The County Voice

Pay Now or Pay Later

The Bakersfield Californian published an insightful editorial yesterday titled “County cuts will go deeper than dollars.” Its message: Even “non-mission critical” programs, such as libraries, positively impact  the community in a way that is difficult to measure strictly in dollars and cents. Closing a library – or even reducing its hours – impacts everyone from senior citizens to job seekers to students. It closes a door that opens to the future for so many. It’s a compelling, and often overlooked, fact. County leaders around the state understand it, but unfortunately, our counties are facing massive budget deficits and difficult decisions are being made.

Now let’s take this one-step further since the elimination or reduction of even “mission critical” programs have become part of the state budget discussion.  Think about the child who isn’t immunized or doesn’t have a good breakfast each day. How well does he or she do in school? How does this impact the students around them? Or the single mother who no longer gets assistance paying for child care. How does she keeping working? Or does she just leave her child alone at home. Or what about the individual who longer receives mental-health treatment. Does he end up on the street? Or in your county jail? The list of potential impacts goes on and on. The list of those indirectly impacted grows and grows. While many people look at these programs as just helping a certain percentage of the population, they need to be looked at as an investment in California’s social infrastructure.

There’s a famous commercial from the early ‘70s that featured the slogan, “Pay me now or pay me later.” That logic holds true today. If we, as Californians, don’t pay now, we will definitely pay later.

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