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Advertise on the Tentacle

February 18, 2010

Living Within Our Means

Patricia A. Kelly

I just returned from a weekend out of town. I left on Thursday, and returned on Monday. I was shocked by the snow still remaining on city streets. I couldn’t believe that Rockwell Terrace was one lane wide and not yet plowed down to the pavement.


I think I remember this work being done faster, even with very heavy snows, in the past, although I could be wrong.


I’m not complaining. There was a lot of snow, and roads had to be opened before the snow was cleared. Our mayor, Randy McClement, stated that the city would clear the streets according to the regular formula, that it would be done by city workers, not by outside contractors due to budget considerations, and that it would be done as quickly as possible, given the city budget limitations.


I’ve heard complaints about this. What about downtown businesses? Some of them are borderline anyway, and now they’ve had to close their doors, and no one is shopping because of the snow on the streets and the lack of parking. What about the lost tax revenue? The city has a responsibility.


I’m very sorry for any lost business downtown, and for lost business throughout the county and state. I’m sorry for all the hourly wage workers who didn’t get their hours, and, in some cases, could hardly buy food for their children. It’s been bad, and, even if our city were capable of feeding, housing, transporting, medicating and clothing our populace, and even if that were the norm, right now we can only get the streets cleared, using the budget available, because that‘s what we elected our mayor to do.


If our mayor were willing to borrow money, we could possibly contract the work and get it done faster. But we’re sticking with the budget.


It’s called living within our means.


Our sheriff, Chuck Jenkins, another fiscal conservative, is going so far as to suggest that prisoners in our county jail contribute to their own maintenance and care, even paying $8 to see a doctor, and paying a daily room charge if there is any money in their canteen account. He wants to reduce the burden on the taxpayers.


People like our local NAACP president, Guy Djoken, who called the newspapers rather than the mayor over the Caucasian-stuffed figures hanging by their waists from trees in Baker Park at Halloween, are opposed to this. The Maryland ACLU and the Public Justice Center in Baltimore agree with Mr. Djoken.


It’s very important to understand the reasoning behind this opposition, as there is a close connection between this and the thinking that leads to overwhelming government involvement in our lives.


The idea is that, instead of allowing these prisoners the opportunity, some for the first time in their lives, to earn their own way and take responsibility for themselves, we should give them stuff to make their lives better. We should give them jobs, education, substance abuse treatment, food, housing, medical and dental care, and everything possible to facilitate their reinsertion into the community when their terms are up.


The idea is that, if we give these people, these irresponsible criminals, enough, then they’ll be somehow inspired to change the way they behave. Without ever experiencing responsibility, they’ll become responsible. God forbid that one of them should leave jail owing $50 for their dental care, $50 they’ll never actually be required to pay unless they decide they want to.


If you treat your child this way, it’s called spoiling. If you do it with your alcoholic relative, it’s called enabling. I’ve never heard that getting free stuff helped people to develop responsibility or independent function.


The idea behind it is that these people, the criminals, have suffered in some way, so we must take care of them. More generally, in the view of liberal government, we all need stuff, and we must be given all our stuff by the government.


People like our president and our governor seem to believe that the problems of America can be solved by giving people stuff, everything from free health care and education to mortgage mediation. I guess they think Chinese parents spoil their children into becoming Ph.D. scientists, rather than expecting them to eat their veggies and rice, and study hard.


Even worse, money is required to pay for all the stuff the government thinks it needs to give us, and they think they should decide who should pay for it, and how much, and when. Of course, they tell us the rich people will pay for it, but, ultimately, it’s us.


Frederick just elected a “zero-based budgeting” mayor. Our sheriff is very popular, even if he does insist on giving unspent money back to the county when he doesn‘t need it.


The people of New Jersey just elected a governor who has promised to stop playing games and balance their budget. In a speech on February 11, Chris Christie said, “Today we must make a pact with each other to end this reckless conduct with the people’s government.”


This is what the majority of the Americans want. Unfortunately, people, generally “public servants,” have sold us a bill of goods, convincing us it’s impossible.


Thanks, Randy, Chuck and Chris. I can put up with the snow.


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