Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Is Cutting the Budget Chic?

            In 2006, before the housing market collapse, before our president was elected, before the iPhone was coined as ‘The Greatest Invention Ever,’ the fiscal crisis was solemnly poking its head into our perfect world. Our life as we knew it was about to change, quite possibly forever. In 2006, the stock market plunged, families were forced to the street, and millions of Americans lost their way of life. While changes have been made, they have not been what this country needs. Instead of infusing our economy with job opportunities and fiscal improvements, many states are decreasing their budget and cutting valuable resources from the communities they serve.
            In 2010, Arnold Schwarzenegger declared his war on California’s $20 billion budget deficit. According to Reuters, the Governor will cut spending that he saw as ‘draconian.’ His method of erasing our deficit was not to introduce new taxes but to eliminate existing programs across all areas; Police officers, fire fighters, educators, and other public service workers are being forced from the jobs they love. The removal of funds leaves our fragile ecosystem of police protection, medical assistance, and education in shambles. While some argue that the budget cuts are necessary, others argue that removing public services places the communities they serve, in grave danger.
            Policymakers, while addressing their fiscal needs, only account for their agenda and not those who are affected by the budget cuts. According to the Wall Street Journal, Vallejo has had 40% of its police force quit or give notice since plans have surfaced of budget cuts. While there is no direct correlation indicating an increased crime rate because of the fiscal crisis, public service officials, around the country, argue that the crime rate has not increased. According to the Cornell Daily Sun, “Kathy Zoner, the Police Chief of the Cornell University Police Department, has not observed any correlations between crime rates and the economic decline”.   While the correlation has not been linked, the decrease in staffing has. According to the FBI, the national average for sworn police officers per 1000 residents is 2.4. Due to budget cuts, Vallejo’s ratio is one per 1000 residents. According to Jason Wentz, a Vallejo native and twelve-year veteran of the police force, citizens are worried. "People on the street know we are scaling down," said Mr. Wentz. "The high-crime neighborhoods are used to seeing more patrol cars, and they notice the ramp-down." To problem-solve by cutting money from the organizations on which communities rely most, is like salting the earth that is needed to provide sustenance. While there will be ever-evolving progress in reducing the budget, other sources of income and other means of cutting the budget need to be addressed.

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