Cops, firefighters, teachers, even bureaucrats; they all belong to a class of people that’s taking serious heat these days: government employees. States and municipalities have run out of money, and many have blamed their misfortune on unionized workforces earning what they consider to be lavish salaries and benefits. My home state of Illinois, despite raising taxes earlier this year, is still in the red. I’m all for shared sacrifice, but as the son of a schoolteacher, I take issue with the notion that government workers are privileged. While some employees make six figures, the majority make less than their counterparts in the private sector. And many are losing their jobs as the recession drags on. Some privilege.
Archive for the ‘Wizard of Id’ Category
I like to run. On warm spring mornings (or even cool spring mornings), I enjoy stepping outside, riding my bike to the park, and dashing across the still-wet grass. But under no circumstances would I ever run a marathon. Why not? Well, consider the first guy who ran a marathon. He dashed 26.2 miles from Marathon, Greece to Athens to deliver some Important War News. Then he died of exhaustion. That’s not something I want to emulate. And those absolutely insane runners who sprint for 100 miles or more? I’m surprised the trails they use aren’t littered with corpses. From what I understand, they are littered with dehydrated, vomiting contestants whose bodies are starting to fail. Again, not something I want to emulate.
Chicago was in an uproar yesterday over Bears quarterback Jay Cutler having sat out much of the second half of his team’s loss to the Green Bay Packers. With a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, Cutler sulked on the sidelines while his replacement (and then his replacement’s replacement) led the Bears’ offense. Turns out he injured his knee, and while die-hard fans (and even some rival players who took to Twitter to share their pearls of wisdom) insisted he was being soft, I’m not sure that’s completely fair. “Go back out there!” people exclaimed. “Football is a physical sport!” Actually, football is a violent sport, which is why I can only stomach it in small doses. If Cutler’s knee was shot, there’s no way he should have gone back out on the field.
This strip, which shows an ineffectual head of state groveling before a wealthy oil dictator, could have been written in 1973. Or 1979. Or 1990. Or 2003. Or 2008. While many people think we should do more to satisfy our energy needs domestically, it can’t be that popular of a notion because we haven’t taken meaningful steps to do it. Of course, now that mass-market electric vehicles have arrived, we have no excuse. How difficult would it be to wrap solar panels around every single streetlight and telephone pole in America, or to plant windmills atop every tall building? Not difficult at all, I suspect. But I wouldn’t hold my breath on any of those solutions, not as long as there’s money to be made from oil.
Nobody likes to pay taxes. Income taxes are a drag because they cheat us out of our full paychecks. Payroll taxes are frustrating because they benefit current retirees. Property taxes are onerous because they increase the cost of home ownership. Capital gains taxes are off-putting because they make investment less lucrative. Sales taxes are meddlesome because they jack up the price of consumer goods. Here’s the thing, though. Taxes are necessary. They pay for police officers, pothole repairs, and pensions. Thanks to the recession, governments have been collecting fewer dollars from taxes. Which means the rates are sure to go up. In the very near future. At all levels of government. Either that, or we’ll learn to live with half-empty police stations, partially paved streets, and poverty-stricken pensioners.
It seems like everyone has an opinion when it comes to political figures. Barack Obama? Sarah Palin? These are names that make supporters swoon and send opponents into conniption fits; reactions that are both tired and predictable. That’s why, whenever someone feels the need to share a political opinion with me, I ask them what they would do if they were in charge. This generates some surprising answers. Some people focus on issues that are ignored by Congress (like the war on drugs), whereas others offer creative solutions to widely recognized problems (like combating unemployment by reviving the Works Progress Administration). Still others parrot the party line, and while their answers are rote, at least they steer the conversation away from this or that political personality.
We all have dreams. When I was in college, I dreamt of playing professional baseball, which was strange because I had never played organized ball at any level; not high school, not middle school, not even Little League. I played pickup softball in the park, but those games hardly counted. Still, I loved the heck out of baseball, so I concocted an elaborate scenario that had me playing third base for the Minnesota Twins. I would break into the majors as a hot prospect, endure a prolonged slump to start my career, and then break out of it by going four-for-four. Years later, I would break Joe DiMaggio’s record for consecutive games with a base hit and win two World Series championships. The Twins are using a platoon at third base this year, but something tells me it’s a little late for me to get in on the action.