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San Francisco, USA

 

Your Tax Dollar At Work

Last night I was in this unfortunate incident. I was walking in Mission when a young man behind me suddenly fell down, knocked himself unconscious and was bleeding on the street. I called 911 for an ambulance. This was perhaps the first time I use the emergency service. I gave the dispatcher my location. It was an small alley, those name I only come to know for the first time despite having walked by it many times. Nevertheless, the dispatcher immediately identified the street. This is all more impressive because I have mispronounced the street name. She sent an ambulance to the scene. It takes less than 5 minutes from the time I picked up the phone to the arrival of the ambulance. I saw the young man was getting help. I hope he was only drunk and suffer no more than a bruise on his face.

The professionalism of the personnel in the emergency services deserves my praise. It gives me a warm feeling that whoever run into trouble, help is always at hand. I also happen to know this is a hot button budget issue beacause each time this team is dispatched, it costs the city a good deal of money. And certain population with chronic issue is abusing the service disproportionately.

This brings to the question, how much do citizen willing to pay in tax and what level of service do they expect. I am disappointed that people seems unwilling to acknowledge the connection between the two. Government are facing a lot of budget issues lately. People are adamantly against tax raise. On the other hand they also react strongly to any service cut, be it for school, transit or parks and recreation. There are always a constituent to claim the service is essential and to fight vigorously for the cut.

So what should the government do? Cut waste! They said. I am certain that the government is not working nearly as efficiency as it should be. But it is also a huge bureaucrat resistant to change. Its hands are tied in many ways, often by the rules set by the constituents themselves. But the fatal fault is the thinking that budget problem has an easy solution. People expect this to be painless. "Waste" is something that shouldn't be there in the first place. And it is the only thing that stop people from getting what they are entitled.

Cut waste was the popular solution Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed in his bid for the California Governor in 2003. But how much waste has he managed to cut? A quick glance at the State Budget document shows that the total budget has raised 30% during his term to the peak in 2007, only to be forced down sharply due to the plummet in revenue after 2007. As the Schwarzenegger government themselves have acknowledged, "for much of the last decade, state spending grew faster than population and inflation." So much for the cut waste fantasy.

Many people believe that our government is broken. It probably is. But I believe the democratic process being practiced is also broken. After all it is our process that created this government.

2009.10.07 [] - comments

 

 

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