Press Talk: Deposits are on empty

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 
photoLou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505, twitter.com/lounews or lou.brancaccio@columbian.com.

How did government get in the mess it's in?

I was trying to figure it out when I thought of Stephen Covey and his view of the emotional bank account.

Covey was a trainer of people, a guru of sorts when it came to relationships. He came up with this emotional bank account concept, which simply works like a regular bank account. You're in good shape when you make deposits.

But when you begin to make too many withdrawals, life gets difficult.

I've been there myself with some folks, and the solution is not necessarily easy, but it is relatively simple. You need to begin to make deposits to strengthen the account. That means doing the right thing.

Now, is government doing the right thing?

C-Tran raises

Recently, some C-Tran employees received a 5 percent raise.

With what's going on in our economy, really?

I asked one politician -- who voted in favor of this raise -- what he was thinking. There were an array of reasons, he said. When I asked what those array of reasons were, I just didn't get much back.

Another supporter of the raise said it's good when government employees get raises because -- well -- it helps stimulate the economy.

Great! Hey, private working stiffs, try this: Go ask your boss for a 5 percent raise because it would be good for the economy.

Please let me know how that works out.

Emotional bank account because of this government action? A withdrawal.

Government pensions

I've made note of the fact that state taxpayers have to shell out more than $1 billion a year -- you heard that right -- to make good on all the money that is owed to government pensioners in this state. Yes, government workers contribute, as well, but the $1 billion is what taxpayers contribute.

And just this week the Associated Press completed a detailed project on the abuses of the public pension system here. It detailed, for example, how some firefighters are able to maneuver more money into their paychecks in the last years they work so they can squeeze even more money out of the pension system.

And if that's not bad enough, some are able to use another tactic that allows them to avoid paying federal taxes on their pension.

The response of Dan Ward, a retired fire chief?

"The only one losing is the IRS."

This comment shows such a lack of understanding on what's at play here, it's embarrassing.

Hey, Mr. Fire Chief. When you stick it to the IRS, you're sticking it to the taxpayer. Oh, and Mr. Fire Chief -- since you appear to relish the idea that you can stick it to the government -- guess who you worked for all your life and who is signing those big pension checks? The government. Sheesh.

Other firefighters -- who retired on disability -- were found regularly golfing. Hey, it's tough to be disabled.

When I talk to politicians about all of this, they simply dismiss it with the wave of a hand. A billion here, a billion there, and -- yes -- we all have some abuses now, don't we.

Emotional bank account because of this government action? A withdrawal.

CRC missteps

There have been so many missteps on this Columbia River Crossing project that if it was entered on "Dancing With The Stars," it would

be voted off before Mike Tyson. It's just mess after mess. The tomfoolery is epic. Even its most ardent supporters would agree with this. For me, I hold my nose and close my eyes, and say we should move forward.

But I understand those who oppose it. A price should be paid for all of the buffoonery. And, in some ways, I suspect a price is being paid. When you think about it, why wouldn't every local politician, why wouldn't the vast majority of local residents be in support of something like this? The idea that government can continue on its merry way because "well, it's the government" is getting old.

Emotional bank account because of this government action? A withdrawal.

Bank accounts

In the end, what you learn from Covey is that any single withdrawal is not a deal-breaker, not a relationship-killer. But they begin to add up. My only advice? Please begin making some deposits. It's never too late.

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian's editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505, lou.brancaccio@columbian.com or Twitter: http://twitter.com/lounews