Monday, February 21, 2011

Just Don't Wanna Hear It

I've been offline all weekend due to no phone service, but I'm back now, and after a quick perusal of my favorite places on the internets I've already heard waaaay too much about how Texas is poised to make budget cuts to the public schools, cuts that will include layoffs. I've heard so much, I've just got to put this out there, close comments, and tell myself "there, you vented, now get back to work, ya bum."

As committed as Husband and I are to keeping the boys in public school, I am not at all adverse to cutting school budgets. Texas must balance its budget pursuant to its Constitution, and the money has to come from somewhere. We can't all run around crying "the children, the children" and demand that no amount of sacrifice come from the public schools. Let's face it: many, many of them don't work anyway. We in The Grass Widow household live in a protected bubble of good public schools, in a large urban district that has done better than many in delivering a decent education. But we all know that, overall, public schools are crapping out on a whole lot of kids, and that all the money in the world isn't going to change that. I could go into the whys and wherefores of that situation, but I'm not prepared to write a book this morning, thankyouverymuch.

So there has to be budget cuts, and people will get laid off. My ultimate response: meh. Why? Because out in the real world, we've all had to suffer and sacrifice over the years with the ups and downs of the economy - and it's about time that public employees should have to do the same. Some (very) personal statistics to help make my point:

  • Husband's company is running on 50% the number of people it had on the books 3 years ago. They're doing well, but they don't have that many open reqs out there, so it's unlikely that things will change soon.
  • From 2000 to today my company has gone from 8000 employees to 6000: we perform better financially now than we did back in 2000, and we've acquired approximately 20 companies and their employees and products in that time period. How do you go down in census while up in everything else? You lay people off multiple times, that's how. I can remember at least 7 times myself.
  • I was caught in one of those many company-wide layoffs in 2005; I was shown the door along with 900 of my closest friends - approximately 1/6 of the company's payroll went out the window around the world in one day.
  • I came back to my company in late 2008; the company that I left laid off 15,000 people just weeks after I switched jobs. One company, 15,000 people. Believe me, they haven't hired that many of them back.
  • I make less now in my current job than I did when I started at the same company in 2000. My salary is the same number, but we're talking about 2000 dollars as compared to 2011 dollars, so I'm definitely worse off financially. Additionally, my share of healthcare costs has increased every year I've worked (really, since 1992 - every year it has gone up): I pay somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 the cost of my health insurance currently.

All that said, I like my current job, and I came back to the same company because I like it as well. I'm definitely not in the market for another one (assuming there was a job market for attorneys in Houston right now, which there is not). In my current position I can (much like a teacher) see my children at a decent hour every afternoon, and I can use my vacation days to take off with them on holidays like MLK Day. I even get days off like Memorial Day to spend with them. I do not, of course, get the summer off, nor may I take any days off between Christmas and New Year's or during their Spring Break. Our company closes quarters (and year end) at those times and I am needed at work. But 4 weeks paid vacation a year is a nice benefit; it certainly beats Husband's vacation allotment of 2 weeks. Yes, I said 2 weeks. That's a little less than the average teacher, don't you think?

So you see, life out here in non-public employee-land is at least as tough, if not more so. Right now the economy stinks, it has done so for a while, and we all need a little more sense of shared sacrifice and a little less whining about "I want mine" - especially when my tax dollars pay for the teachers to get what they do.

Soapbox put away. I'm done for now.