on food. We try to pay off bills and save more money for the future. If we are dedicated to repairing our budgets we will begin to see results, but we have to be willing to make sacrifices. We realize that we can’t always get what we want when we want it.
For some reason when it comes to both state and federal governments we have our pet projects and insist that there never be changes or reductions in funding even as the danger signals indicate that trouble is on the horizon. We ignore the basic concept that we either need to lower our expenditures or raise taxes if various programs are to remain viable, and we are almost always reluctant to do either of those things. Lawmakers who come up with rational ideas for saving pensions, educational expenditures, Social Security, Medicare and such are generally accused of being mean spirited or even intent on “killing” people. Those who insist that if we all pay our “fair share” we will be able to provide for everyone are thought to covet far too much of our incomes. So we are at an impasse. Things rarely change and the very real problems continue to fester.
A recent episode of Frontline focused on the dire straits of many of the pension plans for public sector workers and teachers. Such programs have often been poorly administered and have made risky investments that further put the many retirement programs in peril. In some states the funds will be gone in a few years and yet there are thousands of individuals who worked for a lifetime expecting to receive a particular income in their later years that now may or may not be there. Efforts by state legislatures to fix the problems by changing a few of the current rules have been met with anger. According to Frontline the money will soon run out in far too many places, but the workers are unwilling to accept ideas that might actually save the programs from going broke and leaving them in the lurch.
I think that all of us who vote need to insist that our lawmakers be honest with us about the state of our governmental budgets. We must accept the fact that we are dangerously headed toward an untenable situation if we do not begin to address the issues surrounding our out of control spending. We will have to both give and take if we are not to suddenly find ourselves so broke that our programs, infrastructures and basic services begin to fray and fall apart. The looming disaster has been on the horizon for many years and we have been unwilling to face the consequences of our avoidance behaviors.
It’s time to educate the public about the unvarnished truth without partisan attempts to wrest control by using our budget as a political football. We have to quit demonizing those who genuinely try to fix these problems. It is in our best interest as a nation to demonstrate a willingness to make the needed sacrifices to insure a more secure future for our country and its people.
At least twenty years ago I took a class on Benefits and Compensation. The professor warned back then that failure to address the glaring budgetary deficits would one day result in chaos. Already there are whole cities and even states that are being crushed by staggering debts and responsibilities that they are unable to provide as promised. It does us no good to make monetary demands from a pauper and yet that is what we continue to do as our government devolves from riches to rags with each passing year in which we do nothing.
As citizens we have the power to demand that our lawmakers serve us and the country. It’s time we become better educated about the state of affairs and open our minds to those who have ideas for fixing the problems.