The Great Retrenchment

Piece by piece, America is painfully readjusting amid a troubled economy

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You've already seen, and will continue to see, story after story about this group or that getting cuts in public services and what a shame it is.

And it is a shame.

You've also started seeing, and will likely continue to see, stories about groups protesting those cuts - or, worse, lamenting that the same old increases in public spending aren't happening. A couple of very recent examples:

- Georgia's network of "talking book" centers is looking at how best to curtail services to meet today's economic realities without hurting clients too much. Customers are concerned, as one story noted, that they "will lose the quality of service they now receive."

We hope that doesn't happen - but it probably has to. Cutbacks are happening in every sector of our economy. In truth, the public sector - insulated from most ebbs and flows of the economy due to the government's ability to tax at will - is only starting to catch up to the private sector, which began cutting long ago.

- Meanwhile, an anonymous ranter to The Chronicle Tuesday bemoaned a local legislator's vote against automatic "step" increases in pay for teachers earning leadership degrees.

This just in: The world changed in 2008. Hardly anything will be automatic anymore. The "reset" button was pushed; you are now living in the "new normal," the land of doing more with less.

This country was living on borrowed time, as it turns out. Much of our wealth was sitting atop debt. Things have changed. The money just isn't there like it used to be, and folks need to adjust their expectations accordingly.

We've lived through what some are calling the Great Recession. Now we're living through the natural result: the Great Retrenchment. More cuts are undoubtedly on the way, as state and local governments deal with the new reality.

Indeed, cities across America are making unprecedented budget cuts and considering bankruptcy protection. In Reading, Pa., they laid off 27 city employees - including 11 police officers - after a $3 million surplus turned into a $5.5 million deficit inside of one year.

The mayor of Reading says the city has been "cutting services that people have grown to expect, and cutting jobs where they have never been cut before ..."

In Hazleton, Pa., the mayor proposed selling the city's water system to make ends meet.

In the state's capital of Harrisburg, The Patriot-News editorialized recently that the city must consider bankruptcy protection - "unless someone in City Hall has a winning Powerball ticket."

Such scenarios are quietly happening across the country because, unlike the federal government, most cities and states are required to balance their budgets. New York's budget deficit is over $8 billion. In California, writes The Sacramento Bee's Dan Walters, "Officially, the state has a $19.9 billion deficit for the remaining five months of this fiscal year and all of the next, but there's every reason to believe it will be worse, given the sorry history of budget forecasts."

With the city of Los Angeles staring at a $500 million deficit in the coming fiscal year, councilman Greig Smith says, "If we don't move quickly, and I mean very quickly, we will be bankrupt before summer." And even if they do act quickly, he says, "we could still be facing financial ruin later in the year."

People who are lamenting and protesting may not realize the extent of this continuing budget crisis, especially since the major media are missing what may be the biggest story of the year: The Great Retrenchment.

It won't happen without pain.

And it's going to have to happen over a lot of complaints.

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Chillen
17
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Chillen 02/09/10 - 10:39 pm
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0
Great editorial! This has

Great editorial! This has been the topic of many posts lately. It is inevitable for us all that we will be affected by this recession. One only has to read the article about the state revenue decline of almost 13% and the income tax decline of 16% to know that government services must be cut by at least this much or more.

We have all grown accustomed to "mommy" government providing us everything. New libraries, fabulous schools, state of the art soccer fields, impressive courthouses and the list goes on and on. Those of us who were kids prior to the 80's remember a different world. Government offices were like Barney Miller's office & always had a weird smell to them but they were quaint & the job still got done. Ball parks were run down but we still had a blast playing ball and we didn't even know they were run down. Schools were old and in need of repair but we all came out smart enough. The "new normal" is here but for many of us its a return to our roots! And it wasn't so bad.

Nat the Cat
1
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Nat the Cat 02/10/10 - 01:36 am
0
0
The trouble with "telling it

The trouble with "telling it like it is," causes trouble with Depression! No wonder Americans are taking more anti-depressants than ever....and media reports say that they are over-prescribed! How 'bout a glass of water with those?

Brad Owens
4715
Points
Brad Owens 02/10/10 - 04:10 am
0
0
Where was this argument when

Where was this argument when the TEE Center was being debated? Where was all the 'cut' and 'sacrifice' grandstanding then? Great article, but over the top hypocritical given the slobbering this page did over the TEE Center and its owners debts. Looks like the ACES loves it when services get cut that don't affect them, but try to get the TEE built for the original $25,000,000.00 approved by the tax payers and instaed they lauded the $100,000,000.00 price tag that ties up county resources for 50 years, AND gives then free money to run the TEE even if it loses money, AND bribes the Laney Walker crowd to get the votes. So for this story to mean anything it has to be backed up by actions that match the stated position or it makes you a hypocrite. The huge corporate welfare project called the TEE Center means you all don't have any room to talk about the need for the governement to be grounded in reality, not unless you are hypocrites. But we alreday know the truth on that one anyway.

johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 02/10/10 - 06:41 am
0
0
All these many years of

All these many years of "free" government "services" are finally being realized. This small dip in the economy is causing a little belt tightening. Not much, just a little, and the whining is deafening. A lot of the social "wants" are continuing while the social "needs" are being adjusted, but none of it is that serious. The opportunity to better ones self still exists for those willing to make the effort. Those that realize the importance of individual responsibility will do just fine, as will those that learn the importance. For those that wish to just sit and wait for the government to pick them up and carry them some more, use the New Orleans example (waiting for Katrina) as what the result will be. Get on with your life. Vote out destructive politicians, regardless of party, take advantage of education opportunities and go succeed. Life isn't over, it's just changed a little.

JohnRandolphHardisonCain
576
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JohnRandolphHardisonCain 02/10/10 - 07:52 am
0
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The Pentagon has a record

The Pentagon has a record budget of $708 billion which is 20% of the entire U.S. budget of $3.8 trillion. President Obama is going back to Congress for another $33 billion (off budget, borrowed dollars that do directly into the national debt) for a surge of 30,000 additional U.S. troops into Afghanistan on top of $159 billion already budgeted for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ever bigger "defense" budgets and wasteful military spending on long, un-winnable wars for control of the Middle East and South Asia are prime reasons there is no money for domestic programs, a record $1.6 trillion budget deficit, an ever increasing U.S. national debt, and an inevitable decrease in the standard living of wasteful, spoiled, arrogant Americans.

We only have ourselves to blame for our own demise. We have our priorities screwed up. No superpower can unilaterally control the rest of the world through military might. Endless wars and military prowess will not save the American economy.

southernguy08
499
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southernguy08 02/10/10 - 07:45 am
0
0
Well CAIN, in the immortal
Unpublished

Well CAIN, in the immortal words of Ronald Reagan, "There you go again." You constantly complain about the money the military has, but don't say squat about the billions being spent on the millions of worthless dirtbags who sit around sponging off the taxpayers and only produce more worthless dirtbags to sponge off the taxpayers. Send your venom that way for a change. At least the military does work for their money. By the way, do you need some cheese with that whine?

grouse
1635
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grouse 02/10/10 - 08:53 am
0
0
Cutting back on war would be
Unpublished

Cutting back on war would be a start...

justthefacts
22674
Points
justthefacts 02/10/10 - 09:23 am
0
0
grouse, yea, whatever

grouse, yea, whatever happened to that campaign promise?

Jane18
12332
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Jane18 02/10/10 - 09:55 am
0
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Cain, you are so predictable

Cain, you are so predictable when the subject of America and a war(s) comes up. Everyone is so sick and tired of your constant bashing of the military. Have you ever stopped and considered what would happen to America if we were not `The Superpower' we are? There IS NOT an unwinnable war for us, no matter what you or any of the !?%'s in Washington say. I thank GOD for our military, maybe you should too, instead of all that negativity you spout.

T30907
0
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T30907 02/10/10 - 10:19 am
0
0
This editorial was just

This editorial was just disgusting to say the least.Throw a few select facts around and tell us to retrench and get over it. Nowhere did it mention the PROBLEM. Quit spending our money on the wrong things.

What is beyond Pluto? Who knows, but they are not bothering us, and if we had to get out there we couldn't. Learning the spawning habits of salmon should not outrank hungry Americans(in America)being fed.First and foremost Americans should have the opportunity to work, have someplace to live, be fed, and prosper - preferably through their own efforts. Government (local-state-national) waste and lack of common sense priorities is the PROBLEM.

This just in... The world changed in 2008, but we the people didn't. The government changed hands and those in control now like to spend more. "The money" is still there, but now, there is actually somewhere else.

California has been a fiscal joke for years. Enact every stupid proposition presented by (mostly) ridiculous special interest groups because it sounds good, and then act surprised because it actually costs "money". Enact strangling restrictions on business and then be surprised because they finally take "their money" and leave.

Earmarks will be the financial downfall of America. We must make our legislators stop the practice of tacking on to nearly every spending bill that comes along . You and I must balance our finances monthly or face loss, foreclosure, or even jail time. If we are a representative and do not balance finances we get re-elected and get a raise. Hello??

I am as Pro-America as one can be. I believe there is great opportunity to bring America back to Greatness. After a return to the principles that founded this country , I believe it begins with fiscal responsibility. To Legislators across America: Spend my tax dollars, but spend wisely( like they were actually your dollars).

dichotomy
34305
Points
dichotomy 02/10/10 - 10:25 am
0
0
Geez Cain. The defense budget

Geez Cain. The defense budget is actually one of the things our taxes are supposed to do. In fact, it was the original tax. Defense, roads, bridges, dams and that should be about it. Throwing money at social welfare programs that have never worked and never made anything better is what is breaking this country; not defense spending. The federal government has been throwing money at social welfare programs and education for 50 years or more. All we have done is encourage more people to not work and to drive our educational levels from #1 to way below the average of most other developed countries. We should keep funding a strong defense and quit enabling mediocrity by throwing money at social and educational programs that do not work. You want programs that will improve the country? Quit paying people to not work, make them stand on their own feet through personal responsibility, and put discipline and accountability back in our schools. Teach our kids that if they don't do the work they will fail and that nobody is going to bail them out or give them a "pass".

JohnRandolphHardisonCain
576
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JohnRandolphHardisonCain 02/10/10 - 10:27 am
0
0
The Augusta Chronicle

The Augusta Chronicle editorial staff wrote in the editorial above "Cutbacks are happening in every sector of our economy." This is simply untrue! President Obama submitted and Congress passed a record "defense" bill of $708 billion. There were no cutbacks in the military-industrial sector of the U.S. economy. There was an increase in military spending to the highest level in history!

One in every five dollars in the U.S. budget is spent on the military. The U.S. military certainly isn't "doing more with less". It is doing less with more! And $708 billion still isn't enough for the insatiable war machine. President Obama will return to Congress to ask for an additional $33 billion to pay for the surge of 30,000 more American troops into Afghanistan. That is twice as much as the U.S. government loaned General Motors to save that industry. The $33 billion is on top of $159 billion already budgeted for the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That money is only for one year, 2010! The wars will go on long after that.

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is now in its 9th year! The costs above are only up front costs. They already total more than $1 trillion. Long term costs, including disability payments and ongoing treatment for wounded American soldiers, will easily top $2 trillion and may go as high as $7 trillion or higher over the next decades according to Columbia University's Pulitzer Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and his associate Linda Bilmes.

It is an historical fact that militarism and military misadventures have spelled the doom of mighty empires down the ages from Rome to the Soviet Union. The military-industrial complex cannot be the engine for a sustainable American economy. China and Russia combined spend only a paltry 10% of US on defense.

United States is broke and going deeper and deeper into debt with no lasting military victories or peace dividends in sight. Sorry, Jane 18, but those are the facts!

fd1962
26
Points
fd1962 02/10/10 - 11:01 am
0
0
Revealing comment, Brad
Unpublished

Revealing comment, Brad Owens. Had the ACES anticipated your rebuttal, they would surely have chosen to fry other fish today.

justthefacts
22674
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justthefacts 02/10/10 - 11:09 am
0
0
Brad has a point, however,

Brad has a point, however, the Editorial speaks more to services and I think the idea behind the Tee project is it is an investment. Whether that is true or not is won't be known for a while. Should the money being invested in the tee center be used to keep up services? Everyone has their own opinion on that.

fd1962
26
Points
fd1962 02/10/10 - 11:23 am
0
0
Why do you always have to be
Unpublished

Why do you always have to be so irritatingly logical, justthefacts?

justthefacts
22674
Points
justthefacts 02/10/10 - 03:05 pm
0
0
Ha. Not so fd, not so.

Ha. Not so fd, not so.

southernguy08
499
Points
southernguy08 02/10/10 - 03:21 pm
0
0
Tell you what, CAIN, you
Unpublished

Tell you what, CAIN, you start advocating matching cuts in entitlement programs, and I'll meet you halfway and agree with cuts in the military. I say this because I know something will freeze over before you will agree to that.

TheFederalist
1
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TheFederalist 02/10/10 - 03:45 pm
0
0
Great editorial AC, as usual.

Great editorial AC, as usual. However, imho, retrenchment is a puffy word for what we, as a nation, are facing in the years to come. The full reality of our situation is still not fully known, but one thing is for sure. The USA is broke, and getting our country back on solid financial footing will be extremely painful for everyone. We are not used to pain in the USA. The word "Sacrifice" is virtually unknown to the last generation, but I fear it's true meaning will be ultimately learned the hard way. The shame is that those who were responsible for our condition, on both sides of the asile, will never be held accountable. The saddest part of all is that our children will bear the major burden as we struggle to regain our national financial footing in the years to come.

socks99
250
Points
socks99 02/10/10 - 07:39 pm
0
0
A big stumbling block when it

A big stumbling block when it comes to prioritizing spending is that you have local, state, and federal leaders and monies that sometimes work at cross purposes. Georgia, now, is considering changing the way it pays teachers so it can qualify for a Federal grant. Why not let the local BOE's decide how to compensate the teachers and let the state and federal government get back to minding their own business? Even if one believes Obamas' proposal for merit pay is a good idea, it ought to be clear that this kind of interference does more harm than good.

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