Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Schwartzeneger Plan and It's Implications

In California, Gov. Schwartzeneger is contemplating forcing state employees to take a de facto pay cut, by requiring them to take a certain amount of pay without leave. Laying off employees is also being considered. I understand that there are shortfalls, but I wonder how state employees of California feel about them taking the hit because others made bad economic decisions.

I'm sure this will also come to Utah. The past several years, with budget surpluses and a booming economy, our legislature has cut taxes, primarily to the well to do, but not entirely, also reducing the sales tax on food. When revenues are down, does the legislature restore the old tax structure, or do they decide to put the burden of the economic downturn upon Utah's public employees?

Let me get this out of the way first, and it is a perception I get from talking to so many conservative legislators over the years, that they consider public employees as inherently lazy, with bureaucracies that are top-heavy and inefficient, with plenty of fat that can be cut if they can be prodded through accross the board budget cuts.

I have spent some time around those in state government, and I can say unequivocably, that this perception is grossly exaggerated. My wife worked for the state for some time, and found herself overwhelmed with a caseload she couldn't possibly handle, and when there was a failure to meet all the impossible legislatively mandated requirements, that were inadequately funded, the blame never fell upon the legislature, but upon "those evil bureaucrats."

My wife works for the state, and so my position is biased. I'll admit that. But putting the full burden of budget shortfalls upon state employees, who are only trying to do their jobs the best they can seems short-sighted. Also consider, that state employees who are laid off, will take their accrued leave with them, creating a short-term cash-flow problem, increase the cost of their unemployment insurance, as well as further exacerbate our economic problems by increasing the unemployment rate and causing fewer people to be able to spend money to buy cars, houses, appliances, etc.

Utah legislators would be wise, to find solutions to their budget woes short of layoffs or reductions in the effective pay to their employees, many of whom have made sacrifices to remain in their jobs when better opportunities were available to them. Many came to believe strongly in the efficacy of the services they were providing and felt a considerable degree of job satisfaction in serving the public and making a difference in their lives.

Anyway, something to consider.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Change I'm Having Trouble Believing In

The Rick Warren inaugural invitation is a real slap at those who supported Obama as a principled yet pragmatic leader. Certainly, his willingness to put people in his cabinet who may have divergent opinions has showed that pragmatic side. However, inaugurations carry powerful symbols that can't be ignored. Rick Warren's lack of respect for homosexuals and non-believers should disqualify him from giving him such a forum.

So what is the change we were supposed to believe in? Was it merely competent government? Or was it a fundamental change in direction and change in the ways things are to be done. More than anything, will Obama use the bully-pulpit to speak out against intolerance? Or will he continue to give a forum to those who wish to use the apparatus of the state to harm those they demonize?

We'll all survive a prayer from this wingnut. Since there is no God, I'm pretty sure whatever Rick Warren says in his prayer will not be given any divine traction. But enabling intolerance isn't respecting a diversity of opinion. Some opinions aren't worthy of respect. Do I respect the way muslims treat women? No. Do I respect the way Mormons treated people of African descent for the majority of their history? No I don't. And I don't respect many of the viewpoints of Rick Warren and am troubled that this man will have a prominent seat at an inaugural that was supposed to represent a change in direction for our country.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Congrats to Secretary Rice

I come from a long line of renaissance men. My father was a politician and a musician. How impressive is it for our first black secretary of state, to perform classical music before a British Monarch? Pretty significant when you think about it. Condi Rice found herself in a very difficult situation, surrounded by a boatload of alpha males who were supremely sure of themselves such as Rumself, Cheney and Powell, and ultimately she outlived all of them in relevance.

I actually have a fair amount of respect for Condi Rice. Do I agree with all her decisions and whether she had the backbone to say "George, I don't think the evidence warrants our invasion." Yeah, Condi Rice has faults, as do most of us. But she also had the courage to "reset the assumptions" regarding American policies in Iraq and ultimately send Rumsfeld into historical malignancy.

Admittedly, Condi is a mixed bag, as are most of us mere mortals. But I was moved by how she was moved by Obama's election. Her performance before a foreign queen, displaying her skills not in diplompacy, but in the arts, speaks well for her. And I honor her in this post, by acknowledging that despite her checkered record, she can still uplift in the realm of the arts.

Nice job, Condi.