‘We just can’t afford it anymore’

The Enterprise has recently carried articles related to the emergency need for infrastructure funding, cuts in school budgets, need for consolidation of local and regional governments, reduction in medical services and much more. Usually there is a quote from someone interviewed or addressing the matter, commenting, “We just can’t afford it anymore.”

It is a truism that money has to be spent judiciously and wisely. However, we are also in a toxic fiscal climate which will ensure that the economic viability of public and private ventures (particularly small business) will continue to be stressed and eroded.

When the statement is made, “We can no longer afford it,” for the most part it is true. It is also true that we are the richest nation in the world; productivity and income have risen. Money has accrued to the wealthiest people in this nation at an astronomical rate while real income for the vast majority of Americans has remained flat or diminished. The cost for education, medicine, retirement and governmental services (due to various mandates, both funded and unfunded), and greater overall need have increased. Essentially, those of us in the non-wealthy bubble are paying more and more with the same baseline income. This group is hurt in day-to-day purchasing of needed goods and services whenever there is a tax increase or they have to drive further to school or to a local, state or federal governmental agency, have to wait longer for services, etc.

One of the sadder aspects of this circumstance is we are being conditioned to blame the people also impacted by this continued, slow economic strangulation. The recent example of teachers being cut was rationalized as, we couldn’t afford their services. Tough choices were needed because the budget is being asphyxiated by the state-imposed tax cap. No avenue for other money was available. One of the dialogues during this time was about the contracts and benefits teachers have, while many other workers in this region have either lost them or never had them. The implication is, “Because we don’t have them, you shouldn’t have them.” I think the dialogue should become, “You have those benefits, and we need to get them, too.” Otherwise we will continue to feed upon ourselves and become more angry and more divided.

We (the national “we” and trickling down to the local “we”) are here economically because this is a choice the electorate has made. As John Boehner just said, along with numerous political pundits, “Elections have consequences.” We have to put pressure on our representatives through votes, letters, phone calls and appearances at events, letting them know we cannot continue this slow trek to financial desperation. We will not get out of this problem until there is an actual increase of money coming into towns across this nation. The labor market can no longer be cut out of the profits your work has created. There is a significant backlog of raises due to you. The withholding of your well-deserved pay is a private tax levied on the citizens of this country by corporations, multinationals, etc., who are making record profits. This is genuine taxation without representation. The people whom you have made wealthy have to put more into our economic environment in private wages and in taxes.

I realistically don’t believe you will ever get compensated for the years of stagnant income, but the past should not rule the future in getting a just income. And we/you have legitimately earned a greater share of the wealth of this amazing country.

Good luck, and stay strong.

Stephen DeHond lives in Saranac Lake.