If you want something, says the old expression, you’ll always find a way and if you don’t you’ll always find an excuse. I’m pretty sure that expression was intended as a commentary on budgets of any and all kinds from federal all the way to family, with state and municipal in between.
And if that is indeed the case, at just about all levels we are nearing the point where the road and the sky collide. What’s unclear to me (at least) is both what we intend to do about it, and when we might decide to begin in order to reach a new normal.
In the two dozen years I’ve lived here in Norwich, I doubt that there’s not been a time of municipal budget deliberations when very sincere conversations were begun about sharing services, consolidating and better coordinating across city departments with an eye on economies and savings, but then we tighten the budget belts and stumble and stagger onwards in pretty much the same way we always have.
We’re doing it right now, as if you hadn’t noticed, and because we choose to not remember the past (which is why we tend to repeat it so often) we’ll do it again. And again, if we let ourselves get away with it. How about we choose this time to continue those oft-started ‘economize’ discussions until we reach conclusions, measure impacts and implement changes (if that is indeed what we decide to do).
In our own name and supposedly for our own benefit, we have constructed a form of government we may no longer be able to afford. I have no idea whose fault that is, but since searching for the guilty does nothing to get us closer to anything that resembles a solution might I suggest a better point might be ‘who cares?’
In a tick less than two hundred and forty years we evolved from a nation founded on (inalienable) rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to a government whose federal tax code started out in 1913 at 400 pages and a century later was almost 74,000.
I would not be surprised to learn a similar pattern of ballooning happened at both state and municipal levels, possibly triggered by an innocent question like ‘why don’t we do ….?’ or ‘what do you suppose happens if we…?”
We’ve inverted the pyramid of possibilities so that the base, which was intended to offer the most support to the rest of the structure, is now, somehow, at the top with a mass and weight that cannot continue to be borne successfully by the private citizen who was once at the pinnacle, the object of the entire effort, but is now trying to hold up the entire structure.
This is the year we face the reality that we cannot fix what we’ve always had and that it’s long past time to redefine what we want and what we are willing to pay for it. Stop talking and start doing.