County benefits overly generous
In this current dismal economic situation, it seems the only employers that continue to offer Cadillac benefits packages to employees are local governments. Most people — business owners and employees alike — are experiencing rising costs and shrinking benefits, or no benefits due to being unemployed.
Clark County government appears insulated from the economic realities the rest of us face, as it continues to provide county employees and their families complete insurance benefits including medical, dental, vision, long-term disability and life — at a cost of up to $1,772 for full family coverage per month in 2010, with increases slated for 2011. The employee contribution for this deluxe coverage: zero. (Full-time employees start paying a portion of premiums in 2012). Additional perks include generous wages, paid vacation that accrues and rolls over to the next year, 14 paid holidays, 12 days of paid sick leave and retirement.
State workers just got pushed to contribute 15 percent to medical premiums in a special renegotiation. Virtually everyone in the private sector contributes to insurance premiums if an employer offers such benefits.
If county employees contributed 15 percent to premiums, vital services like roads and public safety could be maintained, without tax hikes. What better serves the county? Safe roads for all? Or overly generous benefits for the privileged few?
Columbian stepped up to the plate
While attending our recent Clark County budget summary meeting and witnessing the “crocodile tears” our commissioners shed as the carnage unfolded and the various agencies were decimated, Steve Stuart announced that we’re all in the same boat. No, we are not. The public-at-large is rowing desperately in a leaking rowboat, while the commissioners are sailing off to some tropical island in a luxury yacht.
The following week, a Dec. 15 Columbian story, “Commissioners’ salaries to rise in ’11,” revealed that the commissioners were allowing themselves a $2,000 pay raise and a boost in their car allowances. The very next day a strange event occurred. As reported in the Dec. 16 story, “County commissioners: Salary hikes not justified right now,” Stuart had a self-described “sleepless night” and the commissioners immediately rushed to reverse these pending increases. Can you spell “hypocrisy?”
So, folks, never underestimate the power of the free press. And though I often disagree with them, The Columbian stepped up to the plate — and called the strikes.
Pay cuts would be smarter move
The Dec. 15 Columbian story, “Gregoire: Consolidate state agencies,” detailed her proposal to save money. She has also reached an agreement with state workers (union and nonunion) to pay more on their health insurance and also accept a 3 percent pay cut that will be in the form of unpaid leave.
On the other hand, the same day’s paper reported that Clark County commissioners were accepting a pay raise. (A Dec. 16 story, “County commissioners: Salary hikes not justified right now,” reported they reversed that decision). Commissioner Tom Mielke certainly didn’t need the increase in car allowance as he missed a budget hearing to tend to his home remodeling project.
These people were elected to represent the citizens and make the best possible decisions to better the county, city and state. The governor is trying to save money in this economic downturn, but our local politicians are not. If our local politicians had taken some cuts, maybe there would be money to keep open the fire station that is scheduled to close soon. By the way, I did not get a raise in my Social Security.
Accountability valued by culture
Esther Cepeda’s Dec. 15 column, “Chinese students raised to succeed,” on the superiority of Chinese students, vindicates opinions I’ve held for years. Chinese children outscore U.S. children. Cepeda stresses the preponderance of one-child families, strong family ties, and lack of Social Security and Medicare safety nets. And when those families immigrate to the U.S., they take their values with them. They make no demands for lengthy terms of bilingual education for their kids, who learn English usually in no more than one year. Their kids excel not only in academics but also in many extracurricular activities. There are no excuses, no blaming teachers or school systems, no unprepared assignments.
After years of laboring unsuccessfully to teach the children of wealthy white parents, I now regretfully have only Asian piano students. What a pity that these immigrants understand personal responsibility so much better than the rest of us.
Prepare for another six years
I see that Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., thinks that the president’s tax compromise is “irresponsible, selfish and wrong.” So, of course, she voted for it. This is whom we just re-elected for another six years of principled, ethics-driven decision making. Lucky us.
Plenty to worry about in new bill
I was disappointed by the AP story published Dec. 14 on page A2, “Senate poised to pass Obama-GOP tax-cut bill.” (The legislation has now passed in both the Senate and the House). It contained no mention of what this bill will do to incomes below $20,000 a year (Vancouver’s per capita income is $20,192 a year based on recent census data). In essence, these lower incomes (my own included) will have a tax increase, with the repeal of Obama’s “Making Work Pay” credit (it must be a valuable bargaining chip for him).
I was comforted, however, by an item on the bottom of the same page: “Bulgarians: Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ is most irksome holiday song.” This sort of information is vital during such a difficult time.
Band together to force change
If you are a Tea Party member, the two-party system will fail you. The Republican Party will give you lip service, co-opt and water down your ideas, then cast you aside once you are within their fold. If you are a progressive, the Democratic Party has already done the same to you … yet again. It is time for us to band together and force a real multiple-party system. A system in which the true diversity of American political thought has a place at the table in Washington, D.C., in our state legislatures, and in our city councils.