Show me the Money
Many police do fine work. I know a lot of cops – most are very nice people. Many are my friends. I do not blame them for having a great wage and benefit package. They are looking out for their families as are the rest of us, and few of us would refuse the salary and benefit and retirement packages they receive if we were offered it – and don’t forget virtual immunity from all traffic violations is also a nice little perk. They deal with real criminals who can sometimes be hazardous to our health, especially if they are working in prisons or in the larger cities. They hunt down dangerously violent killers, rapists, robbers and other nasty folks. Let’s face it though – a normal cop’s life is not reflected on prime time TV.
A recent study showed that well over half (over 80% in some areas) of suburban police work is traffic related. Do we really have so many problems with unsafe drivers? Accidents? An exorbitant amount of court time and our money is devoted to traffic enforcement. Are we such irresponsible and dangerous drivers that we require near constant oversight and safety enforcement at this level? Or is this more about transferring more of our money to government at the point of a local cop’s pistol under the guise of protector of the innocent?
When the police officer emerges from the brush at the bottom of the hill, soon after the speed limit has changed from 50 to 35 MPH, he doesn’t want to bring you to jail. He probably doesn’t really even care if you slow down. If it were really dangerous, and they truly wanted us to drive slower, the car and the radar gun location would not be hidden. Many cops will confide in friends and family that they hate to do this type of work – but they do because it is their job. I guess that makes it all right.
We can now be cited and fined simply for warning our fellow travelers about a speed trap. They call this “obstruction of justice”. Isn’t the goal to encourage drivers to slow down? Are they interested in safety and slowing traffic in that area or not? This flashing head light warning has the effect of slowing down oncoming drivers. Apparently they really don’t want our help in warning drivers to slow down – they want something else.
“A man always has two reasons for doing anything, the reason he says he has, and the real one”. – J.P. Morgan.
What would really happen without any police? Would murderous gangs spring up from every corner? Certainly some people would take advantage of a lack of “supervision” but most of us are trustworthy, honorable people and probably would not kill or rob our neighbor just because the police are absent. Would drivers speed through red lights without a care? - Or would we be reasonable enough to watch out for other cars and obey the light’s signals because we don’t want to endanger ourselves? Enlightened self-interest would suggest that later.
We are taught to believe that the police are here to protect us. Other than traffic violations, it is extremely rare for any police officer to actually apprehend a criminal in the act. As far as real crime is concerned, their job is after the fact investigations which sometimes does, but often does not result in the successful apprehension of the perpetrators. It is hard to argue that in certain cases the obvious visibility of police may be a “deterrent” to crime. Most of us prefer not to be shot by a police officer when we can avoid it, so we will usually behave when a cop is around.
I am not suggesting that we do not need any police; just that maybe now we have too many. I don’t know how many are necessary, but if 80% of their work load in some cases is traffic related, then we would have to admit that maybe there just are a few too many cops out there and not enough real crime to justify their numbers. Minor vehicular offenses don’t injure anyone; it is not critical to our safety. Why not eliminate at least some of them? Or maybe not replace retiring cops until we really need some to actually fight real criminals who want to hurt other people.
Does this sound reasonable: We need the money to pay for the police. We staff a police force whose job it is to transform as many of us as possible into criminals so to generate traffic and other penalty revenue. If they don’t collect those fees, maybe there wouldn’t be enough money to support their own salaries and pensions. This allows them to continue to oppress us even more later. They of course always deny charges of “traffic quotas”.
There is very little revenue in arresting truly dangerous criminals; in fact, it costs quite a bit to incarcerate a prisoner for a few months or years. Government must somehow create cost effective criminal activity where none really exists to feed itself. This is not something of which most of us are unaware. We all know this is going on and has been for years. Why do we accept it? Don’t they work for us?
Because I like the cops that I know, I don’t want to see their retirement changed. I believe in contract law, even if I didn’t agree personally with the deal, and would never have voted for it had I been offered the opportunity. The pay and benefit scales for the new guys will have to be reduced or there is a good chance the packages for the veterans and even the already retired will be forced to restructure when bankruptcy courts throughout the country have to deal with the failed cities, towns and counties who just can’t afford this luxury into the future.
Traffic Light Cameras
Just in case the police are too busy fighting real crime, many localities have taken to placing cameras at intersections to catch motorists driving through red lights. Again, the reason given is to protect the public. But time and again the companies providing the equipment and software sell it to the local governments touting the great benefit to the community due to the significant revenue it will likely produce.
It is an indisputable fact that where these cameras are placed it increases rear-end collisions at those intersections. When a driver sees the yellow light, and knowing that there is a camera about to reach its technological arm deep into his wallet, he brakes, and so is hit from behind.
Yellow lights have been found to be intentionally set at too short an interval to catch more “bad drivers”. Studies show already that if they are time-set to allow reasonable time for a driver to cross the intersection, the revenue would be reduced considerably, and maybe even not worth installation.
Is this oppression? It is just a camera, placed for safety.
Our laws state that if charged with a crime, we get to face our accuser. Now if a cop gives a ticket at an intersection, he knows the circumstances. A camera does not.
What if you were stopped by a local cop for running red light, but there was someone tailgating you prior to the infraction? In order to avoid an accident it is proper to go through the light a little late rather than have a potentially injurious accident with a tailgater.
Since it is well-documented that more of these types of accidents occur at traffic-camera intersections, would it be beyond reason to be more aware of the driver behind? Because of these cameras, drivers make the subconscious decision in a mini-panic that it is better to have an accident than get a harmless (but expensive) traffic ticket.
If the cop is our accuser we could argue the tailgater defense, and he may realize that it may have been true. A camera gives no appeal process, how do we face our accuser? This is the new America, we are guilty and there is no accuser to face. This Orwellian security measure is just another example of what we Americans will now accept without rebellion.
Yes firefighters do save people - sometimes; yes they do risk their lives - sometimes. To call these men heroes is beyond reason. If it were really such a dangerous position, one which called for the employ of extraordinarily heroic and brave men and women, there wouldn’t be such a long line of eager applicants. One almost requires a political appointment in order to get hired on these days, so there is no special courageous character or specific combination of championship blood-line DNA necessary.
Here again, I know many firemen and they are invariably nice guys. Like the cops, I do not believe they were evil for accepting their positions – but also like the cops, we just can’t afford the luxury anymore. I can’t think of one fireman I personally know who would call himself a hero. He does his job; now and then it is dangerous. Ever been to a tax audit to defend a client? A different kind of danger, - we all face our professional anxieties and dangers.
Firefighting is not a calling. There is no need to search for brave willing men to serve – they are everywhere. When the list of applicants is so long, there has to be a reason. Ask any fireman why he became one: “To help people. I want to save people from fires.” Again – the stated reason is a good one. But what is the real one?
Many firefighters work 24 hour shifts. No, they are not super-human beings blessed with enormous stamina, they have a bed in the firehouse. They sleep for 1/3 of that time and are paid for all of it. If they work two 24 hour shifts, then they may get four or five days off every week. What do they do with those off days? Usually they have another job under the table; after all, they aren’t really working full time. They generally are painters, carpenters, electricians, auto mechanics, any number of occupations; and don’t forget many don’t declare or pay tax on any of this other income. In addition, they get a nice fat pension, just like the police.
So, why does one want to become a firefighter? Of course, to save people from fires.
Let’s be fair now. We all know of stories of firefighters who have given their lives in fires. They can be heroic at times and are trained to save lives. Sometimes there is a lot to do and the firefighter gets no sleep at all during his 24 hour shift. He has to respond to several calls and never gets the chance to rest. It may seem facetious to suggest that it is a shame they can’t sleep sometimes – but it is the truth. In these cases they actually do need the time off of a day or two to recuperate from a tough shift. Most of us who have to stay awake ALL of the time we are being paid for working would probably jump at that deal.
The reality today is with all of the sprinkler systems and other safety regulations in place today, (Remember, OSHA has us idiot-proofed) with upgraded and safer electrical systems, there are not as many fires as there used to be. Like cops, the vast majority of a firemen’s activity is not what is portrayed on TV. No there aren’t all that many fires. Their primary responsibility is to respond to emergency calls for medical attention in which they do save lives because most require paramedic licensure. BUT there aren’t all that many of them either. Mostly a fireman waits for something to do.
Think about this for a moment. If you live in a city, how many fires do you have a year? Of course there are some. Now - how many firemen do you have? How many fire trucks? How many fire stations? Now do the math. What do they do? Fireman may have just as secure a job as police as far as government stability and tremendous pension benefits, but at least they don’t directly prey on the people who pay them. You never feel threatened by running into a fireman on the street. He can’t give you a traffic ticket and cost you thousands of dollars in additional auto insurance premiums. But he does cost you indirectly quite a bit too - salary, benefits and pension costs.
A few years ago, one of my clients told me that if he had it to do all over again, he would not be a policeman. He would have been a fireman. His reasoning was this: They don’t get the detail money cops get, (Details for cops is the gravy train – standing at functions, bars, parties or road work sites, as required by law – I wonder who lobbied for that)… but many firemen do have part time lucrative jobs on the side. Firefighter pensions are about the same as cops, but most of all he said when he deals with the public, they don’t want to see him. A fireman is almost always a welcome sight. This cop was weary of being one of those people who we know cost us money, time or freedom so we don’t really want to see him.
Funny, he never mentioned anything about maybe working in the private sector.
Sometimes firefighters become angry when their union contract negotiations become adversarial and a local administrator wants to cut pay or benefits.
Several years ago a western city was in the midst of a very bad economic crunch - kind of like today. The town wanted to adjust the firefighters’ contracts because they just couldn’t afford them. The union called for a strike because they felt that they were about to be mistreated by the new administration. The new town management was elected on a promise to curb public costs. The firemen decided to stay away from work.
All of a sudden there was a rash of fires throughout the city. And you guessed it, no firemen to put them out. Volunteers helped out. These fires caused far more damage because professional firefighters had not been immediately available. This resulted in clamoring to give in to the demands of the firefighter union. Which they did.
A short while later several firefighters were arrested and charged with arson.
A more Recent ABC News Article: May, 2010:
“A string of suspicious fires that hit the battered city of Flint, Michigan, after more than 20 firefighters were laid off and two firehouses closed were meant to "terrorize the community," the mayor claims. Since the job cuts in late March, 153 of 202 fires – mostly in vacant buildings – were classified as suspected arson, city officials said. The number of arson fires began to decline after a federal grant enabled the city to rehire some of the firefighters.”
So, a word of advice; if you are running a town and really want to save money, don’t lay off any firefighters. Sometimes you need them to put out fires, especially when they are upset. Just in case, I’d better make sure my real estate fire insurance policies are up to date.
Most firefighters are decent people and would not act this way, but there are enough of them consumed with union attitude who have proven that they will. The union mob mentality sometimes takes a hold of reasonably good people and makes them do or accept things they wouldn’t have otherwise thought themselves capable.
No, he isn’t going after teachers too? Will he leave no one alone? No. I am an equal governmental occupational attacker. Ask any teacher: Why did you become a teacher? Again, a very good reason: “To help children learn, to give back to the community”. Baloney. Summers off, six hour work days, another several weeks during the year for vacation, teachers aids to help out, great pay, great pension benefits, little supervision, and no accountability.
Another disclaimer is warranted here. I have several tax clients who are teachers. They are very nice people individually, and I can't imagine them glomming onto the groupthink that is so prevalent in the union - but I don't really know. Mob (union) attitude is often contagious. A good friend who I respect immensely was a teacher most of his life. I have no doubt he was a good teacher because the policies bothered him so much he said because they hurt the kids. He is a conservative, so he was able to reason well during his tenure.
He would tell me of the unreasonableness of the teacher’s union and its refusal to remove poor teachers despite their obvious shortcomings. Their concern for the students’ education was the last thing on their agenda; their own contracts were the primary and pretty much their only concern. When ever a union vote came up to either limit their raises or terminate some of the younger teachers they invariably voted to protect their own raises and benefits at the expense of their less important union brothers. There are some fine teachers who actually hold conservative ideals and really want the kids to learn. They had better be quiet about their beliefs though and never suggest compromising their own benefits for the good of the school or the kids, - and never forget to tout the government teacher line in public: “Its all for the kids”.
Now some would suggest that teachers are all martyrs who put up with horrible kids every day and are not paid very well. We hear it all the time in movies and on TV, so it must be true, right? Let’s find out.
Teachers don’t usually make as much as Cops or Firefighters, but don’t forget a teacher works fewer hours per day. Of course they claim with righteous indignation “We take work home with us!” Again I say horse-hockey. (If I were a black night in a Monty Python movie, I would not hesitate to angrily say “NI” to them.)
What professional among us does not take at least some work home for after hours on the computer? What about continuing education? We all have to do that too.
The first two or three years or so on the job, teachers tend to work harder and longer because they have not yet obtained tenure. At first they are new and spend more time making sure they know what they have to do and don’t want to lose their government gig. Like all new professionals, they want to make sure they keep their jobs. After the first couple or three years or so, it is time to relax and head on in for retirement.
Teachers are paid more than fairly. Their work year is approximately 1,400 hours as compared to 2,000 hours for the average full time worker. Don’t believe me? Here is the math:
Average worker gets two weeks vacation plus some other time, let’s call it 11 more days:
Teachers vs. Private Sector Employees
We all know teachers work about 180 days a year, plus some when the kids aren't there. Professors in college generally tend to work far less.
180 days divided by the 240 most of us work 75%. So if a teacher’s day were as long as ordinary workers, they would work 75% of the time the rest of us work. Teachers of course claim that they work far longer hours. They say they take work home and spend hours more every day that they can’t prove. We all know teachers who don’t do much or even any of that. They correct papers at school either in class or in the teachers lounge. Many go to school, and come home by 4:00 with no additional burdens.
A teacher’s work day is not eight hours, maybe it is seven, or even six. We give them 7 ½ in our comparison to be more than fair. Don’t forget, many now have teacher’s aids. Most other professionals have to do all of their own work. In many classrooms across this country now the aids do a lot of the teaching and the teacher does even less.
They work far less than the average person. Lets be generous and guestimate in the range of about 70% of the time – for full time pay. Plus they have tremendous pensions just like cops and firefighters. Why do they have such an easy schedule? They have the teacher’s union who always votes for big government. The bigger the government, the more pay and benefits we can provide teachers (we all know it is for the children).
Like the cops and firemen, Hollywood movies portrait teachers as dedicated, patient, saintly servants of rotten children. There is again almost always a reference to the: “Lousy pay and benefits, but I do it for the love of the kids who need me.” Hogwash. Have you every met a retired teacher who was poor? If they make such lousy money as they claim, and their pensions aren’t good enough, then why are they among the most financially stable retirees? In over 30 years in tax practice, I have never met a poor teacher. Think about it.
The Value of A Public School Teacher
(This is not meant to disparage all teachers, but some should not be teaching - and this is one.)
“Recent news item – Teacher let go in budget cuts must work two minimum wage jobs cashiering to make ends meet…”
The gist was - we can’t let this happen to our teachers – the horror - something must be done! A disgrace! How can we allow a respected teacher to be reduced to such an ordinary, unskilled worker position! We must all tighten our belts, agree to raise taxes so we can re-hire these displaced teachers.
I don’t think so. My take is: How is someone who possesses no greater skills than those of a minimum wage cashier qualified to educate our kids? What could she possibly be teaching that students could use in the real world if she can only get a cashier’s job in the private sector?
My sympathy goes out to the kids she will be allowed to teach next. What can they learn from someone who can’t cope without a government job? How will her students be trained to survive if she can’t? I suppose she will teach them to be teachers, and impart the great wisdom of social justice, equality and the evils of capitalism upon others.
Other Government Workers
Why is it that nearly everyone today seems to want to work for the government? Whether it be a teacher, a cop, a fireman, or maybe any lesser clerical position, trash or toll collection, computer data entry, parks departments the pay and benefits are significantly better than the private sector. The bottom line is they receive far more while giving less of themselves. We in the private sector have to give more to receive less. Unfortunately without us, there can be no them. We provide the money.
It isn’t that we should rescind all of these golden retirement plans. Unfortunately, we have agreed to do it through our representatives. In the absence of a bankruptcy, we should honor it. Plus, a lot of these people are honest workers who have in good faith agreed to these contracts. BUT we can’t continue to make these mistakes. It is because I like most of these people that I suggest stopping it. It isn’t their fault; they didn’t put a gun to our heads. Their representatives may have, but that is a different argument. If we don’t stop these public benefit programs for new hires (better yet stop all government hiring for at least ten years), if we keep our collective heads in the sand much longer, these
plans will absolutely fail. We will have no choice but to either restructure them all through the courts at bankruptcy filings throughout the country, or inflate the entire economy by printing wads of cash which will have the effect of diluting the values.
The existing pensioners and employees won’t be able to maintain their current benefits if localities continue to offer new employees the same deals. In order to save those employed now, we have to curtail future benefits. It is simple mathematics.
We’re all Governmental Prey
Most OSHA and IRS agents, as well as traffic detail police officers believe that they have an important job to do. Teachers, firefighters and other governmental workers are not terrible people. Despite what you read above, they are honest government workers performing their duty for their employers trying to do the best they can for their families. They consider themselves worthy of their wage and benefit packages – they must be, we are paying it, right? These workers are also caught in our many and varied financial traps, except of course when it is someone they know personally who catches them in the illegal act. In these cases especially with local police officers, the “perp” gets a break. The citation somehow disappears because it wasn’t really all that important in the first place – everyone knows that.
Many “regulation enforcers” also believe that they are harassed by the other branches, yet they can’t see it in themselves. The cop hates the IRS because he can’t understand the tax laws and his taxes are too high. Yet hiding in the bushes with a radar gun presents him no moral dilemma. The IRS agent hates the police officer because he has been caught in speed traps which cost him hundreds of dollars in fines and hundreds more in additional automobile insurance premiums. On the other hand, after he informs a taxpayer that “Ignorance of the law is no excuse” and has legally extorted several thousands of dollars in taxes, penalties and interest for a law even he can’t understand, he sleeps fine. He believes that is his job, and if he didn’t do it, someone else would.
The OSHA agent hates the IRS and the cops because he has been audited twice and was sited and fined for forgetting to place that little sticker in the corner of his license plate and he didn’t notice that his brake light was once out. He goes to work the next day and issues fines to a company for thousands of dollars for having the bleach too near the paint in the storage closet. The fireman and teacher are sometimes caught for operating side businesses and not declaring the income. On and on it goes. Round and round the money-go-round.
Sure some countries have even more tyrannical laws, but many have far less. In Singapore for example, spitting on the sidewalk can result in your caning. It is all right though if you throw up – no caning for puking on your shoes in public – or even somebody else’s as far as we can tell.
What’s the point? Our government at almost every level and at every turn seems to have transformed itself into an entity whose primary goal is not to protect us from foreign invaders, domestic violent criminals or financial fraud, but instead to separate us from our money so that they can grow as large as possible. They do this through a myriad of “safety” laws and in the name of “social well-being”.
Under the guise of protector or provider, they enforce regulations and / or social responsibilities for the benefit of all. Like obedient docile sheep we comply with every new tax, fine, and regulation that comes our way. It is time we stop accepting this. It is time to fight back to try to keep more of our own money, and take back our freedom. This is the real class warfare, the private sector vs. public.
Every now and then I fantasize about moving to a tropical, impoverished third world country. Why? Maybe there will be so much crime and so limited governmental funds to police it that they will actually leave honest people like me alone until we actually bother someone else in a substantive way.