The problem is a basic one. The citizens, those being governed, have been placed in a position where we serve the government, as opposed to the government being made up of personnel who are there to serve us. And while we hear most of the complaints about this today being directed at the federal government, the feds are just part of the problem. Local and state governments are generally operating in a similar fashion, the only difference being it is easier for the public to get things corrected since we are closer to that level of government. The federal behemoth is so remote to most of us and so imposing that most just think it is impossible to change.
The question we need to pose, however, is a good one and it is very basic? Why should government at any level have its employees treated better with pay raises and better perks and benefits than the people they serve? If you look around America today, you find that government employees generally have pensions and benefit packages that dwarf those of the private sector. They also have much more job security with the employment regulations that govern their operation and, of course, union operations in union states where government employees are much more highly unionized than the private sector.
At the same time, look at working conditions. Municipalities, just like the feds, build elaborate city halls and other offices that far outshine the work centers of the average American. Somehow it just seems inappropriate for "servants of the people" to live better than those who pay their bills, yet we see this almost everywhere we go.
As a result of these actions, a vicious spiral occurs. These very government entities are finding themselves in a situation very similar to the feds: the funding is insufficient to pay for all of these goodies and taxes must go up or never ending bond issues are floated. After all, local and state governments can't print money; they have to deal with the situation directly at hand or face default, a situation happening more and more in these troubled times. Those paying the taxes are those least able to afford them; many haven't seen a pay raise in years. Many more have in fact been impacted by pay cuts and even job reduction, yet they are expected to shoulder the burden for a government that has not been a good steward of the public treasury.
So when you complain about the cost and taxes that we spend to an unresponsive federal government, cast your eyes at state and local government as well. They, too, are generally unwilling to live within their means and these elected officials, like elected officials at every level, have a tendency to want to grow and expand their power the longer they hold office. This is, unfortunately, a weakness that most politicians have and it is always easier to spend the money of others rather than your own. It's also human nature to put off problems until tomorrow rather than face them today, but tomorrow may be too late.
The point here is that we have to constantly monitor and pay attention to the workings of government at all levels. Hold them accountable, demand that they operate under the same conditions that most of us must, and if that means tightening the belt and limiting some services, so be it. Some states and localities have done a good job with this, states like Wisconsin where Governor Walker has made remarkable changes. Look at your own state and locality and demand the same. After all, we should all be in this together, and if we face the challenge and live within our means in today's tough economy, we will be so much better off when an improving situation presents itself. Economic cycles ebb and flow, we just need to be ready.
It all boils down to this: Do we want our communities to thrive or become another Detroit? If not, let's get involved and take a stand for common sense and accountability. It will improve our communities and it's the right thing to do.