This Labor Day I’d like to think globally and act locally.
Bowing to an increasing culture of all-out warfare on public sector jobs in our nation, the city council in my hometown of Evanston is currently considering privatizing up to twenty of its public services, including recreation programs, community health initiatives, information technology, the city vehicle fleet program, street maintenance and more.
Yes, even here in our supposedly “progressive” little town of Evanston, we’re not immune to the spreading disease that views “big government” as the source of all economic evils. This Labor Day, it seems a good time as any to make this point: a balanced budget is not a de facto virtue. Budgets are value-neutral. How we generate income and how we spend that income are inherently values-based decisions.
And on a purely practical level, I’m in full agreement with those who claim that balancing the budget by slashing government spending does not stimulate the economy. Given that we’re experiencing zero job growth – and probably will for some time to come – it seems to be doing the exact opposite. Indeed, Paul Krugman makes this point convincingly in today’s NY Times:
Although you’d never know it listening to the ranters, the past year has actually been a pretty good test of the theory that slashing government spending actually creates jobs. The deficit obsession has blocked a much-needed second round of federal stimulus, and with stimulus spending, such as it was, fading out, we’re experiencing de facto fiscal austerity. State and local governments, in particular, faced with the loss of federal aid, have been sharply cutting many programs and have been laying off a lot of workers, mostly schoolteachers.
I know our experience here in Evanston is being currently played out in any number of communities around the country: we are falling prey to a knee jerk, fear-based assumption that the only way to balance a budget is to cut spending. But there is certainly more then one way to slice a pie – and I would claim that doing it at the expense of public sector workers is not only economically unjust but economically irrational.
Click here to read how privatizing Evanston services would affect our workers – and why it would cost our city more in the long run. And if you are an Evanston resident, click here to sign a petition that calls on our city council to keep public services in the public’s hands.
May this Labor Day inspire us all to go forth and do the work of justice.