(Above–Various iconic images from our great City of Houston. We all need to pitch in to keep our city strong. Montage by Yassie.)
From the Houston Chronicle—
“Thousands of city of Houston employees will have to take six unpaid days off in the coming six months, one of a series of actions Mayor Annise Parker is taking to close a $29 million budget gap. “This is a step that I didn’t want to take,” Parker said on Thursday. Furloughs send “the wrong message to hard-working city employees who get up and pick up our trash, fix our roads, keep our libraries open, mow our parks.” The furloughs will save the city $5 million and will apply only to civilian employees, with a few exceptions in such areas as trash pickup and other positions that generate revenue, Parker said. Employees who make less than $24,000 a year also will be exempt, she said.”
It is important to note that Mayor Parker exempted city employees at the lowest end of the pay scale. In a time when recession has caused many to go after the poorest first, while making sure that tax cuts for the rich stay in place, it is good to see acknowledgment of the needs of the people hurting most from these hard times.
Yet are public employees the cause of unsustainable deficit-boosting tax cuts that we have seen at so many levels of government in recent years?
Public employees must accept some of the pain of the recession. People taking a public paycheck at any level of government must lead by example. These sacrifices to be made by public employees must also apply to police officers and firefighters. Health and retirement benefits that are a critical longterm cost to government must be on the table for some reconsideration. There is nothing wrong with looking at all aspects of government spending when times are hard– Or, for that matter, at any point.
Yet at the same time, nothing is achieved by allowing Republican politicians to stoke resentment of fellow working people while at the same time they do all they can to protect tax cuts for the rich.
What these Republicans really wish to do is outsource government services to politically connected firms, so that everybody but the people who actually do the work will get the taxpayer dollars.
If you are an average working person going on about a garbage man making 30k or 40K a year, while you vote for politicians who fight for tax cuts for millionaires, you must be smoking some pretty heavy dope.
Don’t we have any remaining capacity for self-respect as fellow working people, and as members of a society?
Must we allow ourselves to be used to get at others not so unlike ourselves?
Here in Houston, the overwhelming number people skip voting in municipal elections, and there have been a number of city property tax cuts in recent years.
It is time for citizens of Houston, and of our nation, to take stock of the public obligations that we all should share.
In addition to leadership from the Mayor and city employees on these budget questions in Houston, tax increases and sacrifices from average citizens may also need to be part of the solution.