Govt. spending forgetting man asked to pay bill

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, August 29, 2010

Appearing before two Brookhaven civic clubs Tuesday, U.S. Sen.Roger Wicker lamented the plight of the “forgotten man” whilediscussing activity and legislation in Washington. Given somepending local government actions, he could also have been talkingabout a developing situation in Brookhaven.

Wicker spoke of congressional consideration of how to handle theupcoming expiration of a series of Bush-era tax cuts and incentivesthat are scheduled to end in January. Without their extension, thenation is facing “the largest tax increase in history” – in themiddle of a recession, no less.

On top of that, the new health care law promises “the mother of allunfunded mandates” for states in the form of higher Medicaid costsfor increased coverage requirements, said Wicker, echoing the wordsof a Democratic governor from Tennessee. States are challenging thelaw, but failure will mean some form of higher taxes to cover thecosts.

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“Unless we win this lawsuit, the question will be what poison youwant to take,” Wicker said.

For the state’s citizens, that will mean reductions in services -in some form or another, or higher taxes – in some form or another.That is a fact that cannot be forgotten.

Wicker was also critical of runaway federal spending that hascontributed to a $13 trillion debt and an expected $4 trilliondeficit over a current three-year period. He said that debt wouldnever be paid off.

On the local level, the mayor and board of aldermen are close tosigning off on a new year budget that will increase the costs ofthe single-largest government expense: personnel. City fathers haveagreed on 5 percent across-the-board pay raises for employees,including elected officials.

Officials also plan to ask city water, sewer and solid waste usersto pay about $1.50, or around 4 percent overall, more a month forthose services. Those services are known as “enterprise funds,”meaning fees collected from users must be sufficient to coverexpenses.

Granted, some higher costs associated with those services arebeyond the city board’s control. However, higher personnel expenses- driven by pay raise decisions in other areas of governmentoperations – is not one of them.

For Brookhaven’s citizens, the new budget will mean reductions inservices – in some form or another, or higher taxes – in some formor another. That is a fact that cannot be forgotten.

But what has been forgotten is the “man” who is expected toshoulder the burden of paying for government at all itslevels.

Often without any pay raise of his own, and even the prospect of nojob at all, that man is being asked to pay more for potentiallyless in services from his government. And he must do this whilestill providing for the needs of his family.

At whatever level, federal, state or local, more governmentspending is not the way out of the current recession. Too many havenot learned that lesson, but for the man asked to help pay for itall, it is one that cannot be forgotten.