When The Budget Cuts Start To Get To The Bone

Yesterday, before the Jaz McKay show got started, I was talking with his call screener Puck about a local budget dispute that has turned into a hot issue in Bakersfield, California,

The Bakersfield city manager is grappling with the local police officers union over pay and retirement age amid intense budget negotiations.

Members of the Bakersfield Police Officers Association say they’re being asked to forego benefits and money they’ve been promised.

But City Manager Alan Tandy said these are tough times.

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“I can’t wave that magic wand I can’t make the economy get better or tax collections go up, so we have to deal with what we have,” Tandy said.

The fight between Tandy and the union has spilled onto radio, with ads encouraging listeners to call their council member and ask what they are doing to ensure public safety.

The city and BPOA locked horns over salary increases and upping the retirement age to 55.

…But Tandy says if the union would be more flexible on the retirement issue, raising the age from 50 to 55, the city might be able to hire more officers to patrol the streets.

“We have been discussing with them taking it down (the retirement program down) a notch to what would still be a great program, But would not be as luxurious,” Tandy said.

Our members don’t plan on getting rich financially,” Ware said “We do have something to look forward to: Our richness comes when we retire. And hopefully we survive” to get it.

There are a lot of different issues at play here. Police in our society are underappreciated — and imagine being a 49 year old cop who was promised retirement at 50. Then, you’re told, “Oh, now it’s 55.” You have safety issues at play, too. Obviously, a 25 year old cop may be better equipped to deal with the physical demands of the job. On the other hand, how many people get to retire at 50?

The point here is not to come down on one side or another of this budget battle. It’s to point something out that people seem to keep missing: this country is not only broke, we’re deeply in debt and living far beyond our means. And California? They’re in even worse shape than the nation as a whole.

Now, I have always favored cutting waste as much as possible, reducing the growth of government down to the inflation rate, and growing our way out of the budget crisis. That, in my opinion, was the most sensible, least painful way to get ourselves out of the financial hole we’ve gotten into as a nation. However, with the recent orgy of spending that has occurred under the Obama Administration, I’m not so sure that’s even possible anymore.

Our nation is like a person who makes $20,000 a year, who is already $17,500 in debt, adding another $2,000 dollars in debt this year and finding it increasingly difficult to get anyone to loan him money. Moreover, unlike a person, our country can’t dramatically up its salary by getting a better job — and the consequences of declaring bankruptcy are considerably more severe.

On top of that, there is zero appetite for cutting spending on anything other than the national defense in the Democratic Party — and in the Republican Party, although they do oppose new spending, the political will to cut existing spending simply isn’t there.

What that means is that we are getting between a rock and a hard place. The level of spending we’re engaging in isn’t even going to be sustainable for another few years’ time, but there’s no will to cut anything.

Eventually, that’s going to lead to deep cuts in social security, Medicare, education, research, military spending, and, yes, even the police. That’s the price we’re going to have to pay for being so irresponsible for so long and for ramping our foolishness up to levels unprecedented in human history during the Obama Administration.

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