Opinion

The Taxpayer’s Winter of Discontent

People are getting nasty in politics. Rancor is increasing among political factions and players. Discord and name-calling will rise as we wade into the nitty-gritty of reversing the causes of our unsustainable public debt, our deficits, and higher spending, both in our region and across our land. As the causes become obvious and as answers are sought, the solutions will be bitter medicine for some to swallow. Some players are causing the problems (perhaps not with malice) and some are the victims.

To cure the excesses, some of the compensation packages that have been paid in the past to public servants need to be reduced or eliminated. These folks don’t want this to happen, and will fight to keep their benefits flowing. While that’s understandable, what’s also apparent is that they’re looking out for their own interests, and they don’t care who else has to pay, so long as they get what they want.

Government costs and excessive benefits were caused by the political pendulum swinging too far, and the solutions will be unpleasant for some. But if it’s true that those people will be “victims” of the solutions needed to remedy this mess, it’s also true that they have been “perpetrators” in the past. The pendulum needs to swing back, to being fair to the needs of taxpayers, the people who pay the tab. It is wrong for the taxpayers to pay public servants such high amounts that their own living standards suffer.

The lessons of history are undeniable: You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong, and you should not help the poor by sapping the wealthy. It is the wealth of this nation that has created the opportunities and the jobs, and the chance to gain wealth if you don’t possess it. If politicians redistribute wealth by confiscating it from those who earned it, to give to others, you can take a look southward to Cuba to see an example of what results.

Let’s declare the truth: there are too many employees in the public sector, where no goods are produced and wealth is never created (it’s merely taken from someone else). There are too many unneeded departments, bureaus, and agencies in government that perpetuate for their own sake and do not justify their cost. There are too many costly services provided for too few users (Tri-Rail and high-speed rail are perfect examples). There are too many public sector employees who are overpaid, because the “system” provides automatic pay hikes and benefit increases based not on merit or productivity but on seniority and tenure.

I side with the beleaguered taxpayer in this mess. Most taxpayers are not trying to treat public sector employees unfairly. And yet, public employees don’t seem to care if they harm us financially. We want public servants to receive fair compensation. But we don’t want them receiving excessive compensation, and we don’t believe they should receive better pay and benefits, on average, than us– the people who pay for it.

For example, we know police and firefighters sometimes risk their lives, and most taxpayers believe they should receive higher pay for it. But the compensation, especially for firefighters, has become highway robbery. And if firefighters don’t think they’re being treated well, why don’t they quit? Frankly, they won’t quit because they know they have a sweetheart deal, and they probably can’t get a higher-paying job somewhere else. Yet they demand more.

If you are in a public sector union, I suggest you start thinking about justifying your job to taxpayers and being appreciative of what you have. The taxpayer is at the breaking point. Instead of launching public demonstrations against us, we want to hear you say thanks for the good job we have given you. All I hear is how much more you want from us.

John R. Smith

John R. Smith is chairman of BIZPAC, the Business Political Action Committee of Palm Beach County, and owner of a financial services company. He is a frequent columnist for BizPac Review.
John R. Smith

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