29 July 2005

Cutting For Good

Our Governor has proposed that government employees work 4 days a week in order to cut down on the overall government payroll. The wailing and gnashing of teeth this proposal generates is, to quote Faulkner, "...sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Let's look at some salient points here:

---The local Government directly or indirectly has 41% of all employed persons in Puerto Rico. The government is thus a bloated construct with payroll expenses so high (over 80% in Education and the Police Department) that there's very little left for even the most basic of public services. If you still don't think that's a problem, how about thinking of these employees as voters that are directly beholden to political leaders for their jobs? Then you can figure out how this same situation leads directly to widespread corruption and bureaucratic gridlock.

---Governor Acevedo faces a contrarian legislature (when they earn My respect, I'll capitalize that word) with self-service very well ahead of public service, a pack more intent on self-aggrandizing monkeyshines than actual lawmaking. Rather than tackle the zoo head-on, Acevedo has opted for "non-confrontation" disguised as "going to the people," making decisions that smack of dim-witted desperation: a laughable "executive take-over" to "move the country forward"; raising taxes before any sort of budget is decided (yes, the legislative monkeys have blocked the budget, but raising taxes before a budget is approved is political idiocy) and now, an attempt to cut expenses by "cutting the work week," even going so far as to trim his own salary by one day "as an example." News flash, Acevedo: The people couldn't care less if you cut your salary because they make a hell of a lot less than you. Instead of looking noble and "leader-like," you're coming across as supercilious and weak, if not stupid.

---Getting government employees to work four days a week is not a reduction: it is a 400% improvement over their usual output. However, at a time when citizens are clamoring for better services and taking in consideration the success of the extended hours many offices have adopted, trying to reduce salaries by cutting one day out of the week is like trying to lose weight by cutting your throat. The problem isn't how many days the employees are working, but how many of them are "working." Study after study shows that government agencies are overstaffed by at least 25-35%, with most of the overstaffing occuring at the "mid-level," the ever-widening trough of do-nothings. Tackling the problem of high government payroll expenses means cutting  jobs. Period.

---"Easy for you to say, Jenius. You don't work for the government." No, that's one of the many reasons I am a Jenius. Yes, cutting government jobs will create disruption, panic, anger and the loss of the coming elections for Acevedo and his party. But: he already acts like he's lost the next elections (raising taxes without a clear and popular agenda is political suicide in Puerto Rico; look it up), has shown himself incapable of enough backbone to make a difference in the executive and legislative branches, or even in his own party and faces a more uncertain economy in the coming few years leading to the inevitable local reaction of "The economy sucks so it's the governor's fault," leading to voting in somebody else.

Given these conditions (only a fanatic would argue against them), wouldn't it behoove Acevedo to try to leave a legacy and at least make a move towards improving Puerto Rico's chance at a True Future? Slashing the government payroll would free up funds to improve services, jump-start government projects and enhance business potential, all of them creating additional opportunities for business growth. That same business growth will provide the jobs "lost" in the government, slowly at first, but with greater speed and power as the opportunities are recognized.

The Future of this Island is not in bigger government: it's in business growth. Government growth stifles business growth and We already have the biggest government We can't afford. Acevedo hasn't the tools to move the government forward: maybe he can use what he has to cut the government back. At the very least, he'll be trying to do something useful, a welcome change We'd applaud if it ever happens.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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