State’s ‘re-set’ necessitates change

By Observer editorial June 24, 2010 02:04 pm
What’s most troubling about Oregon’s budget crisis is that it’s so unstoppable. According to experts, not even a strongly-revived economy will avert the disaster looming in 2011. The still-lingering recession took so much out of state coffers, there’s no making it up in the next biennium. State government is looking at a budget gap exceeding $2 billion. Borrowing money or raising taxes won’t fix the problem. So the answer — if answer it is —  lies in cutting the size and scope of state government. Outgoing Gov. Ted Kulongoski has a nice word for it. He calls it “re-setting.”

What’s that mean? Beginning now, with Kulongoski’s call for immediate 9 percent cuts in all state budgets, and continuing into the foreseeable future, Oregonians will have to settle for less government, fewer of the niceties and conveniences  government provides. Education, human services, public safety and corrections will be scaled back, one way or another, and it will be a long time before services are restored to their former level.

 Everybody knows it’s coming. State legislators and department heads have already begun preparing.

So maybe now we should be asking ourselves, as individuals, if we are prepared. If the government is going to accept less of the responsibility for our well-being, perhaps we should consider accepting more.

It’s a cinch, for instance, that school districts will be employing fewer teachers, and students will be attending school fewer days each year. That being the case, parents and grandparents should start thinking about taking up some of the slack.

Nothing takes the place of classroom teaching and  learning, but there’s plenty we can all do can do to help education along informally. We can take kids to museums or art galleries. We can go outside with them and find the constellations. We can play sports with them instead of relying on a coach or gym teacher to do it all the time.  There is in fact no end to things we can teach kids, if we take the trouble. We haven’t been doing enough of it anyway.
Human services? A lot of them we wouldn’t need if only people started taking care of their hearts and lungs and livers the way they know they should, and stopped snorting poison up their nose or shoving it into their veins, and quit beating their spouses, and having babies they either don’t want or can’t afford.

Corrections and public safety? We can cut those bills down simply by respecting the rights of our neighbors, obeying the law and staying out of the slammer.

Here’s the point: Government plays a vital role in our lives and we’ll always need it, but we’ve never really needed as much as we’ve had.

It’s a longshot, to be sure. But every little bit helps. The power to cut the cost of living, by living right, is ours. Imagine this: “Re-setting’’ could be the best thing that ever happened to us.