Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Current needs versus past luxuries

From Calvin Coolidge.
Workmen’s compensation, hours and conditions of labor are cold consolations, if there be no employment.
From the speech ‘Plymouth, Labor Day’ (1 September 1919), as printed in Have Faith in Massachusetts: A Collection of Speeches and Messages (2nd Ed.), Houghton Mifflin, pp. 200-201
A great example of the importance of priorities. All the above are good things but the ability to be productively employed necessarily takes precedence over the necessary safeguards associated with that employment.

Too often we hold the nice-to-haves as sacrosanct over the need-to-haves. All nations move in cycles of prosperity and either retrenchment or restructuring. The great challenge, during those phases of restructuring and retrenchment, is balancing the needs of the future against the privileges of the past.

We see this playing out across the nation as municipalities approach or plunge into bankruptcy. Which takes precedence in Detroit, the benefit and pension obligations incurred when the city was 2 million strong and growing at 5% or the restructuring and smaller cost structures necessary for a city of 700,000, shrinking by 5% a year and needing to relaunch itself? Historically we have answered that old obligations take precedence but obviously the right answer is current needs over past nice-to-have obligations.

Obvious it might be but its unpleasantness prompts us to hide from the harsh decisions that follow from such prioritization.

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