The federal government is truly not what it used to be. Where once farmers, soldiers, businessmen and normal people (defined as “those who work for a living”) considered it an honor to spend a few years making the trek to the swamp in D.C., there are now career politicians entrenched in the magical and profitable world that is the Beltway.
Obviously, that was not a shocking revelation. Still, one can argue that if the members of the Constitutional Convention could get a look at what now passes for government in D.C., they might have decided to write a few extra chapters onto our country’s original parchment.
State’s rights would have been a great place to start. Here in our Washington, state and local governments must balance their budgets or cut whatever looks least necessary. Here we pay the vast majority of government workers a middle class wage along with respectable benefits. If the economy tanks then everything, salaries, benefits and retirement, is susceptible to some painful tweaking.
For example, when I was hired in 1988 I worked with quite a few cops who were still part of the old retirement system (LEOFF 1) which was generous to a fault. That seismic fault appeared in 1978 in the form of spiraling inflation. Along came LEOFF 2 with no medical, later retirement age and less money. Back in the present, our current recession has caused the first round of layoffs and pay cuts that I have ever experienced in law enforcement. Everyone, from public to private business in our state, has shared this recession.Compare that with the Feds. If congressmen and senators have taken hits in their pay, benefits and retirement I am unaware of it. During their well-paid tenure during the last five years, other countries have taken notice of our inability to balance our books. Standard & Poor’s rating service downgraded its outlook on our country’s economic picture in a move the Trib article called “unprecedented.” Do you think that’ll wake them up in D.C.? Or will they continue to play a political game with our future while they collect their pay, benefits and retirement until, say, their kids are old enough to assume their seats?
That was a rhetorical question, unfortunately.
I’m not sure that our federal elected officials understand that the term budget actually refers to staying in the dotted lines represented by one’s income. This out of control spending has also caused some federal salaries to be well in excess of market value, including among my federal law enforcement colleagues. These are good people doing difficult jobs, but it does seem odd that their salary often is 50-75% more than the local cops. If this pay differential is consistent between other federal jobs and their state and local equivalents then that would be, in a word, bad.
Most of us already know all of this. In fact, I’ll bet any one of us could point to a federal program or expense that seems horribly out of whack with the current financial problems in our country. But with politicians immersed in the Beltway style of business, it appears that this partisan gridlock and our rising deficit will be around until some foreign bond holder evicts Congress and moves into the place.
So how do we change the program at our nation’s capitol? How do we ensure that career politicians don’t have the opportunity to place lobbyists before laborers and pork before priorities?
Think about it. Talk amongst yourselves.