Prioritizing the budget; Human trafficking; Cuts put us at risk; The cost of capitalism; A modern fairy tale
Prioritizing the budget
Discretionary city budget items should be funded in order of priority. The council should work down a published priority list, funding each category adequately until the money is gone, and then stop. A natural order of priorities is as follows:
Public safety, because that is the first purpose of government and serves everyone General regulatory enforcement, such as building codes Necessary general services used by all, such as roads and utilities Discretionary services available to all, but used only by some, such as parks, libraries, golf courses, airports, buses, AFN, etc. The relative levels of use and self-support of such activities should be considered Planning for land use and general city character Public art Support to specific economic enterprises, such as tourism Benefits to only a few individuals, such as housing subsidies.
This approach is more rational than requiring all departments, even public safety, to cut their budget below that required for the level of service Ashland demands. The priority categories may be refined and expanded, but the point is to make such a list, and then follow it.
Last weekend I attended a seminar on human trafficking and was struck by how many college students, including myself, were unaware of the severity of the issue. Many high school and college students will be planning to travel after school gets out this summer, and I wanted to express my concern and knowledge for this silent epidemic here in Oregon and around the world. Students don't have to travel out of the U.S. to be at risk for human trafficking. Among the highest ranked cities for human trafficking is Portland. In Oregon alone, police say they are seeing three to five people per week who are victims of trafficking, and about 80 percent are female and half are children. We need to start addressing the lack of education about human trafficking and making sure local travel agencies, airports and schools make people aware of the risks. Ashland is a smaller town that I was raised in until the age of 17, and I never once had any inkling of the problem here in Oregon or understood or recognized the thousands of women who have followed broken promises of modeling gigs, jobs and relationships only to end up a trafficked human being. All it takes is telling people in your community that this issue of human trafficking is prevalent all around the world, including in our own backyard.
We certainly don't need to live in fear and never travel to other places or countries, but people can't be naive or uneducated on this serious issue. This industry of trafficking human beings is a $9.5 billion industry and about 30 million people are victims of modern-day slavery in some form at this moment. Let's educate our community and protect our women and children. We don't want to wait until it is our mother, child, son, neighbor, husband or wife.
University of Oregon
Cuts put us at risk
There are bankers and Wall Street traders who are trashing our savings, destroying a healthy economy and bankrupting our financial institutions. They receive billions of dollars as bonuses after this debacle. There are banks that gamble with the stock market until they crash and, oh wonder, the government is throwing so much money at them that we cannot conceive of the amount.
And now, out of these irresponsible actions we have an economic downturn. And guess what: We, the people who pay the taxes which are rescuing the bankers and banks have to face another cut in our emergency system — which leaves us more vulnerable than ever.
On top of national and global crises, a local story points at the Ashland Fiber Network's debt (see April 28 Tidings article "City departments pay price of AFN debt") which is slated to require a massive transfusion, weakening key city emergency response teams — the fire and police departments and CERT. These cuts put our local population at risk.
This doesn't feel right.
Edeltraud von Rymon Lipinski
The cost of capitalism
Mr. Telpner's letter of April 7 (U.S. is a great country because of capitalism") extolling the alleged virtues of "capitalism" comes at a most interesting moment in the history of that form of economic organization — namely, as it lies prostrate and on life support provided by public monies. Thanks to capitalism, we Americans have more citizens in poverty and homelessness than does any other advanced nation; we have no universal health care, unlike all advanced nations; we are deeply in hock to the world; capitalism has shredded our once mighty industrial base; our workers are the most productive in the world but are denied decent wages, paid vacations and paid family medical leaves — they are even effectively denied the right to form unions; our schools are failing from lack of funding; and we have more citizens in prison than does the rest of the entire world. Meanwhile, globally, the "American Model" is a laughing stock among developed and developing nations.
But his views are typical of Americans who have been brainwashed over the past 70 years concerning "socialism" — it is always defined as "Stalinism" or "Maoism" or any other non-socialist but autocratic example that can be scrapped together to scare Americans away from thinking about anything but "capitalism" even as it collapses before our eyes.
There is an apt line in the movie, "Fear Strikes Out," about a talented baseball player who suffers a nervous breakdown on the field. Institutionalized and in therapy, his doctor asks him to speak of his father (whom we know by flashbacks is a domineering, dictatorial, cold mentor). The patient angrily replies: "Don't talk about my father! If it were not for him, I would not be where I am today!" That is the response too many Americans make when anybody seeks to analyze and criticize the role of capitalism and how we got neck deep in the big muddy today.
A modern fairy tale
Paul Krugman has a modern version of the old fairy tale "The Emperor Has No Clothes" in his April 27 piece in the New York Times,"Money for Nothing."
In the original version the tailor supposedly weaves clothes for the king of such wondrous quality that only persons of exceptional insight and perception can see them. Actually, it is a hoax, and there are no clothes at all, but the king, not wanting to appear dumb and inferior admires them. The people go along with the king, but a child finally sees the obvious and observes that the king is naked.
The modern version is essentially identical. Here modern banks supposedly require policies so abstruse that only a few, exceptionally brilliant persons (the bankers) can provide the necessary services. To obtain their services requires tens of millions of dollars in annual salary.
The bankers' services, like the tailors' services, are a hoax. As Krugman says, "it is a new, improved way to blow bubbles, evade regulations and implement de facto Ponzi schemes."
The question now is how long the public and Obama will accept the bankers' creative entrepreneurship.