Saturday, December 10, 2016

"We should not accept the unacceptable"

The following is an editorial in this weeks Granite State News that hits home for all NH towns as we go through our budget process this time of year.
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 Our editorial last week, “A depressing alternative,” generated a fair amount of comment, as well as two letters that we publish on this page, from Cate McMahon and John R. White, both from Wolfeboro. As always, we urge you to read their letters, if only because we feel the basic reaction they express is shared by most Americans, regardless of political party. Our intention in last week’s editorial was to lay bare the stark and depressing choices most of us are facing, not just in our nation but in our towns. We focused on the issue being debated in the town of Tuftonboro: how the pay and benefits of public employees are being compared to the stagnant pay and declining benefits of most non-governmental employees. Some ask why taxpayers should provide pay and benefits to town employees that are significantly greater than those who work for private businesses in our communities. We acknowledged that this is a fair question, but then pointed to what it implies, which is that because some of us are being treated unfairly, then all of us should be suffer the same fate. It is, essentially a variation of the zero sum game: if you are winning, I must be losing as a result. It assumes that prosperity is a limited commodity, and because a few have managed to take most of it for themselves, there is very little left for most of us to share. We find ourselves squabbling over crumbs. We also touched on the issue of state defined-pensions, which have virtually disappeared in private enterprise. Should taxpayers accept the burden of funding them when their own pensions have been taken away? There are “practical” and “realistic” answers to both the pay and pension questions and all of them involve government employees accepting the steadily darker future we all face. We agree that this conclusion is not only depressing but unacceptable. And, as we argued last week, we are not alone in feeling that way, as the chaotic presidential election campaigns just ended demonstrated to all who were paying attention. Both the rise of Bernie Sanders and the success of Donald Trump questioned the established view that “We Can No Longer Afford to be Great,” that Americans just have to get used to getting by, as we have since 2008, with less and less. It was no surprise that politicians favored by the establishment offering “more of the same” lost, and “Make America Great Again” became a rallying cry. We all want a future that promises a better life for ourselves and our children. Continuing the race to the bottom of the last 15 years is something most of us emphatically do not want. Does anyone really believe the same old solutions we have

heard for decades – more free trade and globalization, larger government and continuing the tax cuts for the very rich that they have enjoyed for the past 14 years – are going to make a difference? Most of us, regardless of party, agree that business as usual is unacceptable and that we have to get off the downward path we are on. We should not let ourselves be turned against one another and let our anger and frustration lead us to attack those who are as powerless as we are. We have to stop accepting the unacceptable. Instead of taking away benefits and reducing the pay of public employees who have not yet suffered our fate, we should demand that we be treated fairly and be given back the pay and benefits that have been taken from us. Donald Trump did not win in a landslide, but he won because he expressed what most of us feel – that it is time to question everything about the way this country is run and the inequality it has produced. There are many who doubt his ability to accomplish the changes needed and because of his party affiliation and some of the people he has chosen for his team, fear that the nation has been misled. But he has promised change and fairness and vowed to make America great again. We all need to insist that he does what he has promised. At the same time we should not let the idea that “We Can No Longer Afford to Be Great” lead us to turn against those government employees who serve us.

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