Sunday Night Cynic: What Government is Worse Off?

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This topic contains 16 replies, has 13 voices, and was last updated by  Tabitha Carnes 8 years, 12 months ago.

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  • #135875

    Stephen Peteritas

    I’ve been surfing around GovLoop for the last hour or so and there’s a lot of chatter and some cynicism about government. It seems that the latter of those two is in full swing right now with the debt ceiling and the Minnesota shutdown.

    While I’m NOT one of those people that thinks government is headed to hell in a hand basket there are certainly people out there with that viewpoint and that gets me wondering…

    Who to you think is in the worst situation right now: Federal, State or Local government?

  • #135907

    Tabitha Carnes

    It’s cyclical and moves from the private sector to the local government, to state to federal. It’s Washington’s turn to feel the pain. Sadly, everyone will share it. 🙁

  • #135905

    Robert A. Moss

    With a staggering debt there is no other way but to set our prioroties for funding. everyone will feel the pain of tightening our belts. We need to pass on a fiscally responsible government to our children and grandchildren.

  • #135903

    Peter Sperry

    I would say state and local governments face the most severe problems right now because of their staggering unfunded pension liabilities. Very few people realize that as a percentage of jurisdictional revenue, these obligations exceed what even the feds owe on Social Security and Medicare. The federal government would be in the same employee pension boat if it were not for the foresight of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neal who argreed on replacing CSRS with FERS in 1983. Although FERS is not as generous as CSRS, it is almost fully funded and still provides more retirement security than many private sector employers.

    Over al the biggest problem facing all levels of government (and many large private sector corporations) is that weak willed leaders in the 50s, 60s 70s and to a lesser degree 80s gave into completely unrealistic voter and employee demands for pension and medical benefits they knew could not be paid for over the long term. Since they were up for reelection in the near term (or had to make profit targets) and the bill would not come due until the long term (ie. today) they negotiated contracts that brought major corporations (GM/Chrysler) to their knees and are bankrupting many states. The people who negotiated these bipartisan agreements are long since retired, or passed away. Today’s generation of senior corporate leaders and elected officials gets to listen to pious lectures on labor/managment cooperation or bipartisanship from many of the retired “statesman” who negotiated these unrealistic deals. They also get to deal with explaining to the workers, retirees and voters that most of these agreements were never financially viable in the first place.

  • #135901

    Bill Brantley

    Having been a local, state, and (currently) Federal government worker, I believe that local governments are always the worst off with the state governments following close behind. If you look at the cost of services provided versus the tax revenue received, you will see that local governments operate on the thinnest margin while state governments have a little more of a cushion to work with. When the economy is bad, local governments feel the effects much more quickly than state governments or the federal government.

  • #135899

    Denise Petet

    They’re all messed up, and it’s largely because one trickles down to another. For years local and state governments have depended on the Feds to give them that critical money. but that money is drying up, the feds cut off the locals and state governments and they have no where else to look. Largely because they ‘always’ depended on the feds and simply never even considered self-sufficiency. (or,at the very least, funding critical stuff themselves and using fed money for ‘luxuries’)

    I’m seeing a bunch of things.

    Local, state and federal law makers placing more importance on following party protocol than using their brains and thinking for themselves. (the old ‘if the other party put this forth, it must be evil, keep it away from me’ coupled with ‘if one of my own put this forth, it must be right’ actions instead of them looking at any and all legislation and seeing what parts of it might be good or bad instead of just dismising it.)

    Largely state and federal law makers catering to their campaign contributers/corporate sponsors/[personal missions when it comes down to making laws and rules. (Earmarks, selective tax breaks, etc)

    Local, state and federal law makers using their position to promote their personal belief system instead of looking at what does the most good or least harm to the majority of people.

    Local, state and federal law makers using their position to grind personal axes or pursue personal vendettas instead of doing the whole of their job. (DA’s going on witch hunts against selective groups instead of working for the public as a whole)

    Add to this mix enough cases of ‘senator gets his 9th DUI and walks’ or ‘governor cheats on his wife’ ‘senator guilty of tax evasion’ and other things… feel like you can’t trust any of these folks any further than you can throw them. Because, all too often, there are no checks and balances. In many cases, we have tiny localized dictatorships of law makers having decades long ‘reigns’ and, since elections are often based not on who may or may not be better in a job but who has the biggest ad budget or voters just blindly voting along party lines, you end up with lots of ‘bad apples’ continually keeping their jobs.

    Like someone posted over the weekend elsewhere, back when this country started, serving in congress or the senate was like Jury Duty. A civic duty that you committed yourself to for a period of time, then you returned to your real life and continued on, having done your duty. Now that being a politician is a bonafide career, well you have people willing to do anything to get the job, to keep the job and to profit as much as they can from it while they can. It’s not – for the vast majority of them – a job done out of sense of duty, but a job for the wealthy to get so they can increase their wealth.

  • #135897

    Mark Dixon

    I beg to differ…all levels of government, at least in the USA, are heading to hell in a handbasket, especially if you think of the reasons they exist in the first place. IMHO, the purpose of government is essentially to serve its citizens. I assert that, at all levels of government, we are highly dysfunctional relative to that basic mission.

    The rest of the world is passing us by as we endlessly debate “issues” and engage in partisan politics, not shared solutions.

    That said, the worst pain is felt at the local level, where, ironically, most services to citizens happens. Next is the state level and finally the federal level.

    From the local standpoint, we have too many archaic and redundant organizations that provide the same services…way too many counties, cities, townships, municipalities, boroughs, etc. whose existence is fundamentally rooted in politics, whose organizational structure is primarily functional and whose jurisdictional lines on a map bear no relationship to natural realities. Since effective and efficient service delivery depends on coordinated cross-functional activities, the way we are doing governmental business bears no relation whatsoever to service delivery for citizens. In that sense, governments have become self-perpetuating bureaucracies who “accidentally” provide some services to citizens.

    As one moves up the “food chain”, the issues become more acute, but more abstract. For instance, local governments do not do “pure” research…that is a federal function. But the federal government (politicians) are acting like local governments…go figure. The issues that each level of government deals with should reflect across a continuum of strategic/tactical and general/specific. Right now, we are a mess.

    Bottomline, the world has changed, we are in a “new normal”. The sooner government and political leaders and workers realize that, the sooner we can begin to fix it. The longer we wait means more expensive and more radical fixes, and our children will bear most of the burden for every day we delay.

  • #135895

    D Gorton

    From my view it seems the citizens are in the worst situation right now. At each level of government a different group of citizens are affected.

    Being at the local level I am very disappointed in our ability to serve our customers. The way it seems to work is, the Feds make some cuts that affect the States that make cuts, then the local governments cut to try and work with-in the budget. The cuts are services provided to the needy. These are the customers of the Federal, State and Local Government.

    I am not saying that the situation isn’t bad for the Federal, State and Local Government. a number of Government employees loose their jobs, then in many cases the employees affected by this situation become the needy.

    So I think the citizen is in the worst situation.

  • #135893

    Steve Ressler

    To me, there is a funnel:

    State government – lots of budget is federal grants

    Local govt – lots of budget is federal and state grants

    So based on trickle down, local is hurt as its 3 sources of revenues go down 1) property tax 2) state grants 3) federal grants

  • #135891

    Denise Petet

    Very true. In all their fighting, bickering, double dealing, taking care of their personal agendas, John Q Citizen is always the loser.

    Be it programs that are cut, public works that don’t get done, infrastructure that falls apart…the citizen always ends up paying the price while the politicians engage in endless blame gaming and spin doctoring.

  • #135889

    According to this story, at least a dozen states have a surplus:

  • #135887

    Stephen Peteritas

    Wow I would have never guessed that in a million years.

  • #135885

    Tabitha Carnes

    I’m actually not surprised. But consider this….how deeply did these states cut and how many people did they lay off in prior years in order to have the surpluses they enjoy today? I would be curious to know what their unemployment rates are. Do they exceed the national average? If they do, then they qualify for federally funded extensions of benefits.

    I know of many local governments that made massive cuts last year and laid off hundreds of workers. These governments are now enjoying a modest surplus this year, but the level of service they provide has been majorly diminished. Contributing to those surpluses going forward is an expanded tax base in many of these municipalities that had not done an assessment on real estate in many years. Most people’s tax bills are about to go up….way up.

  • #135883

    Denise Petet

    IMHO, the purpose of government is essentially to serve its citizens. I assert that, at all levels of government, we are highly dysfunctional relative to that basic mission.

    I agree. In my opinion, the majority of politicians – of all levels – aren’t serving the citizens as a whole. Looking for the most good and least harm. They’re repaying favors from special interest groups who contributed to their campaign. THey’re passing through pet projects via ear marks. They’re taking care of friends and buddies. They’re pushing their personal beliefs and opinions on others through laws carefully worded to pick on one group or another.

    There is much more an attitude of self-service than public service.

    And it’s all branches, all levels. There are some ‘good’ ones out ther, but I think they’re either outnumbered by the ‘bad’ ones, or the ‘bad’ ones have such control that the ‘good’ ones just can’t fight it.

    What we saw during the health care debate. D’s blindly supported D’s, R’s blindly supported R’s, both sides were detemined that their plan was the only good one and both refused to even consider that the other side had any good ideas.

  • #135881

    Kristy Dalton

    Local government is worse off, especially if a non home-rule entity. The state legislature decides on consolidated tax distribution. Municipalities exist at the will of the state, and at any time the state can mandate that cities must take on services that were handled at the state level. In tough economic times, it happens more often.

  • #135879

    Lauren Reichelt

    It depends on where you are. In NM, I’d say state government has been utterly demoralized and stripped of all effectiveness, especially in health care. My county seems to be one of the few that is still functioning quite well, although we’ve had to imitate pretzels to keep programs up and running. Federal government still seems to be running but they have less ability to work with us local peons than they’d like. All in all, I think the state has been hit the hardest.

  • #135877

    Brian Dowling

    Local governments because what ever bad comes out of Federal and State flows down to the Local level. and as examples

    Our debt was exacerbated by a war fought on a credit card and greed of those who feed on desperate hope of the poor. Now we are punishing the poor and rewarding the greedy.

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