I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it any more. I am tired of reading all these letters to the editor that write about government "living within its means." I don't think they get it. Government is not like those persons writing the letters that drive around in new Ford pick-ups or Lexus SUVs (not even an American-made car) or own 3,000 to 5,000 square foot homes on borrowed money. Government has to truly live within a balanced budget. No borrowing. No credit cards.
Government is more like a fireman, teacher or policeman who is forced to sign up for food stamps to make ends meet and keep their family together. Government is not getting paid enough to pay the mortgage on its home. Example: Schools forced to close due to lack of funds. Therefore, government is forced to move into a smaller house hoping to keep the family unit together. Examples: Courts and human service agencies must close on Fridays and schools are open for less than the minimum days allowable by law. During the winter months, the cold weather (economic recession) has forced government to burn furniture in its home. Example: eliminating vocational education, music, arts and sports programs in the schools. Not only must the furniture go, but in some cases the government homeowner must pull boards off the walls to stay warm. Example: increasing school class sizes to 40 and 45 elementary students.
But there has not been enough bleeding, say government's neighbors. They want more blood. "Government makes more than I do." So now it looks like some of the government family will have to be sent to live with relatives in other states with aunts and uncles who want them and are willing to pay for them. Examples: Scores of state police laid off and first-class professors and teachers given pink slips. California, Washington, and Nevada, wait anxiously at the border.
"Not enough!" say the government's neighbors as they drink Starbucks coffee while vacationing at their second homes on the coast, pondering when they can expect their next tax cut. Yet have they even considered that the homes and families they now want to decimate are the same homes and families that provided them with the education, services and protections that allow them to drink that cup of coffee in their lovely vacation home?
Times have become so rough for the government family that they have had to leave their children home alone without a decent day care provider. Examples: Fewer prisons, probation officers and social workers. The neighbors aren't even willing to contribute to a bake sale or pop can collection to assist their government neighbor to keep their home and family together. Example: Ballot Measure 28. "We can't afford to give you a dozen cookies. We can't afford to give you our pop cans. We need those to buy that cup of Starbucks!"
Government is for the common good of the community. If the neighbors don't care about the common good, then they will not complain when the pot holes reappear in the roads, their private schools cost too much, neighborhood crime rises because the kids have nothing to do after school and during those extended summer vacations, (most juvenile crime takes place between 3 and 8 p.m.) they must install ugly bars on their windows and install home security alarms systems.
But what happened to that neighbor, the government, who they used to give a couple bucks to keep them safe and happy? Oh, that's right, they had to move. But the good part is that they have no responsibility for them anymore and they have more money in their pockets. But do they really have more money? Their rates for fire insurance will increase due to a lack of government family members called firefighters. Without the spending in the community by their government neighbor and family members (prison employees, teachers, state police, firefighters, professors, social workers and probation officers) and what with new businesses being unwilling to relocate to a place with second rate K-12 schools and higher education systems, lack of neighborhood safety and few human services, that extra money in their pocket may not be there. As a matter of fact, some extra money may now be gone so they can pay for ways to provide for their own safety and such.
Seriously, when I reflect on the teachers that have died in "our" public schools teaching and protecting "our" kids, the firemen and policemen that gave their lives on 9-11 and, unfortunately, too many other occasions, I cannot believe that we as a community do not respect their work and do not want to adequately compensate them. Are we so selfish that we only think about our own salaries and pensions and not those brave neighbors who are putting their lives on the line for the good of everyone? Our parents were the "Greatest Generation," sacrificing their lives for us and financing a government that built a strong community. We, the baby boomers, are "The Me Generation," taking all we can, whether it is our money, our environment, our natural resources or anything else we want because it is what each individual person wants for themselves. Gone is the caring about the future generations to come, our children, grandchildren.
As a native Oregonian, I have never been so disappointed in my state. I never thought we would stoop to the level of our neighbors to the south. It took California 20-plus years to come to its senses and begin to rebuild its infrastructure after destroying it through Proposition 13. How long will it take us? I love my government neighbors and respect their work. They are critical to a vital Oregon. When will we realize that a vibrant neighborhood rewards us all? When will the lack of caring end and the love of our community and state return?
Carl Odin lives in Pendleton.