The Municipal Maw of America's Abyss

Russ Vaughn
All politics is local? Well, so is the misfortune visited upon us by those same local politics. You would have to be senseless, completely blind and deaf, not to realize that municipal America is in a financial decline never before seen. Each day we open our newspapers to accounts of budgetary crises in local government. Each evening, the local TV talking heads solemnly intone the latest bad news about budget shortfalls in city and county government agencies. Programs are being cut back or eliminated and predictably the first to go are those which benefit the least fortunate among us.

But what is it that you don't hear? Could it be the supportive sound of those, who by virtue of their government employment, are relatively immune and untouched by declines in the American economy: our city and county workers? Could it be those, who in this plummeting economy, still expect an annual raise because that's what their contracts guarantee them, come Hell or high water?

I'm an old union hand who long ago lost any sympathy that might have lingered in my soul or cerebrum for the selfish corruption that the term, union, has now come to mean for most Americans. We see nothing but voracious greed and demands for more, more, more from public service unions, even as the municipalities which provide their lifeblood are being sucked into the financial abyss.

Claiming special status because of their high-risk professions, firefighters and police have used the bargaining power of public service unions to elevate themselves into an affluent and protected class, immune from criticism, because, by God, we need them, no matter what. Our cops and firefighters have become an essential, middle-class elite, immune to the fluctuations of life which the rest of us face every day throughout our lives.

To the claim that their professions are filled with risk, I would respond that we equally need our citizens in military service as well, and their pay and retirement benefits lag far behind those of many municipal police and firefighters. You have to serve thirty years in the military to get a retirement check that equals 75% of your final pay. Very few warriors make that cut. On the other hand, many municipalities, bullied by the public service unions, make that retirement figure 90% of final or highest pay, for even fewer years of service. And let us not forget, every single police officer and firefighter volunteered for the job and the risk associated with it.

We all know what's wrong with this picture, but we're reluctant to act because we need these first responders, right? Well, think about that for a moment and ask yourself if maybe your attitude and opinion haven't been shaped by the public service union bullies who use your fears to force your thinking to the position that these public servants are worth whatever the public coffers can pay. That clearly is public extortion.

I know some cops and I know some firefighters-they're all good folks. But are they willingly going to turn down the munificence offered them by public service unions? Of course not. But in their willingness to accept all these outlandish benefits, coupled with our sheepish willingness to grant them, they and we have stepped to the edge of the maw of the great abyss which will suck our communities and our nation into oblivion. Does it benefit brave men and women who serve to protect that we promise them benefits we'll never be able to pay?

Now, school teachers and their administrators? That's a whole ‘nother piece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All politics is local? Well, so is the misfortune visited upon us by those same local politics. You would have to be senseless, completely blind and deaf, not to realize that municipal America is in a financial decline never before seen. Each day we open our newspapers to accounts of budgetary crises in local government. Each evening, the local TV talking heads solemnly intone the latest bad news about budget shortfalls in city and county government agencies. Programs are being cut back or eliminated and predictably the first to go are those which benefit the least fortunate among us.

But what is it that you don't hear? Could it be the supportive sound of those, who by virtue of their government employment, are relatively immune and untouched by declines in the American economy: our city and county workers? Could it be those, who in this plummeting economy, still expect an annual raise because that's what their contracts guarantee them, come Hell or high water?

I'm an old union hand who long ago lost any sympathy that might have lingered in my soul or cerebrum for the selfish corruption that the term, union, has now come to mean for most Americans. We see nothing but voracious greed and demands for more, more, more from public service unions, even as the municipalities which provide their lifeblood are being sucked into the financial abyss.

Claiming special status because of their high-risk professions, firefighters and police have used the bargaining power of public service unions to elevate themselves into an affluent and protected class, immune from criticism, because, by God, we need them, no matter what. Our cops and firefighters have become an essential, middle-class elite, immune to the fluctuations of life which the rest of us face every day throughout our lives.

To the claim that their professions are filled with risk, I would respond that we equally need our citizens in military service as well, and their pay and retirement benefits lag far behind those of many municipal police and firefighters. You have to serve thirty years in the military to get a retirement check that equals 75% of your final pay. Very few warriors make that cut. On the other hand, many municipalities, bullied by the public service unions, make that retirement figure 90% of final or highest pay, for even fewer years of service. And let us not forget, every single police officer and firefighter volunteered for the job and the risk associated with it.

We all know what's wrong with this picture, but we're reluctant to act because we need these first responders, right? Well, think about that for a moment and ask yourself if maybe your attitude and opinion haven't been shaped by the public service union bullies who use your fears to force your thinking to the position that these public servants are worth whatever the public coffers can pay. That clearly is public extortion.

I know some cops and I know some firefighters-they're all good folks. But are they willingly going to turn down the munificence offered them by public service unions? Of course not. But in their willingness to accept all these outlandish benefits, coupled with our sheepish willingness to grant them, they and we have stepped to the edge of the maw of the great abyss which will suck our communities and our nation into oblivion. Does it benefit brave men and women who serve to protect that we promise them benefits we'll never be able to pay?

Now, school teachers and their administrators? That's a whole ‘nother piece.