With government, you get what you pay for, and don't

Ugh, government! Out, foul spot of bureaucracy! Be gone, thou satanic paper pusher! And while you're at it, take your free-spending supernumerary brethren with you, too!

Government? We don't need no stinking government! Well, at least we could do with a lot less of it, right?

And so it goes. Rare is the politician who doesn't decry the creeping multiheaded monster of government, the bane of our existence, the slap-happy drunk slurping away at the trough of the public exchequer.

There's an old saying in Hollywood that so-and-so will never work again in this town — unless we need him.

Much the same holds true when it comes to the nameless, faceless minions in the hallways of government. We could do with a lot less of them unless, of course, we need a taxpayer-funded factotum to file a document or perform a service for us.

With declining county revenues, there will be no shortage of public employees soon to taste the bitter reality of being laid off. The antigovernment disciples who regard government workers as a bunch of incompetent wastrels will be sure to cheer this news — until the next time they have to close on a house, or register to vote, or take a bus.

Hey, where did all those people go?

Nowhere good.

Losing a job is more than merely being denied a paycheck. You lose a piece of your identity. You lose a sense of self-respect. You lose the feeling of contributing to family and society. You lose … you. Been there. Done that.

No one would argue that government at any level has some degree of bloat to be deflated. But when an entity like Hillsborough County is confronted with millions of dollars in lost revenue due to declining property tax receipts, jobs will be lost. Dreams, too.

There's a disconnect in society that somehow all of us go about our daily lives without ever having any interaction with all those freeloading, three-hour-lunch, asleep-at-the-switch homesteaders taking up space and time and money in government.

There's them. And then there's the rest of us.

But from the school crossing guard to the folks who pick up your garbage, to the park employee who mows the grass to the technocrat who processes a permit and to scientists testing the water quality in the Hillsborough River, we have very real and very direct contact with dreaded government every day.

That's not to say there aren't frustrations in dealing with the public sector. I had occasion to call the office of Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden the other day, and simply trying to find a phone number or e-mail of one of Belden's functionaries was like trying to navigate the Da Vinci Code. I would have had an easier time getting one of the Gadhafi lads on the line.

And it's that sort of seeming brick wall that drives us nuts sometimes.

But the workers who may lose their jobs in the wake of budget cuts are the same people who buy houses and cars and clothes and food. Just like you. They fret over bills. Just like you. And they worry about tomorrow. Just like you.

Government won't get any more efficient when these public employees lose their jobs. It will become slower, more unresponsive, less accountable. If reaching an apparatchik in Doug Belden's office was akin to tracking down Judge Crater today, imagine if the tax collector has to start laying off people tomorrow.

This could make The Hunt for Red October look like trying to find a lost sock.

Well, you get what you pay for — or don't.

With government, you get what you pay for, and don't 08/27/11 [Last modified: Saturday, August 27, 2011 5:31am]

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