I have been thinking a lot lately about how increasing spending for wages and benefits more often than not ends up as a decrease in services offered or an increase in user-fees. Now, don't get me wrong, I actually think we should pay more for certain things we use under the govt umbrella, especially those who actually USE them. But what ends up happening is everyone pays for it whether they use it or not, and then the direct users pay even more on top of that. Yet, over the years, they experience a decrease in the services offered on top of the increase in user fees and tax contributions. Why do we allow this to happen over and over?
Some of this comes to mind with Alberta teachers not working under a contract right now, but how 1.5 years ago they demanded that their wage increase be honoured (I think it was 6%)... and then miraculously a couple of months later, it was announced that the province would no longer be funding it's trial run of full day kindergarten. It went back to half days and sent a lot of people into a confusing tailspin of looking for care for their K-age children while they were at work, schools left fumbling around trying to decide if they would charge parents $300 a month for a full day program, or if they were going to offer half days every day, or every other day full day programs, etc etc. It was a mess and a lot of schools did not know until the week they opened what schedule they would be offering. It was a nightmare for us at the daycare too because we had no idea how many new spaces we would have open, if any, and had parents calling us all day long every single day, only to have us say 'I dont know, call us in a couple days'. Talk about a mess. But the amount of money my district was short for funding full day K programs was almost exactly the same, to the dollar, as what the district had to pay out for the teacher's raises. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm. Increase in spending on govt wages and benefits equalled a decrease in the services offered right off the bat. Surprise Surprise. And now they are 'working without a contract' again. Oh booooo hooooooooo. Oh no! No contract? How will the books get marked? How will the kids know what days to go to school? How will the teachers get paid? How about as much as they have been for the past year and a half??? GOD. It's aggravating. It's not like without a contract they will suddenly have to start working on holidays and evenings and weekends. Get a grip.
But there are other things too. I think a good example is Birth Certificates. I still have my actual original BC from 1973, all creased and stained, but original and accepted as ID anywhere.... and it was free for my parents. Automatically sent to them when my birth registration was received. Somehow this happened even though people made a lot less money. It's 8x10 full sized, etc.
In 1997 when my son was born, I got a full sized free BC right there in the hospital before I left. All parent info on there, etc etc. Free.
In 2002 when my daughter was born, I got a wallet-sized card in the mail after her birth registration was submitted, with her name, place of birth, and date of birth. I was told I would have to buy the full size one but I can't remember how much it was,,, something like $20 or $30 I believe.
In 2008 when my last child was born, I got nothing. Zip. Nada. Zilch. No wallet sized card, and a $40 or $44 fee for the full size birth certificate.
So, over the years, the wages for all of these workers has increased, part of the increase in cost for the whole business, and services offered to tax payers was decreased. I pay far more in family income tax now than I ever have in the past, but get less bang for my buck overall. Why is that?? In fact, my boyfriend paid more in INCOME tax last year than I made in 2007 total (before I met him, as a single parent, but still working full time). So how is it that we are paying 5-6 months of my wages in income tax each year, but getting less things? My last son's birth certificate should have arrived nicely packaged and FREE for the amount of taxes collected from us in the previous years, but nope. We don't even get a little wallet card now.
Why do I complain about a birth certificate? Because the govt charges a fee for it, but then turns around and requires it for services such as SCHOOL. Children are supposed to have the right to go to school, and parents can even be prosecuted for not schooling their child in some way, but you have to provide a birth certificate now to register your child - and that means you have to go to the license bureau and pay for ordering it. I have to provide a copy of my son's birth certificate for him to get speech therapy now too! I can choose not to get it, but he needs it, and now I have to go fork out the money for it before he is even school age, or the speech therapist program operators get hassled by the powers-that-be in Edmonton for me not providing a copy of it on time. Geez.
That is just a small example of any sort of subject you could come up with. Replace 'birth certificate' with some other govt function that used to be widely available to anyone living here, and you will most likely find that the same thing has happened. Higher wages up the wazoo for the workers, benefit programs to die for, and services going down the toilet.
The same thing can be seen at my work place. Years ago, every center got about $200 per child to use in the program and to work with the govt regulations. Then over time it decreased to $25 per child, and then zero. We had to put our monthly fee up for parents, which is fine, they use the service and should pay for it. But govt regulations added more and more, such as requirements for how many Level 2 and 3 staff (early childhood certificate and diploma holders) were on hand, how many children in a group, what ages a center could take, how many licensed spaces per square feet they should have, what kind of playground surface to have (we had to dig up everything and put down 18 inches deep of pea gravel), etc etc etc - and poof - parent fees kept climbing because of that. Previously, we had only increased the monthly fee about $20 in 10 years. Then in the past 10 years, it has increased over $160/month.
Combine that with increases in minimum wage (from about $6.00 when I first started, to over $10 now), and other govt regulated requirements, and we have only made an actual profit TWICE since 1998. TWICE. Wow. I dont know how anyone makes it in daycare these days lol. We must love our jobs :)
Meanwhile, the number of govt staff hired to oversee things has HUGELY increased. We can call a number and listen to a list of 12 people til we get the right one. There are more inspectors for our region, more subsidy staff, more clerks, etc and each of them is paid with tax dollars. Each of them holds a benefit package that tax payers fork out for. So - are you glad that parents have to pay more for use, or do you see that in the past that money went directly to the centers for the children and direct child care staff, when now the funding goes to the Administration level of govt? I am not pushing for Alberta tax payers to fund every kid that goes to daycare, but right now they are just funding the adults. Which would you choose to help if you were ever miraculously given a choice? You could choose none, which is your right. But you would probably choose that the funding go directly to those it can help the most - the kids.
We used to offer a hot lunch every single day.. For many years my boss would cook up a huge meal every night - swedish meatballs, spaghetti, her to-die-for meatloaf, chicken and rice, turkey and mashed potatoes, etc. But we had to stop that after the funding was cut off. We only did hot lunch once a week. Last year we stopped it completely. We only have a hot lunch for special occasions now. We put it to the parents for a vote - do you want a $20/month fee increase to offset the rising cost of food purchase for lunches, or do you want to pack your child's lunch all 5 days of the week? The majority chose ditching hot lunch. So thats what we did. But we used to enjoy doing that because some kids have pathetic little lunches and have nutrition needs that are clearly not being met, and it was one way to make sure they got at least one good meal per day and some snacks - but we can no longer afford to do it without charging another arm and leg for fees - so it's gone. Poof. All done. That's sad. It's sad that my boss had to do this when the minimum wage went up. MY wages, forced upon her by the govt, caused the demise of the final hot lunch day of the week :( I could volunteer giving over a couple hundred bucks of my wages but I already have to pay over $580 a month for my son's fees there, so it kind of defeats the purpose of working lol. I would be giving away half my wages right off the bat.
But I digress. My point is that a despicable amount of tax payer dollars is going into wages for Administration levels of ALL govt sectors. We are not really gaining anything in that way and I can only see a train wreck about to happen. All of those people are buying food, cars, and homes with OUR money. And a smallish % of their wages is funneled back into the system through their taxes, only to be used again by the Admin levels of govt. What are we really doing here? To me it's like lending my son $20 and pretending that my son has just helped the economy. No - I helped the economy because it was my money that I earned. He just got it from me as allowance. If I had kept it, I would have spent that $20 on something just the same. But if he got his $20 from a private business, or from mowing the neighbour's lawn, it would be something HE earned, received from someone else who EARNED it at their own private job, who got paid by their private company, who got the money from selling products to private people.
Paying tax dollars from OUR earnings to all of these govt staffers is not helping the economy at all. They are only spending money that we would have been quite fine to spend on our own. I really fear what is going to happen in the future. If you think about it in those terms, it's like a black hole coming closer and closer to us. If people don't find that frightening, I dont know what else to say to them.