The idea isn’t necessarily to reduce the mere size and cost of the Lgislature but to clip its wild swings from enlarging government beyond what local taxpayers could afford. We must stop the parade of shallow measures often riddled with what’s known as unintended consequences.
For instance, there’s the establishment of the NMI Retirement Fund 32 years ago. Did legislators know that it would require an expensive building for office space and staffing? Why did legislators fail to provide seed funding for the program all these years?
It created a board that loaned scarce funds (millions of dollars) to other governmental agencies and now must deal with bankruptcy. It braved duplicating NMHC’s housing program but recently scrapped it due to failure.
It also became the FDM or bombing target of shallow politicians who bloated the obligations of the program into bankruptcy. They made sure the Fund is removed from solvency. Now the irreversible mess!
One thing leads to another in the unintended expansion of an already bloated bureaucracy. This is the modus operandi of airheads that never demanded thoroughly researched materials that substantiate and articulate with reason the approval or disapproval of certain measures.
Too, common sense dictates that we can’t encourage nor subscribe to the notion that for every problem we encounter, there’s a need for laws setting forth establishment of more humiliating, costly, and stifling regulations. Do you really think we need laws on littering if each of us exercises citizenship responsibility by cleaning up after our mess?
In short, we need a smaller republican form of government. Let’s have governmental institutions we could afford. It’s in the palm of taxpayers!
Authority over appropriations
Too, the NMI Constitution limits appropriation of funds to the House of Representatives. Is this authority granted the NMI Retirement Fund and MPLT? There’s a dangerously similar pattern of loan, failed housing program and appropriations. Need the NMI repeat failure emanating from failed leadership in these agencies? Isn’t there a constitutional instruction that MPLT invest and the interest turned over to the general fund for appropriation?
This needs critical constitutional review so neither agency could arbitrarily exercise an authority solely the purview of the House of Representatives.
Smooth ride on gravy train
There’s a special class of people in the NMI. They are known as public sector or government employees versus the taxpayers who pay for their salaries. The last ocular review of salary discrepancies (public vs. private employees) shows that the former makes about three dollars more than the latter.
Working for the government is supposed to be a tradeoff: You can’t be fired and don’t have to exert yourself, but you will receive smaller remuneration than in the private sector, where layoffs are common. Instead, government jobs are safe, secure, pressure-free-and now, amazingly lucrative! Yep! All you have to do is follow some weird and vacuous principle plus the ability to place your nose on the arse of someone who calls himself geesuzzzz.
In addition to regular compensation they also have lavish overtime benefits, pensions, health care plans, sick leave and "leave me alone" vacation period. They deteriorate at their jobs as they learn to game the system. Often, the only heavy lifting they do in two weeks' time is picking up their paychecks. That is why some of these employees walk around with arms as huge as Lou Ferrigno in the television series Incredible Hulk.
My experience of the public sector is one of mixed feelings. There are employees who give it their all to hone their skills so they do a better job in the timely delivery of public services. Others have learned to do "watch watching" (notice it isn’t bird watching) all day long and head for the exit at the close of business. Then you have the kings and queens of absenteeism who don’t report for work on Mondays, come in on Tuesdays, skip Wednesday and come back in on Thursdays to do weight lifting once more-pick up their unearned loot.
Gravy train sputters!
For all the safety and perks they receive through backbreaking taxes we pay them, something isn’t right in the posh gravy train whose engine is sputtering dangerously.
It has run out of fuel. It soon would stop running but passengers have no idea or the money to refill the empty fuel tank. The taxes we’ve been paying have dropped severely. Passengers, all government employees, are at a loss whether to walk home in the wee hours of the morning or sleep in cabins no longer serviced by cool air-conditioning system.
After the break of dawn, passengers start discussing their future as beneficiaries under the U.S. Social Security System. It’s an issue under discussion with the feds. The age requirement to retire is age 65 and the amount isn’t as lucrative as the imperiled NMI Fund. Not sure of the formula how SS is computed but it’s better than nothing when one reaches his or her golden years.
About half of the passengers are retirees who have no inkling what’s coming down the pike. They brave questions no one can answer with certainty. But they remember the word "bankruptcy" and the looming debt cliff ahead. How do they veer off bankruptcy? Active employees won’t take home as much as current retirees under SS. Be that as it may, both groups have come to realize that the gravy train has sputtered to a screeching halt. Is it just out of fuel or completely dead?
Right cuts for right reasons
When city hall is broke, it mandates the elected elite to come to the table to lay out their cards. It must, among other things, resolve its long held though dangerous tradition of being the largest employer.
Difficult the predicament may be given the huge drop in revenue generation, it’s time to figure out who gets cut or retained-more service cuts-including employees.
Governor Fortuno of Puerto Rico recently fired some 17,000 government employees to bring government spending down to what the territory could afford. The bureaucracy was so huge and dysfunctional it takes months to get a business license. In Hong Kong it’s less than three working days.
Moreover, Governor Fortuno gave fired workers the opportunity to avail of loans to begin their own businesses. It worked and for those who succeeded, their voice is clear that they wished they had done it earlier and not depended on paycheck to paycheck from government for their livelihood. Need we rely on government to solve all our miseries?
John DelRosario Jr. is a former publisher of Saipan Tribune and a former secretary of Department of Public Lands.