Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sal DiCiccio on entitlement culture of government

It's been a very tough four years for most people in our economy. You have seen the value of your home and retirement accounts fall while taxes, fees and public debt shot up.
Businesses and jobs went away, and while things seem better these days we're not yet back on the path that feels right.
Your government didn't do much to help you and in many instances made the recession worse.
As a Phoenix City Council member I've seen first-hand the hurtful effects of this wrong-headedness about economic issues.
In the next few months, I will be providing examples to explain what is wrong with our government and what can be done to fix our economy, getting us back on a more efficient and effective course.
Phoenix, of course, has a reputation as the Best-Run City in the World, and it has great people and does many things well. But when the recession hit, even this supposed stalwart of good government succumbed to the primary instinct of government everywhere, to protect themselves first. They used language designed to create the image that people in government were suffering and sacrificing along with everyone else when in fact that was not true.
For example, the average total compensation of all employees went from $80,347 to $100,980 from 2005 to 2012, a growth of nearly 26 percent. While city staff had nearly 17,000 employees, only 15 workers lost a job in the recession less than a tenth of 1 percent of the work force. How's that compare to what happened with your business or employer?
Pay raises for most people were put on hold. Not government. They saw pay raises near 5 percent every year in the recession. Did you get a pay raise, or did you see your family get a pay cut? Many in the private sector saw pay cuts around 25 percent or more.
Property valuations went down 20 to 30 percent. Are you paying 20 to 30 percent less in property taxes? Probably not. Your local government quietly raised your rates hoping you would not notice. You paid more than you should, and government staff was buffered from the effects of the recession.
You and other citizens were never asked if you would rather that employees forgo an annual raise ( averaging nearly 5 percent hikes) rather than lose critical services -- services like senior care, youth programs, library hours, after school programs to name a few.
That's how government works: Belief that they are entitled to be protected.
To me, the focus was and is backwards. The culture of government in general, is to cut services and raise costs for the public without making any sacrifice themselves. .
I believe we're not going to change the culture of government as it is now structured. The difference will have to come by introducing more competition into the system rather than expanding the workforce that's already driven by the culture of self-protection. Monopolies do not self-reform.
We'll be talking about the problems, issues, ideas and solutions in future blogs about every other week. Please forward this to your friends and other concerned citizens.
Sal DiCiccio is the Phoenix City Council member for District 6.

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