I awoke to the sound of yet another garbage truck going by my window before dawn. I believe there are at least three trucks from three different companies that serve my neighborhood. Besides the question of disturbing my peace (repeatedly), I wondered if this really was “a better way”.
I’m old enough to remember when the government picked up the garbage. At least in the cities. Back then it was called the sanitation department. That was back when people still remembered open garbage dumps and how unsanitary it was to let people pile up garbage willy-nilly. It was a public health issue. And the public, i.e. the government, came up with a solution to the problem. But somewhere along the way we convinced ourselves private companies could do a better job of it all. We let ourselves believe the bean counters when they said it would be cheaper.
It was cheaper. In every negative sense of the word. We cheapened the people doing the job. Instead of a city employee with a good job — decent pay, benefits and a retirement — we got people without any of those things.
It was cheaper for me — the customer. But I’m not just a customer. We think that word is so important now: Customer. We used to think a different word was a lot more important: Citizen.
What’s “cheap” for me the customer turns out to be really expensive for me the citizen. Three times as much noise and pollution. Three times as much wear and tear on our roads that citizens (also known as taxpayers) have to pay to repair. That’s what the bean counters would have us focus on. That is how seductive their language is. But the real cost to us — to our society — is to our fellow citizens.
Instead of good jobs, we’ve created bad ones. We don’t want to pay the taxes (or prices) that pay the good wages, benefits and retirements. So private companies took on the job of taking our good jobs away. Instead of paying taxes for good jobs, we now pay the taxes for bad jobs — welfare for the working poor, indigent healthcare for those without insurance and Social Security now masquerades as a retirement plan for those that have none.
Don’t tell yourself that Pike County isn’t doing these things also. It is. The school board contracted out the janitorial staff. At last week’s meeting the County Commission heard a proposal to outsource the building code office. We’ve been furloughing teachers since the Great Recession began.
If you want America to be great again, take a good look at the person in the mirror tomorrow morning and realize that you can change all this. You can tell your government to treat your employees well. You can tell the business owners where you shop the same thing. You can tell the people to whom you give your money to treat employees as you wish to be treated. If you want a decent wage, health insurance and a retirement plan — insist that your government provide them to those that you employ with your hard-earned money.
Yes, it will cost you a few extra dollars every year. But we’ve tried being cheap for 30 years and it has turned out to be really, really expensive. Americans lost $16 trillion and and at least five years to the Great Recession. That’s a lot more than any tax increase anybody has ever contemplated. It’s time to stop being penny wise and pound foolish.
Don Brown — Chairman
The Democratic Party of Pike County
March 12, 2013