Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Public service careers and the mess in Detroit

I've been watching the various news reports on the demise of Detroit. It's very depressing.

I've got family in Michigan. I've got family from Michigan. I haven't set foot in the state in over 20 years, but I'm still a die-hard Wings fan. I go to see them play the Kings or the Ducks when they come to town. But, as you can see from the photo, as a civil servant, I can't afford to sit near the ice.

As a civil servant, there's only two things I can say about how much I make per hour, my benefits, and my pension - yes or no. I can take what's offered, or I can quit. In a closed government shop, I have no say. I like what I do, so I stay ... even as I make less than I did 10 years ago with all the give-backs and extra towards health and pension, I'm glad that I'm employed so I count my blessings and pray for those in worse circumstances.

With that in mind, I feel a bit angry at the news reports that say the government workers are to blame for sucking Detroit down a hole. Folks had nothing to do with that. The job opening was posted, they applied, the government union said what the pay scale was and how much they'd get in pension and health ... then they worked their careers. You can argue over individual slugs and super stars, but the workers don't set pay and benefit rules.

Since I don't live in the city that employs me, I don't get to vote for the people who set my wage. I think its the same way for a lot of government employees. So, I'm left with two choices: stay or go. If I go, someone else will take the job. Government won't shrink.

So what does this say about me, government workers in general, and Detroit (or your city)? The city where I am employed has such a positive balance in their portfolio (as reflected in their recent CAFR) that they could actually buy Detroit's entire debt burden and have about $3 billion left over. Why is my city doing so well and Detroit doing so poorly?

Something to think about as I change the channel to something more positive, like Extreme Amish Cougars on NatHistGeo HD.

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