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The Civic Scene: All levels state government must cut pork spending

With the new year here, our local, state and federal governments could go a long way toward solving their fiscal problems if they would cut their expenses and deterred criminal activity. But with the economy down, there are less taxes being paid, so there is less money to spend.

Too many government workers receive too many high salaries, are double-dipping and receive expensive medical packages and procedures. If tax revenues do not come in, there is not enough money for services. Our federal government is permitted to spend more than it takes in, so we have annual deficits. But as we become more of a debtor nation, the weaker our economy, standing and power in the world becomes.

One wasteful expenditure is the use of consultants, developing special programs and paying private firms to do the work government workers used to do. The latest scandal is $80 million for the CityTime project, which is supposed to convert city employees’ paper records to electronic timesheets to stop fraud.

Speaking of fraud, keep your eyes open concerning charter schools and consulting firms being created to make schools better. In the past, one had to take pedagogy courses to become a teacher and a supervisor. These days, life experience is enough to get into the education system.

Wall Street has discovered that a lot of money is available in the education field. It is too bad it is destroying the reputations and motivations of the people in old schools to try to correct social and cultural problems not easily possible for schools to solve.

One has to understand that sometimes too many people get too large pensions. For example, it was discovered that Long Island Rail Road workers were all given disability pensions for all illnesses they developed, even though they were not job-related. Workers, officers, firefighters and teachers injured in the line of duty should get a pension but not for all illnesses and especially if they are unrelated to their jobs.

There is a fine line between pork spending and the legitimate needs of a community. Some local projects or nonprofits are needed by a community and should be funded. The problem is not these pet projects but the total expenditures of the various levels of governments because the total cost of all the federal, state and city earmark, pet or pork spending is only about 2 percent of the total cost of any of the budgets.

The big problem is the high costs of Medicare, Medicaid, military spending, those two wars we are fighting, subsidies to the agro-industry and other groups and the cost of paying the interest on our $12 trillion federal deficit.

Another big federal expenditure hidden deep in the budget is the cost of running our overseas bases using private contractors. Instead of military or federal employees, we hire private companies to do a lot these days. Naturally, lobbyists from these companies can lobby and give donations to legislatures to keep their expensive activities going.

The federal money is giving a subsidy for the production of ethanol from corn. It has been discovered that ethanol pollutes the air just like gasoline and also raises the cost of corn to the benefit of the agro-industry, but the subsidy continues as do the subsidies for many other commodities pushed by lobbyists for the agro-industry and military-industrial complex.

New York state has a real bad reputation: too many patronage jobs like those provided by Off-Track Betting, too many members getting charged with fraud and other crimes and going to jail, too much upstate favoritism, too many late budgets that cost too much in interest and too many lobbyists sent by too many special interest groups.

New York City finds ways to spend millions on such things as bicycle lanes, but does not make drivers respect them nor bicycle riders use them properly. The city has been changing the names of bridges and tunnels lately, creating a high cost to change all the associated signs and printing the new names on maps and brochures. Why not use the money to repair these aging structures?

Instead, to make more money, the city is going to raise the price of parking because if people are fearful of tickets and annoyed at the high rate increase, they just may go shop outside New York City, where some localities cover up parking meters during the holidays with bags that proclaim a holiday moratorium on parking fees.

It would be wonderful if in 2011 our various government leaders would act properly, save money and spend tax dollars wisely.

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