March 27, 2004

Here We Are Again and Nowhere To Run

Budget Crisis and the Scourge of the Bureaucracy
By Fred H. Arm
Once again, the cries of the City, State, and Federal agencies lamenting their economic plight rumble through the media polluting our eyes and ears. Woe is me - we have to lay off people, close firehouses, shut down libraries, athletic programs for schools an on and on into the labyrinth of economic despair. What do you expect? This lament has been occurring on and off since bureaucracies were brought into being.

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When I was in High School, our teachers warned that the public sector would continue to grow at an alarming rate until it either self-destructed or the work force would exceed the private sector. That prophecy is coming true. A generation ago, in 1978 when the infamous “Proposition 13” decimated the cash cow of real estate taxes, I recall the headlines moaning much as they do today about extreme measures for cutting budgets, bankruptcies of cities, school, library, firehouse, etc. closures, mass layoffs - -the whole catastrophe.
Well guess what? The world did not come to an end. We still kept our firehouses, libraries, and the like; however, that voracious monster, our bureaucracies, quickly found other troughs to feed from. They raised sales taxes, gasoline taxes, income taxes, telephone taxes, improvement district taxes, charged more money for services like court filings, permits, licenses, utility taxes, and on and on until they were once again fat and sassy, growing ever larger and more inefficient. Coupled with the rising economy and the mass influx of humanity into the state, real estate prices went through the roof, thereby providing much additional income that they never even dreamed was possible.
With all their newfound treasures, the bureaucracy monster embarked upon an unprecedented spending spree. Richmond is just one small example. Public employees are no longer considered a supposed “public servant” with an altruistic bent for serving the community, instead they demanded and received extraordinary benefit packages and wages that have passed up the private sector by far.

Recent financial data from the City of Richmond reveals that the average police officer’s salaries to be $79,412.00; police sergeants, $100,572.00; lieutenants $116,848.00; captains $132,202.00; fire department firefighters average $78,830.00.00; captains $98,559.00; and battalion chiefs $112,794.00. In addition to these substantial salaries, the benefits amount to at least 50% extra. These are extraordinary salaries and benefits. I would guess that the majority of businesses in Pt Richmond do not earn nearly that amount of money and have had to invest thousands of dollars together with their blood, sweat, and tears.

Unfortunately, the monster will not be quelled. Budget cuts will temporarily assuage the crisis, however, once the economy recovers adequately, the hungry government mouths will once again cry to be fed. Perhaps one day the entire system will implode upon itself just as my old high school teacher predicted. Whether this happens sooner or later is anybody’s guess.

Posted by fredarm at March 27, 2004 05:10 PM
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