What Are We Doing?

I have read two articles in recent issues of the Union Tribune, reporting that Lemon Grove is about to receive $300,000 of Federal Aid to repair streets. I almost fell out of my chair. Silly me - I thought that street repair was a local responsibility. I wonder if the good citizens of Lemon Grove think it is really the responsibility of citizens in La Mesa and Iowa and North Carolina to pay to pave Lemon Grove streets. Maybe they think the "free" money is part of the Four Billion dollars of daily deficit spending our Federal Government indulges in. Newsflash: The deficit is borrowed money and someone must pay it back, someday. As long as the Feds step in to take the financial pressure off, our City and State legislators won't start to behave like financially responsible adults.

Lemon Grove City pensions are much more generous than pensions provided to those who work in the private sector, and who pay most of the taxes that support those pensions. As a result, their cost to taxpayers is enormous. City employees don't even pay the relatively small "employee portion" of that cost.

Taxpayers are made to pay that too! Were the City Council to grow some backbone and reduce pension costs to a reasonable and fair amount, Lemon Grove would likely be able to afford to repair their own streets. Instead, with the Feds acting as enablers, our legislators in Lemon Grove, continue to spend other people's money instead of doing their jobs. (They certainly aren't the only ones in our State indulging in this practice.)

All of us, but especially those who have benefited so much from the opportunity we have enjoyed in this country, need to demand that those we elect to represent us manage our tax dollars in a more responsible way. As things stand now, they continue to make decisions that will burden our children and grand children mercilessly. We can and must do better than that.

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Tags: Government

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Comment by Karen Pearlman on January 8, 2011 at 10:44pm
Hoping to see a big turnout for the PBID community meeting... very, very interested in what all sides have to say!
Comment by Craig S. Maxwell on January 8, 2011 at 4:33pm
Note: That's 6:00 on the 13th!
Comment by Craig S. Maxwell on January 8, 2011 at 4:32pm
For the conscienceless expenditure of other people's money, government always takes the cake. The example of Lemon Grove is bad enough, but La Mesa is far worse. Right now, city officials are preparing to impose a PBID (i.e., taxes) on downtown property owners in order to make up for their own wanton spending. Naturally, landlords will pass this increase on to renting business owners. Please come to the community meeting @ 6:00 at the Arbor Room in the La Mesa Community Center. Tell our elected schemers...uh, leaders, to put their own fiscal house in order and to keep their filthy mitts off of ours.
Comment by Russell Buckley on January 6, 2011 at 8:54pm
Hi Chris. I appreciate that as editor you don't want to dominate the blog with your opinions. Too bad for the blog because I know that you have many thoughtful things to say. I could write pages about your last entry - but I will spare your readers. There are however three points about what you wrote that I cannot resist making. First, paving Lemon Groves streets is not and never was, even remotely, a part of the Federal Highway Project. Second, while I abhor the borrowing we are doing and the consequences for future generations, spending really is the problem. For example, were the unions to persuade California voters to repeal Prop 13 (even though California is already the 49th highest tax state in the nation) enough revenues might be raised to support the obscene pensions the unions have foisted on us, without borrowing. It is still horribly wrong to take money from private sector taxpayers wallets to support pensions so much more generous that those in the private sector. Third, we spent well over a TRILLION dollars trying to stimulate the economy with little to show for it. Removing regulations (especially unfounded environmental ones), opening the domestic energy industry (nuclear power and our own oil) to lower the balance of payments deficit, lowering taxes, and reducing spending are the way to get our economy going again.
Comment by Chris Lavin on January 6, 2011 at 6:04am

Russell,

I specialize in being artfully obscure when it comes to giving opinions. I really don't have one on this (as a journalist I tend to watch and chronicle more than comment). But I learned in my economics training that government spending represents a good percentage of our GDP so I tend to judge not whether it is appropriate spending but rather whether the money is spent efficiently on a project that will have far greater economic impact in the long run. The federal highway project is often pointed to as a project that more than paid us back with economic growth it spurred. Much of the recent debate about federal spending, it seems to me, is really about federal borrowing. They are spending the money to prop up an economy that was left devastated by excesses of a couple decades before and, in some views, it is crucial to keep all afloat now. That they are doing it with borrowed money is what is offending. In a perfect world, the feds could identify inefficient spending and replace it with clearly efficient spending that will have the desired economic effect now and avoid the need for more leveraging of future tax monies. That seems to be beyond them so they layer on another inch or two onto the national debt and hope the engine starts again for real. In many ways, I worry and one of my worries is that without relatively fast projects like road work quickly pumping some salaries out there, even more foreclosures will be slowly vacating the hillside homes of Spring Valley and Mt. Helix. Those in latter parts of life, who can rely on the relatively stable pensions earned in their youths, may not quite realize how many younger families right now are relying on shakey jobs and clinging to their homes with their fingernails.

Comment by Russell Buckley on January 5, 2011 at 7:37pm
Hi Chris. Thanks for your comments. I am aware that both political parties are guilty of pet projects. My objection to Federal bailouts of irresponsible local politicians certainly isn't limited to either politi cal party. You are right in calling your mention of Defense spending "muddying the waters". Defense spending is a Federal responsibility (unlike paving the streets). The amount we spend on Defense may or may not be excessive. All spending, including defense, should come under scrutiny. I'm not sure what you are getting at by your comment - do you think that (what you consider) excess defense spending justifies paving Lemon Grove streets with other peoples money - or with borrowed money that will burden our children? The connection you imply escapes me. cheers.
Comment by Karen Pearlman on January 4, 2011 at 5:22pm
Excellent food for thought, Mr. Buckley. I have my opinions on this scenario out of Lemon Grove, but will have to stay out of it.
Comment by Craig S. Maxwell on January 4, 2011 at 4:27pm

Another fine post, Russell. Thank you.

This kind of reminds me of an old joke. John Q. Public was asked, "What's the biggest problem in America today, ignorance or apathy. He responded, "I don't know, and I don't care."
You say that we must demand fiscal responsibility from our representatives, but many (if not most...) of us are hopelessly, carelessly unaware.

What can we do?

 

Comment by Chris Lavin on January 4, 2011 at 1:04pm

Russell,

Of course there is a long history of U.S. Reps and the occasional Senator finding ways to get federal funds back home. As a young journalist working in Upstate New York, I watched Republican Alfonse D'Amato win the hearts of Democratic city mayors by adding bus shelters to street reconstruction projects, thereby allowing him to use Urban Mass Transit money to help aging cities with infrastructure challenges. This is not a new phenomenon. And one could further muddy the waters by pointing out that some of that urban spending was a far better investment in the long run than the arms race the feds were funding at the same time, but I digress. As always, thanks for your thoughtful and reasoned contribution.

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