Filler: At budget time, it's personal
When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delivered his budget last week it marked the beginning of pleas-and-protests season. The phones will ring, the letters will arrive and the e-mails will appear, all pleading their case.
The correspondents will take great pains to explain that while they know how tight the budget is this year and how important it is that we get our fiscal house in order, and they couldn't agree more with the overall idea of cutting costs and taxes, their program is different, crucial, and any cuts in funding will cause damage so horrifying that programs will be axed, communities will be torn asunder, and deities will turn their heads in shame.
This happens because of the way we view the world: To me, the world is a movie about my life. I am the star, at the center of every scene and shot, my loved ones and friends and enemies are the co-stars, and everyone else in the world is just doing cameos.
Likewise, for you, the camera rests behind your eyes and the plot of the universe centers on your life.
And there's no time this becomes clearer than budget time, particularly in a year when experts are saying money's so tight it could even depress the market for corrupt elected officials.
Here's the approximate form most pleas will take:
"Dear media member,
"While we who work with and for the (pick one) education/health care/library/state university/public safety/infrastructure/transportation/environment/elder care/juvenile care/corrections industry know that times are tough, and spending must be reduced drastically, the fact is that any cuts in our funding will cause suffering at a level not seen since the European plagues of the mid-14th century. Minimum.
"The services we provide are absolutely essential, and studies have shown that for every $1 spent on our programs, $4 is saved elsewhere. (This is apparently true for every program - leading one to conclude that if we quadrupled spending, we could somehow reduce the budget to zero.)
"While we know sacrifices must be made, we also know we have been the first to sacrifice in the past. Or second, at worst. Point is, we did our part. Also, it's not about us, it's about our clients/core services/duties, which cannot be ignored.
"P.S.: Cut us a penny and we'll lobby you so hard you'll bounce."
And the thing is, the letters are all true. The services are essential. No sane person would favor slashing them, given any reasonable option.
You cannot rationally argue for reducing programs that provide help for the mentally ill, aid for the handicapped, services for the elderly, help for children, safe well-funded schools, secure prisons, safe roads, a properly staffed and equipped police force, a properly staffed and equipped firefighting force, and dozens of other critical areas.
For taxpayers, the most essential service is the one they and their loved ones use. If you've got a special-needs child, you know that is the crucial program. If you've got an ailing parent of limited means, you feel Medicaid comes first.
For public sector workers, the most essential service is the one that pays their bills, the hardest duty the one they perform.
The movie of life is about ourselves and our loved ones and our needs and interests. It's just how we're made.