There’s still time to change the road you're on

Choices. There are so many choices we face every day, every hour or every minute. Should you drag yourself out of bed this morning and go to work or just roll over and go back to dreaming of getting up and going to work? What to wear – you are what you wear or is that eat – or whether to complete a meal with a nice piece of fruit or finish off that last piece of Cheesecake Factory sweetie grandma brought by for dessert.            

Some people are practical, making the best of things as they come along. Other people refuse to compromise, hanging on to ideals like your last day at the beach. And some people just act on any crazy idea that enters their head.

It was interesting to watch the debt ceiling debate raging week before last. As the economic fate of the country hung in the balance, our elected officials were acting like little kids on a playground.

“You and Eric don’t play fair.”

“Well you all don’t ever let us go first.”

“Uh ah, you go first all the time, but if you were any good maybe you’d go first more often.”

“You’re stupid.”

“You’re stupider.”

Then the level headed kid says, “Why don’t your team go first this time and the other team go first next time and so on.”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea.”

“It would be if you all weren’t so stupid.”

“Oh yeah? Well you have cooties.”

“And you’re all poopyheads and we’re taking our ball and going home.”

And that’s what they did, our great decision makers, they took their ball and went home. What kind of choice was that? The debt ceiling was raised, but nothing was solved and in fact it would have been better to raise the debt ceiling like so many times before and worked out the budget issues after vacation. At least that way, our Congress and President wouldn’t have looked so foolish to the rest of the world and to those who hold the purse strings. So China’s backing away from lending us more money and Standard & Poor’s downgraded our credit rating because our governing body acted like children.

Imagine what would happen if the bond rating of Chesterfield County was downgraded from its Cadillac rating of AAA, the best of the best. Those firehouses, libraries and new schools you’ve been waiting for wouldn’t be built anytime soon. Bonds or any other funds the county needed to borrow, even for a short time, would cost a lot more because the interest rate for the bonds would go up. It’s like having bad credit, you go out to by a new car and if your credit isn’t so good you end up paying a higher interest rate.

A downgrade of the county’s rating would be devastating to a county like Chesterfield. With the budget slashing in, Congress shrinking the dollars going to states and localities, states have to cut their budgets which leads to less going to counties like Chesterfield. In turn, Chesterfield is forced to cut what fat is left from its budget and so libraries and the transfer station cut hours; the school budget is cut and class sizes grow and teacher salaries are slashed and fees grow even for association sports.

So choices made on ideology rather than research and common sense cause unintended consequences. Sure, in this day and time, we need to assess our government spending but we’re at the wrong end on the pipe. We should have more control over local funding. Choices made in D.C. trickle down and affect us more than we might imagine. It’s not only government services that take a hit but the rest of us as well. Teacher’s salaries are less, and there are thousands in this county, government contracts are down, many folks who had been laid off are now beyond unemployment compensation and many middle and lower income earners are scared to spend money.

Entrepreneurship has suffered to the point that people are afraid to open a small business because they see so many other small businesses going belly up. And it goes on and on.

In the song “Stairway to Heaven” written by Led Zeppllin back in the 70s, there a line that goes:

“Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

No matter what choices we’ve made, there is still time to alter our course and try to undo bad decisions. Time will tell where recent choices will take us and maybe Wall Street and Main Street are worried over nothing. I really hope so.

I still believe there’s a good chance that life will continue to be good here in Chesterfield as long as the right choices are made, and made pragmatically, not based on ideology or someone else’s principles.

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