I have so much to say tonight, I hope you stay with me. It will be somewhat disjointed but I promise to bring it together at the end. As the teenage boy might say on prom night, "Trust me."
I was summoned by a good friend to a school board meeting locally. Much as every niche of the country, we have a financial crisis looming and cuts must be made. At the last minute, word went out that some citizens were intending to ask the board to raise taxes to stop cuts in school programs or staff. Shocked, a bit frustrated, yet resolved I took off of work early, got my honey-do's finished and went to the board meeting. My initial impression was, "Why do I have to spend my evening telling my fellow citizens the obvious?" We are in a financial crisis in this country and my neighbors want to raise my taxes so they don't have to suffer as all of the rest of the community has. 'It's for the children, Keith.' Right. It's about your job, your pay, your benefits and your health insurance. So I set off expecting some whining teachers. It was worse than I thought.
The school district administrator had been charged by the board to come up with cuts in the school budget to resolve an expected 8% cut by the state in the school districts funds. At this time the exact number is not known. To their credit they are trying to get ahead of the game. He did his review of the budget and came up with several small cuts and innovative changes to programs and policies. However, he came up short by a substantial amount. In the end he decided that by cutting the FFA (agriculture program) he could meet the target. Needless to say that the kids in this program were devastated. Understand, this is a small town in the Hill Country of Texas, this type of program is popular and important. Before I go further, let me say, I don't necessarily agree with this cut. It could have been football. Bottom line, it isn't one of the three R's so it was on the chopping block. So here's where it gets interesting. I arrive a few minutes late in time to hear a well-dressed, well spoken man of obvious means and education wrapping up his statement which included the claim that he too was a fiscal conservative. He then went on to say, that even though he understood that cuts needed to be made, his daughter was in this program, she had done very well, anticipated an agricultural related career, and that he didn't know what she would do if this program was cut. Then he proposed that the district raise property taxes to negate the need for cuts. Raise taxes in one of the worst recessions in history. This was followed by teen after teen, all program participants, all girls, all with the same basic message. 'This is important to me. I don't understand why you are cutting it. I don't know what I'll do without this program.' I'm paraphrasing of course but this was the mantra. Now, this is complicated so please bear with me. Several people offered other areas that could be cut. Basically, cut that person's program, not mine. Some teacher even suggested they could take out their own trash. In other words, cut the janitor, not me. Several suggested simply raise taxes, these programs and our kids are too important. There are many reasons why raising taxes wouldn't even solve the problem which I can't go into here. Texas school funding is a mess. Google 'Texas' and 'Robin Hood' and you should get the picture. Basically in many cases if you raise more money the state simply takes it away. Again, it's complicated; I understand that these kids and their parents don't want their program cut. They are utilizing their constitutional free speech rights to petition the government for redress. I get that and I respect it. However, here are my thoughts on what was happening:
- No one seemed to fully understand that this nation is in a financial crisis from this school district all the way to Washington D. C.
- No one appeared to be willing to compromise, only to perpetuate the 'us against them' mentality. (one speaker even asked supporters to rise, giving a strong visual to the room who was friend and who was foe)
- No one was offering anything of their own to sacrifice, only offering others that could be sacrificed in their place, thereby allowing them to keep all.
- Every kid that spoke relayed a sense that their future relied not on their talent, their tenacity or their labor, but that it lay in a program or funding or a teacher.
- No one realized that we had a chance here to teach these kids responsibility, frugality, common sense, sacrifice and most importantly, that their future did not lie within the comforting arms of a government official, but in their own individual effort, passion and creativity.
- No one offered (except me; see below) that if everyone offered to sacrifice their own pay and benefits at a percentage, then no program would have to be cut, only scaled back.
- After I stood and proposed that all should sacrifice a little so that no entire program would have to be cut the superintendent relayed that across the board cuts were impossible. WHY? Because it's against the law! That's right. Wages for public employees are settled in contracts which once entered into must be honored. While a private company can renegotiate contracts, government entities cannot. The only way for it to happen is if every person in the whole district volunteered en masse. If just one person refused, none could agree to cuts in pay and benefits.
- The chasm that divides the private sector from the public sector was on full display for all to see who cared to. Any private business that tried to operate on this principle would be bankrupt in short order. Imagine an architecture firm, who face with financial difficulties decided to cut the entire production department in order to save the design department? How long would that firm stay in business? But in the public sector? 'And the band played on...'
So...what is one to take away from all of this? This is where ol' Keith has to do something he didn't learn in school. He didn't learn from a teacher. He didn't glean from a government brochure. No, my friends, this is where I have to apply something that I learned from my grandfather and my father. Common sense and historical knowledge. That's right, no government employees were injured in arriving at this conclusion!
Let me first aver; I have no animosity against any of these people, my neighbors, doing what they've been trained to do. They all seemed like nice folks who cared deeply for their children, their teachers and their school.
What we have here is a microcosm of what has gone tragically wrong with this nation. A nation which was envisioned by Providence, founded on Freedom, established with blood and treasure, formed perfectly from historical precedent, preserved through civil conflict, confirmed through emancipation, defended with massive sacrifice in World War and prospered as no other civilization before. This 'Great Experiment' was a huge success for +/- 200 years. Success and prosperity unknown to this planet. Diseases cured. Science exponentially progressed. Poverty redefined. Food produced on scales unfathomable just centuries before. Why Physics itself in the case of gravity conquered. The atom split, shackled and exploited. Despotism on a world wide scale defeated. This is the product of this nation, the United States of America. This is the true nature of this nation. This is the legacy with which we are charged to protect, defend and pass on to future generations worldwide. And yet, we stand on the precipice of the destruction of this greatest of all nations in human history. Why?
Only by rejecting the principles on which it is founded can such a nation perish. Those principles are undeniably; Liberty, individual responsibility, virtue, faith in God, freedom from oppressive government and free market capitalism. Rejecting such righteous principles does not happen save by incrementalism. The people of this nation have been slowly seduced into the concept of government as the problem solver. Imagine a business who, attempting to prosper in the free market finds his competition consistently beats him in the market place. So at some point, he goes to the local official and complains. The official, always ready to help a constituent then proposes legislation that hampers said market opponent. The aforementioned business then benefits. The ground is therefore laid. If you can't win in the free market, get government assistance and you can defeat your free market opponents. Imagine an individual who despite his best labors finds himself less successful than his neighbor. So he petitions the government. Again, always willing to help and gain favor amongst voters the government responds and 'levels' the playing field by tilting it. Again, the complainer wins, the true victor in the free market system loses. Thus a precedent is set. There is no more powerful friend than a government which is not bound by economic realities or even ethics. Again and again this scenario plays out until we find ourselves where we are today. If you have a problem, it can't be your fault, it must be some nefarious activity. If you can get government to intervene, then your chances of success are exponentially greater. Generations then succumb to the conventional wisdom; government is there to help you. All of this of course, ignores that government can do nothing FOR you without doing something AGAINST someone else. Thus, the ME generation is produced. Take from them and give to me. After all it's only fair. This is how great nations fall. This is how the masses are enslaved. This is communism, collectivism, socialism; whatever 'ism pleases you.
In and of itself this would be a sad end for such a great country. But...what if, just what if, it didn't happen innocently? What if it was a plan? What if a small minority of our countrymen have perpetuated this evil destruction of the greatest nation known to man?
It is for you to decide my friend. All I ask you to do is to read their own words. Read what union leaders say. Read what 'progressives' say. Read what communists say, then compare it to what 'progressives'/'liberals' say. Listen to what the candidate says to his core constituents when he/she thinks you aren't watching. I'm sorry. There is no other conclusion for a reasonable thinking mind to come to. There is, and has been for at least a century, a small vocal minority of our own neighbors who have openly advocated the destruction of this nation as we know it. Like the sirens song they have hypnotized a lazy electorate into believing that success lies in the favor of governmental intervention, not in individual labor and talent. The destruction that they have wrought is now on display for all to see.
The only hope for this nation to survive is to reject unequivocably the concept of government as a solution to any problem other than equal access to opportunity. We have a right to try, to fail, to succeed or to be average. That and nothing else. Any individual, politician or scholar who tells you otherwise is an enemy of the United States of America as conceived.
by: Keith D. Rodebush