Yes, it IS Christmas
Hats off to Mayor Tom Rowland for championing the word Christmas for Cleveland. Lets hope his example will rub off on some of our more politically correct leaders and businesses for next year.
Slap in the face?
The US economic downturn has effected almost the whole population, even those with jobs and stable personal finances. People can't rely on there being money in the near future and having a job today is no guarantee it will exist tomorrow. Even usually stable businesses have fallen victim of the recession because their paying customers are hurting. Everybody is having a hard time except, it seems, the most privileged group of workers amongst us; public employees.
Under the ARRA, American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, President Barak Obama has channeled billions of dollars to state coffers with the intention of stimulating the economy and halting the recession. The idea was to encourage public works programs, such as bridge and road building, to provide new jobs through which a trickle down effect would stimulate the whole economy.
This idea was used during the Great Depression of the 1930's with marked success, but today results seem to have been perverted by states using money to stabilize existing government agencies at a spending level enjoyed before the so-called financial meltdown. Much of the ARRA stimulus money has been filtered off to keep existing public workers employed, guaranteeing them the same benefit packages and pay increases, effectively insulating them from the hardships workers in the private sector are forced to endure.
Locally, city and county governments have hardly skipped a beat. Public employees are still negotiating more favorable medical insurance packages and pay raises while the rest of the community struggles to buy essential medication and pay the rent. Public employees are being paid lucrative retirement packages while loyal private sector workers are laid off at a moment's notice with nowhere to turn. Few new jobs for those out-of-work seem to have been created while government is using stimulus money to insulate itself from hardship. Money paid to public employees does trickle down but they are not new economy stimulating jobs. Bloating government does not make for a prosperous nation and during a financial downturn can create a privileged class as was witnessed in the Soviet Union before its collapse. Do we want the same to happen here?
Today, the public workforce are receiving better pay and benefits, and are working less hours with more paid time off than their counterparts in the private sector.
At home, Cleveland Community College used ARRA recovery money to offer attractive retirement packages to staff and administration employees, then rehired many back in part-time positions. How does this help the economy? Also CCC, are claiming a need for tuition increases to local out-of-work people wishing to improve their chance of employment through education. Who's stimulating whom?
It is my opinion that local and state officials are being inconsiderate to beleaguered taxpayers. Flaunting the stability of government jobs in the faces of the unemployed. They function on the premise that they are protected by tax dollars from any and all recession downturns.
It is not surprising that many regard it a slap in the face when the City of Cleveland and Bradley County, while receiving ARRA recovery money, award employees long paid leave during the Christmas and New Year holidays. It was announced that city and county offices and services would be closed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for Christmas, and December 31 and January 1st for New Year's at a time when much of the local population are concerned if they will have a job in 2010. Businesses are struggling and can't afford to match such generous vacation breaks. It is an insult to those caught in a sinking economy for their government to be so inconsiderate.
The point I am making is not to try and disadvantage public employees, who after all are workers like everyone else, but to highlight the inequity of what is happening in two distinct areas of employment. Is it fair that people in public service should outpace those they serve?
With local elections approaching it may be time to reconsider reelecting the people who allowed this to happen.
That's what I think. What do you think?
Outside the law
A recent Associated Press release titled: "Unemployment leading to increase in having arrest records expunged" seemed an ideal candidate for a few paragraphs in this What do you think. The article said that increased unemployment is causing more Tennesseans to have their criminal records expunged so they can be more competitive in the job market. The article inferred that wanting to hide your criminal activities from a prospective employer to obtain employment was a justifiable reason. It mentioned a 25 year old Kristopher Cheatham who was accused of stealing money and abusing his girlfriend, and later threatening his mother with a handgun during an argument. A judge dismissed the first two charges and retired the handgun threat. He wasn't found guilty but the ruling required him to stay out of trouble.
Can anyone see the flaw in this type of court ruling?
When a record is expunged it is wiped from public record. Originally the primary reason for expunging someone's arrest record was to protect a person wrongly accused. Then this seems to have been expanded, along with pretrial diversion, to form a loophole for the wealthy and influential to avoid punishment and embarrassment. Prominent people invariably use this option with the aid of the court. Local District Attorney General, Steve Bebb was quoted as saying an accused person with no previous record can apply to the court for pretrial diversion without pleading; be granted and have the record expunged after an arrest free period. He also said there was no way for that record to be used or even accessed in a future prosecution. If he is correct, then in theory a person can avoid being held responsible indefinitely while continually applying for pretrial diversion and expungment because there is never a previous record. Think this doesn't happen?
Ask the DA.
Back to the AP article. It said that this year through November, 26,000 people had criminal records wiped away by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, 3,156 in March alone. Which adds more credence to the charge that the TBI is nothing more than a cover-up agency for influential and connected wrongdoers.
The US court system has long been charged with double standards. Attend the Bradley County Criminal Court to witness first hand the way different social/economic types of people are treated. The apparent arbitrary and inconsistent way the law is administered is a disgrace to Tennessee and the Nation.
The latest revelation that there is an official stamp of approval by the court system for employers to be kept in the dark about prospective employee misconduct is another nail in the coffin of trust for the US judicial system.
That's what I think. What do you think?