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Pay cuts versus job cuts

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By Jeffry Gardner

We are undergoing a test as a nation.

Just days after our 244th birthday, we face real challenges from our streets up. From what we believe our government — at every level — needs to provide, to our part in what might be considered a free-for-all with our culture and economy at stake.

Consider that the July 4 news shows found the economy on the lips of nearly every talking head. Bottom line: Our nation’s bottom line looks to be heading south again.

Despite the Obama administration and the Democrat-led Congress’s best effort to print as much money as possible and shotgun it from sea to shining sea, we’re getting nothing but more debt and higher taxes.

Just days before our national birthday party, the Department of Labor’s jobs report for June was worse than the pitiful summer movie “MacGruber.” Trust me. It was awful. Just like the job numbers.

It would seem any job growth over the past year was spurred by hiring for the Census.  Normally, I would offer some pithy, quasi-cynical aside about the kind of leadership we have in Washington that would travel throughout the nation praising our  recovery based in large part on thousands of temporary Census worker jobs. But I’m not going to do that.

In keeping with the style of this administration, Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, among others, spent much of June trying to bully European nations — where the economy is tanking, as well — to keep spending. Print more Euros, just like we’re printing more dollars and all will be well.

Europe is in trouble because it has created endless free social programs that citizens from Oslo to Barcelona have taken advantage of. Now they’re all broke and, like a big Ponzi scheme, owe each other money. You know, Spain owes the Brits, so they ask for the money owed them by the Italians who, in turn, ask the Irish for the money they owe …

You get the picture.

And here in the Land of the Free, well, we don’t have Franklin Roosevelt guiding us through a world war and a Great Depression. To his credit, though, President Obama’s golf game is improving.

Leadership, however, isn’t something entirely missing from our landscape.

In fact, there is a little of it going on right here in New Mexico. In Albuquerque, in fact.

Following weeks of negotiations with countless unions within his city, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry announced pay cuts. He started with himself. Berry will make 5 percent less this coming year.

And then, in a series of announcements, Berry said a host of city employees, including police and firefighters, would see their salaries decreased by 2.47 percent.

Berry had sought 3 percent cuts from the various alphabet-titled unions — mainly those served by AFSCME — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Basically, Berry and the citizens of Albuquerque can expect a fight ahead. The question is, why?

What Berry proposes to help Albuquerque city government meet, at least in part, the tough economic times we are all going through, is a salary cut that if, for example, you made $55,000 annually in 2010, you would make less in 2010 — $1,358.50 less.

That is a pay cut, no doubt. A cut that boils down to $113.21 less per month; $26.13 per week. A good thing? No. A pay cut stinks. Really.

But consider one alternative. Job cuts.

If you’ve been out of the country in recent months — say the past 30 months — you might not know that job cuts have become a state of course for many state, county and municipal governments.

Having a job is better than not having a job. Berry is trying to do what’s right under some very trying circumstances.  

Jeffry Gardner is a syndicated columnist.

© New Mexico News Services 2010