Fair enough

Once in a while the Wilmington StarNews Editorial Board offers a sensible view on politics and government bureaucracies. Critics might say, “Yeah, when they agree with you, Smith.” Fair enough. Often I differ with their opinions, but I’m willing to give credit when it’s due.

In a November 20 print editorial titled, “Is it fair?” editors discuss the excessively and unjustifiable high pay of local government bureaucrats overseen by the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, the college boards of trustees, New Hanover County commissioners and the school board. They note “padded pension,” “pay (that) exceeds state guidelines” and “generous vacation leave” of public employees—both legal and questionable. (link)

In final paragraphs editors get to the usual social justice issue. High level officials got big pay boosts, while “state workers were doing without raises.” They also made a surprising editorial admission: “taxpayers who foot the bill” for government employees, aren’t getting raises either, they write. Yes. And private workers don’t have the unusual job security enjoyed by government bureaucrats—many of whom are out of work or in low-paying jobs.

And editors recognize the consequences. It’s difficult for elected officials to justify raising taxes with these wild pay disparities in the news—in New Hanover County the median annual household income is less than $49,000. The “people’s trust is fragile,” say editors.

Yes; and trust in government generally is fading. More Americans begin to realize that many politicians work against the interest of most citizens—using our money to buy support from various noisy factions.

It’s not just about “fairness.” Smaller government is easier to control and keep accountable to elected officials and the citizens. Unfortunately, we can’t expect most politicians to control it; it’s in their personal interest to support and expand taxpayer-funded programs and bureaucracies (“bread and circuses”).

It’s not fair to us, but that’s the way it is because—in or out of government—people are naturally self-interested.

James Madison, author of our U. S. Constitution, wrote in 1826: “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” Although we are not angels, there are many good people among us—some even become politicians. Unfortunately, so do bad people. Much earlier, in 1682, Benjamin Franklin wrote in a preface to the first Pennsylvania constitution: “But if men be bad, let the government be never so good, they will endeavor to warp and spoil it to their turn.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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