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Saturday, October 12, 2013

In Praise of the Public Sector



In Praise of the Public Sector




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I'm in a particularly grumpy mood this morning as I think about the almost-completed water tower maintenance in our small town and the inconvenience that came with it. Today's newspaper had several critical letters to the editor.

I have a more-appreciative attitude. We should be grateful for the wisdom and courage of our Mayor and City Council to undertake a very necessary project that they knew up-front would bring out a lot of complaining. The fact of the matter is that the temporary inconveniences were an entirely unavoidable part of the job. It’s where we needed to go and what we needed to do. We ought to be thanking our public servants instead of giving them grief.
Sometimes we forget that government, the widely-despised “public sector,” is really us – you and me and those of our neighbors who, for some deficit of sanity, feel compelled to render an extra measure of service to their communities. And the thanks they get? A general unwillingness to grant them the resources and cooperation they need to fully achieve the many responsibilities we demand of them.
It is the private sector that rakes their leaves into the street, lets their dogs bark, and their cats breed. It is the private sector that drives on roads, disturbs the peace, consumes clean water, flushes their toilets, and makes babies. Yet, it is the public sector that gets called on for animal control, cleaning leaves out of storm drains, providing utilities, and teaching our children read and do fractions along with social skills and the love of learning.
And then, the private sector turns around and protests that tax revenues are a plot by “them” to rob “us” of our hard-earned wages. And then, we compound the insult: For many of us, these “hard earned wages” are actually government-provided benefits such as social security, Medicare, and food assistance.
Harumph. If we keep undermining our public sector, we could very well earn the privilege of always hauling and boiling our own water, teaching our children calculus on our own, paving our own streets, and guarding our own doors. Oh, and are you actually ready to grow your own garden or starve? Are you ready to face the cold alternatives of staying healthy or dying quickly?
On the national level, how is it that our economy has been shifting for thirty years now and yet a single man, in office for only a few years, is “failed” for not waving a magic wand and making everything somehow completely better already? How is it that #43, who fought two wars and funded massive and repeated tax cuts on our credit card, who cut banking regulations and presided over the resulting financial collapse gets the benefit of a helpless shoulder shrug and a Teflon coating?
The thing that gives me a measure of courage is the hope that progressive policies may yet have a snowball’s chance in hell of moving us forward. I’m in the mood for comfort for the afflicted. Keep your chin up. There is always hope… especially if we are willing to each support the inconvenience and effort that is necessary to get us, all together, where we need to go.