Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The idea of thrift has left public buildings

OPINION: There is a great deal of noise happening in town halls and county seats around New Jersey, since so much municipal aid has been shaved from the budgets of governing bodies. Programs are being cut left and right, and there is confusion about the future.

Yet, why should there be? The bill is simply coming due.

Luxurious government was never the intention of those who established this country, and yet that is what it has become in this state and many others. If the Continental Congress operated in the way that our legislative, county and municipal bodies do so today, there could never have been a United States.

Immediately upon deciding about independence, modern-day lawmakers would then have attended to their most pressing concerns: Developing the real-estate potential of major corridors (and finding creative ways to get a cut of it); immediately establishing offices whereby their relatives and supporters could obtain patronage positions; and then lobby private companies for paid appointments on various boards.

Administration officials appointed would immediately require new buggys and horses for their personal use, and new town halls and buildings, a cultural center for every town would need to be erected and many government-funded festivals would be thrown.

The military would be neglected in pay, if not equipment. Infrastructure would go unnoticed if it did not directly benefit friendly developers and pet politicians. In short, there would be no United States. America would be a colony and our revolution would have been a bad joke to the English.

How that relates to today is that government needs to remember itself -- it's core mission, and why it is here.

Institutions like the Adult School, in Union Beach, are closing. But, the patronage jobs of so many politicians and their friends and families, in this county, state and in every town, still go on unabated. The message could not have been spoken clear enough by the voters: Tax relief!

Government needs to becoming smaller, and have less by way of luxuries. They need to count staples and paper clips. They need to deal with pay reductions and not pay raises. Elected offices in and of themselves should be without pay. Only someone who has been successful in their own financial life has any business whatsoever aspiring to public office.

Some critics have told me this will not bring the class of people needed to run government, and yet I disagree. Right now with all of these perks and benefits, our lawmakers are often unaccomplished partisan hacks who are in government to make a fast buck peddling influence.

There are exception, great exceptions on both sides of the aisle. I could spend all day saying the names of the great office holders it has been my pleasure to know, though it would take several days for me to name every spendthrift no-account I have seen take an oath of office.

If government is making do with less, that is not bad overall. What is bad is that the things that need cutting -- all of the fluff -- seem to be the priority in this state, in this county and in these towns.

Government needs to know that the party (political or otherwise) being thrown on tax money is over. So it's time for them to gather their coats and ties and get back to work as if it were a job again.

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