In any case, I don't agree that this past week was a "huge, revolutionary wakeup call for the citizens of Erie County." The county government is trying to solve the problems they caused with the bodies and careers of county workers. It's wrong. My point is that the layoffs are not necessary. It's clear at this point what a bunch of self-interested boobs are running things at county hall -- and I suppose we could argue about whether Joel Giambra has done us all a favor by being such an idiot and dragging this into the open -- but the layoffs are not necessary for change to occur. All that needs to happen is for voters to reject any candidate for county government who does not understand that they want whatever it is they want. That is how the system works. If you think your leaders suck, you vote them out. You do not applaud a crisis, and damage 3000 people as a result of the crisis, and pretend that some potential change that could take place as a result of the crisis justifies the real and actual harm that has been done.Look. I feel bad for the individuals who are being laid off, who work for the county. Except for the patronage hires. Really, I do. But I'm not going to sit here and lament the downsizing of county government. Why? Because it's bloated and needs shrinking. I know that makes me a heartless prick, etc., but it's just a fact. This is a poor county that isn't getting any richer. It is a county that is hemorrhaging people. The solution to Erie County's problems - budget and otherwise - is not and cannot involve endless dipping into our pockets. It's nice to say that we can just vote the bums out, but which bum do we vote out? I'm sticking with the 6 who voted against the tax increase, thank you very much, because they stuck up for the citizens for once. Not the unions, not the special interests, not the CE, but for me. And you. And those 3,000 will get unemployment for a while, and will have to do what myriad other WNYers have to do every single day in the shitty business climate we have here because of high taxes - they'll have to hunt for a job.
I'm against sales taxes, as I've probably mentioned before on this blog, and also against fees, tolls, and any other public money that does not come from wealthy people and corporations. If a poor person pays ten cents sales tax on a purchase, they are paying a higher tax relative to their resources than a rich person would on the same purchase. That is exactly backwards, as I think BP agrees. What we don't agree on is that these layoffs are going to help the poor. There is one thing we know for sure: A bunch of people are going to lose their jobs. They are going to lose their jobs because a bunch of politicans wouldn't decrease their own perks, and because some people are so reflexively anti-tax that they don't seem to mind much what has to happen to get a tax lower. But we don't know for sure that this series of events is going to improve things for the poor, or for anyone else in the county. For one thing, some of those laid off workers are going to become poor people. For another, because the legislature failed to raise the sales tax, we are going to see big service cuts, and those cuts are going to disproportionately affect the poor.The layoffs will help all of Erie County, in the long run. And I don't mean that in a cute "you have to break some eggs to make an omelette" way. I mean for real. Analogy: New York in general, and Erie County in particular are Poland in 1990. A few years of economic shock therapy, and a few years later we'll join the free market, democratic world again. It'll be painful, but worth it. No one yet has said that the county cannot be run with 6,000 people rather than 9,000. Monroe has 1/3 less population, but only 1/2 the county employees of Erie County. That is a significant difference. And I'll bet Monroe could use some staffing cuts, too. Erie County should have only the budget and personnel it needs to accomplish its mission, which is to carry out certain Albany mandates. Everything else is gravy. Gravy that's disposable when times are tough. They can't get much tougher than they are now. And after the pain is over, when the County and City are back on their financial feet. When government is run efficiently without the need for incessant tax hikes, business will come. With them will come jobs. The entire community - rich and poor - will benefit from a competent government and rational taxation.
The negative effects of this fiasco are certain. What is not certain is that anything good will come out of it. That is mostly speculation. For anything good to come out of it, voters will have to go to the polls this November and every succeeding November and vote for competent leadership. Will they do that? I don't know if they will do that. There doesn't seem to be much correlation between a politician being a schmuck and the voters rejecting that politician. But here's the thing: Voters can do their jobs any November, penny or no penny, crisis or nor crisis. They can do that with 3000 layoffs, or without 3000 layoffs. The 3000 layoffs are not necessary. And I don't see why these county workers should suffer for the failure of a bunch of useless politicians and a mob of lazy voters.Erie County is essentially bankrupt. It can only do the things, and keep the people, it can afford. New Yorkers can afford to be, and have every right to be, reflexively anti-taxation. That's because we are taxed more than any other people in the United States. Our property taxes are 72% higher than the national average. That hurts our competitiveness, it hurts businesses, and it hurts average people. Our sales taxes are the highest in the country. that hurts competitiveness, it hurts businesses, and it hurts average people. There is a better way. Cutting county personnel by 1/3 is only step one. If it were up to me, we wouldn't have any county government at all.