Every now than then I can’t help but make a post here about the current state of affairs in my Village, state and the nation.This is one such post. I’ve gotten it out of my system ans will return to my normal focus on faith-based inspirational messages with my next post. One cannot ignore the crumbling infrastructure all around and not see the root causes of that deterioration.
“In this world, you get what you pay for.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle
That quote has been used in commercials and elsewhere, but seldom in politics, where some apparently believe that you can still get, even if you ae unwilling to pay for it.
The recent rise into power of the conservative political party has resulted in numerous tax cuts that have left state and local governments destitute and unable to pay for basic infrastructure services or education – two of their primary roles. Many local governments are barely able to continue to provide police and fire protections, with some even having to abandon those services, too.
Voters seem happy to see tax cuts and then can’t figure out why their roads and bridges are crumbling or the teachers in their schools are striking. Yet, when election time rolls around, these same politicians will still be blaming their political opponents of being “tax and spend” liberals. Well, duh; how do you think things get fixed if you don’t raise fund through taxation and then spend it to make the needed repairs or to reward the educators and public safety officials in our communities?
There is certainly a valid argument that too much of the money raised through taxation goes to waste through corruption or out of control administrative expenses. Those are issues that need to be tackled in order to get the most out of our tax dollars; however, the conservative’s approach of starving those problems out of the system by reducing the amount available doesn’t seem to be working either.
Certainly, government work rules that have evolved over time that support a large management and supervision overhead need to be reviewed and reworked. Anyone who has ever watched a city street or sewer crew at work can see that there appear to be more people standing around supervising that there are actually doing the work. There is room for great improvement and savings there. Currently, those same workers are sitting back in the Department of Public Services garage because there’s no money to pay for the materials for them to use to do the repair jobs.
Another phenomenon is the “kick the can on down the road” approach to tackling the tough decisions and jobs that need to be resolved. Politicians are always looking ahead to the next election and are more concerned about staying ion power than doing the right things now. They fear being called a tax and spend liberal more than they are concerned about being considered to be a do-nothing politician. In Michigan term limits were supposed to do away with the perceived evils of career politicians; but, instead just resulted in a legislature where no one has any experience and still the people in the office for their shorter terms are more concerned with the next election than solving the current problems. That has resulted in partisan gridlock, since none of the legislators knows how to work towards the compromises that are required to govern.
More recently, a lopsided conservative majority at the state government level has resulted in ill-advised tax cuts that have left the State unable to carry out many of its primary functions, especially where infrastructure repairs and replacements are concerned. A recent local newscast covered the cost of the pothole filled roads in Michigan and concluded that the costs far exceeded the money returned to taxpayers by the latest round of tax cuts. Decrepit bridges falling down and killing or injuring people will be the next thing that we start to see. People will complain, “Why aren’t they doing something about this?” The answer that will never come out of the politicians’ mouths is that there is no money for those repairs or replacement because we cut the taxes. They’ll find something or someone else to blame.
So, the question that made up the title for this post is, “What are you willing to pay for?” Are you more willing to drive on pothole filled road or cross dangerous bridges than to pay for their repairs? Are you OK with kids who fail the most basic educational assessment tests because they don’t have books or maybe heat or motivated and well -paid teachers at their schools? Maybe you are also OK with headlines that point out that – “Last on List: Michigan Ranks Worst Among State Governments for Integrity”. These are all things that can be turned around and fixed and the solutions start at the ballet box. We all need to demand more from the people who represent us and make the laws of our country, our states and our local governments. Being excellent at playing kick the can on down the road should not be a point of pride for those people, but a point of shame for which we hold them accountable.
There is a chance coming up later this year for you to make a difference. So, every time you hit a pothole this year, think about the politicians who made that possible and remember that when it’s time to vote. It’s time to remember that you get what you pay for. The lobbyists certainly understand that, since they paid for the politicians who are in office now. This time it’s your turn. Get out and vote for someone willing to do the right things, not just the politically expedient things. What are you willing to vote for?