The Irony of Public Service in a Capitalist Nation By Joseph S. Lento

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Letter_to_the_editor_image red face characture typing It is very interesting that ''public service'' has any role in a capitalist society and I believe this contradiction of expectations requires a factual analysis. I realize that initially a reader wants to know the political bent of the person whose work they are reading and I'll gladly oblige. I am a registered “Independent” and vote that way.

I believe in unions for the sole purpose of using a collective ''buying power'' for insurance and the like. Other than that, unions go against my principles of individualism. You also might want to know my experience as a capitalist. Over the past thirty years (prior to my injuries) my education and talents as a professional band leader has provided scores of people with sustained employment. I understand what it means to meet a payroll and work seven days a week in order to survive. Incidentally, my public service job during the first twenty years was not enough to ever pay the bills, but I love it so much that I'd never have it any other way. Well, that's not exactly true. I would have preferred making my own terms and contract with my employer, the taxpayer and not be part of collective bargaining. Then again I'm not so sure the taxpayer can realistically ever afford such a system. 

More importantly is that I see the role of public service as antithetical and ironic to a capitalist system except that objectively there is no possible means for capitalism to thrive without public service. In order for capitalism to succeed and prosper, capitalists need schools to educate their children and intellectually rear the next generation of capitalists or society will cease. Capitalists need police to enforce laws. Capitalists need sanitation to prevent litter and disease and capitalists need transportation to provide the means by which they get to and from work. More simply put, Public service can be defined as a group of people providing services that the population at large needs in order to survive and which they themselves cannot perform. 

Using a capitalist model, it would stand to reason that public servants have a significant role in the promulgation of capitalism and would be deserving of very large salaries, however there is presently raging an attack on public servants, specifically  and exclusively on educators, and must be addressed. The irony in the discussion is that all non public service employees are ''defacto capitalists'' and are free to pursue the capitalist model while expecting their employees, the public servants, to exclude themselves from this enterprise. Of course the first retort is always ''well then join the private sector if you don't like it.'' That sounds plausible but believe me, it or not; the majority of public service employees have a ''calling'' to their vocation and indeed are filling a societal need. A need that capitalists must have in order to survive. 

So what is the problem? The problem is that we, as a nation, are broke and illogically (Yes, I said illogically), the first place people look for fiscal relief is from public service, and that is their right, however it is not the first ''logical'' place to look. The first ''logical'' place to look (before holding accountable the ''bigger fish'' politicians, bankers, et al), and easily reversed, is on wasteful social programs. Social programs is that lovely euphemism for non taxpaying, non citizens, draining our school systems, hospitals and culture. Social programs are collectively the lovely euphemism for supporting the children of people that have no intention of being responsible parents. Social programs is the lovely euphemism for supporting people that made the ''choice'' to use drugs and alcohol to the point of dependence which makes ''we'' the taxpayers co-dependent and enablers of such behavior through our hard earned money. In fact, these groups, along with the corporate welfare state are living on your backs and are the reasons for the economic despair our nation is in.   

Why do people and many in the press have such an aversion to facts?  Yes, the taxpayer has an absolute right to make sure their money is being spent efficiently and as they see fit. The problem is that the taxpayer is seeing that their money is not being spent wisely and because public service organizations have become political, which means cronyism, etc. That is something the public fights but ''expects'' in private business. They do want it in the public arena. The public also sees that overtime and pensions are blatantly out of control and want answers. Yet no one speaks to them. Instead the union leaders ''herd'' the membership onto the streets and the members follow. That is not the respect that the taxpayers deserve. Taxpayer concerns should be addressed and must be, but the aforementioned issues and groups in society that are taking away the capitalist model must be dealt with first. Then we have to ask ourselves, ''can a capitalist demand that he/she has a separate set of individual economic rights juxtaposed to the people that allow the capitalist to exist, i.e. a public employee, than they do for themselves?'' 

Can a capitalist society truly afford to ''privatize'' the jobs that public servants now provide?  If anyone wants to make the argument that education costs are much lower in private schools than public schools, I'll remind all of my capitalist friends, that there exists no free market in pre K-12 grade schools because the United States government (YOU) are the only game in town. End all public funding for education, end all public funding for police, fire, sanitation and transportation and then we can erase the ''irony'' that exists in our nation. Only then will we be a nation of ''true'' capitalists. For additional information on the ''bargain'' that educators give to our nation please visit: 


Joeseph Lento resides in Yonkers, New York

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eHeziThe Irony of Public Service in a Capitalist Nation By Joseph S. Lento

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