Wednesday, May 07, 2008

If American communities are running out of money to pay for basic government services, then something is wrong.

Basic government services are things like electricity on demand, clean tap water, managed waste water treatment, police and fire services, infrastructure maintenance and improvements, public schools, and basic health services like malaria control and polio vaccines and food safety. When one looks at budgets at the city and county and state levels, it is obvious we Americans are generating vast amounts of public tax monies, yet so many of these same governments are having to also borrow to make ends meet given their local priorities and situations. Some of these services are privately run like electricity and infrastructure maintenance, with "government" regulation. And yet there is also a rising budget competition between basic government services and legal obligations to meet the very expensive obligations due to government union employees, mostly in retirements and medical benefits.

This rising problem is new in the last two decades, not universal as some cities, counties, and states have done better than others. Many fellow Americans have much to brag about. They've done well to date.

How and why did this ever come to pass? And why are studies to date so suspect; though some more trustworthy ones suggest two things. One is that property taxes, a major source of income for many city, county, and state governments is suffering from the loss of property wealth of 6 trillion dollars from the recent mortgage problems. Less property wealth means less property tax income for these governments. While the impacts are most likely a year downstream or more, some adverse effects are already appearing in Birmingham, AL, New Jersey, and California (the State and even the wonderful city of Vallejo). Second is a study suggesting about ¼ of Americans want to continue on the present courses of action, while ¾ worry about how to pay for all this largesse as if the band might not play on forever. The ability to borrow is not automatic, and a time may come when others may not loan us money without conditions we cannot accept. This is nothing new, as in WWII we had to have War Bond Drives to promote loaning. Moodys, the loan rating company, has already given us a window of closing of 2017 or so for this old status quo to end. And with less and less Americans actually paying taxes to finance all that has gone on (we are down to 28% taxpayers by one study), we are approaching a time when we may give a tax, and nobody comes. Less this seem silly, one can note that former very liberal (as in spending our taxpayer monies) Ohio Senator and self-made millionaire Metzenbaum moved his estate to Florida from Ohio to save on income taxes and death taxes. More tricky is the fine print applied to so many of our cities, counties, and state governments. That bankruptcy is an option may leave many citizens "holding the bag" of higher taxes (expenses) and lower services, as in no firemen when needed, or being shot on the local neighborhood street while walking the dog.

One obvious solution and “the something is wrong” go hand in hand. Those who wish for all Americans to live like old world royalty only need focus on the basics, and enhancing the quality and method of delivery of services, while living within ones’ means. Said another way, there are other courses of action (from what has gone on) and methods that suggest it is imperative to recognize the common good, what is good for it, and voting for politicians working in this direction. Many would call it a “boiler plate” for how to advance the common peoples' quality of life while living within ones’ means. Techniques such as time phasing and willingness to try and fail are as old as the hills, but seldom mentioned these days. Now that is something wrong. The wrong may be in priorities, techniques, weak standards, and our bad run of having poor national party leaders, and losers wanting to be in charge, and who want to have it all, now and at any expense.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The split in the road is the voters choice

Many decades ago America
approached a split in the road. We are still on that path we chose. However one chooses to judge that choice in hindsight, good, bad, or indifferent, the present state of affairs is on purpose. It is not by accident. We are, again, approaching another split in the road we are on. While we cannot reverse history, we certainly can influence our future history by the choice we make in the coming split in the road we are on. Our influence is called our vote.

An example might amplify this idea of choices and our future. We chose in our past to enhance our under classes by spending vast amount of monies on addressing underlying causes. Part of this choice was giving a main effort to addressing these underlying causes, while living with and accepting the effects of the low life criminals from this underclass, as in the murders and such other crimes committed on us and our children were considered secondary. We were expected to take the results like lemmings, and keep our mouths shut like good Americans. Performance based results fell by the wayside compared to bragging about how much money was being spent. That there were other courses of action, to include funding and borrowing, to reach the same goal was suppressed, in general.

The present state of affairs, and the general mess we are in, suggests a new split in the road is appearing. Admittedly, the future vision to the present driver is fuzzy, foggy, and somewhat blind. After all, the status quo is still alive, well, confident, and forceful. The present status quo is still about the two national parties, gaining tactical advantages in the coming elections by all the usual means, and continuing on the present course chosen long ago. The fuzzy future alternative choice appearing out of the road fog is one of national interests' first, living within our means, and holding people to standards we will establish. For example, there should be shame about having a child out of wedlock. After all, the idea is about the baby, not the Mom and Dad who should know better. And the parents and grandparents should pay, not we citizens. The burden should be on the immediate family, and not society. In such an example, those on this road include our religious leaders.

The voters might keep all this in mind. The changes will be understanding there are other courses of action, and our willingness to assert our selves in these other courses of action. After all, winners reinforce success, not failure.