By Pam Linn


Random thoughts on budget cuts and motivation

Things that don’t seem fair:

1) How is it that bankrupt Borders Books is asking the court to okay $8.3 million in bonuses as retention for key employees threatening to defect en masse since the company’s Chapter 11 filing last month? Where will that money come from? Reduced unemployment benefits for those who lose their jobs? How fair is that?

2) Rises in Medicare costs could wipe out projected Cost of Living Adjustment increases for retirees and the disabled just as fuel and food costs soar, and the threat of inflation lurks on the horizon.

3) As to soaring fuel prices, the current spike in gas prices is not the result of supply and demand, as we are led to believe. Speculators who trade in oil futures on the commodities markets are fueling this rise. And “Drill, Baby, Drill” won’t lower prices at all. The U.S. produces only 2 percent of the world’s oil but consumes 25 percent. We could do something about that. It’s called conservation. The cost of crude oil was set months ago. The spikes are not caused by increased demand nor decreased supply from the situation in Libya. Big oil companies reap windfall profits while taxpayers fund their enormous subsidies. Once again, consumers suffer while the big guys thrive.

4) Draconian efforts to rein in government spending always seem to cause more pain for those who can afford it least. When budgets need trimming, why do we always cut funding for community health clinics just when the working poor and temporarily unemployed, who have lost their healthcare along with their jobs, need help most? Community clinics are often their only access to basic and preventative healthcare, not available at emergency rooms. These clinics help patients to avoid or manage chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes, before they become life-threatening diseases.

5) At the same time, lawmakers (both state and federal), mostly driven by ideology, seem bent on de-funding Planned Parenthood in a misguided attempt to reduce abortions. What kind of sense does that make? If you take away the one place where poor women can receive family planning education and contraceptives, we can rightly assume there will be more abortions. Or unwanted children, who will likely increase the burden on society for many years to come. Couldn’t we balance our budgets better by cutting subsidies for huge, profitable industries? Think Big Oil and Agribusiness.

6) Is it fair that public employees, whose jobs are protected by union contracts, can continue working when lower paid workers and unpaid volunteers are cheerfully and efficiently doing more for less? A case in point: Last week, I went to a workshop at our public library to learn how to download loaned books to my Nook e-book reader. The workshop was conducted by a library employee supposedly proficient in that technology. We were given a printed list of instructions from which the tech read. Redundancy alert! We had brought our Nooks and our laptops to facilitate this process. I followed each step until I hit a glitch and asked the tech where I might have gone wrong. She took one look, shook her head and said, “I don’t know anything about Macs.” Huh? This is your job. Aren’t you even curious? Guess not. “We’re out of time now,” she said.

I rarely get mad at people anymore, just things that don’t work as advertised. But I was furious at this public employee who hadn’t prepared properly and obviously didn’t care.

So I went home and called Barnes & Noble, which sells the Nook and magically sends e-books to my Nook in about 60 seconds. All Barnes & Noble employees have been trained in Nook technology because, duh, the store sells them. Necessity drives motivation. I dragged my laptop and my Nook to the store and met with Kyle, who is a Mac user. He was cheerful, generous and persistent in his attempt to fix the glitch. Finally, he called Nook tech support and, after a short conversation, ascertained that the steps outlined in the library’s printed instructions were correct for PC users. On the Mac, however, the order of two steps needed to be reversed. So simple but apparently beyond the scope of the public employee who had neither the necessity nor the motivation to learn.

I’ve resisted the impulse to return to the library and enlighten that twit, when what I really wanted to do was drag her by her hair to Barnes & Noble. And she still has job protection.

Oh well, nobody said life was fair. But I still think we could be doing better.