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President Barack Obama’s inauguration, last week, was historic. For one thing, he’s America’s first black president. It’s historic because there are still people alive who can remember a time when the only way a black man would have gotten into the Oval Office would have been to clean it.
It’s safe to say that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deserves a lot of the credit for this. King was the right man in the right place at the right time. Hitler’s concentration camps, which American troops liberated 20 years earlier, demonstrated what racism can lead to. King understood what to do and his non-violent, non-threatening approach gave his racist opponents the chance to look like a bunch of Nazi thugs as they sicked police dogs on peaceful protest marchers, including children. The sight of police and mob violence directed at peaceful protesters disgusted most Americans and King’s work helped break down the artificial barriers that made black people second class citizens.
He also knew that victory was his. I’ve read that King predicted a black president in 40 years, and he was obviously close. Had he not been murdered, he would probably have lived to see it happen.
Another thing that is historic about President Obama’s inauguration is that it was the most expensive inauguration in history. The figure I’ve seen, which, I understand, includes security costs, is around $170 million. For perspective, that is 34 times the amount of state funding ($4.9 million) that Bedford County Public Schools is slated to loose in the coming fiscal year. That cut means that 80 positions will be eliminated. The school division hopes to make as much of this staff reduction as possible by attrition but the school board also voted on a staff reduction policy that will help them decide who to cut if they have to.
Of course, I tend to be rather cynical when it comes to the federal government. The feds always seem to be quite creative when it comes to finding ways to spend taxpayer’s money. The feds even spend taxpayer’s money that they haven’t collected yet.
Meanwhile, local governments are going to have to be creative about how they are going to spend less money. One thing Bedford County Schools should do is get some input from teachers and non-administrative staff.
This isn’t an original idea of my own. I’ve already heard two county teachers mention this, one at a public hearing, and it sounds like a good idea. Each individual suggestion may not, in itself, be a huge savings, but the cumulative effect of multiple suggestions could be substantial. These would be ideas that would save money without compromising the school division’s mission of delivering a quality education to the county’s youth.
But, getting back to President Obama, although I think the cost of his inauguration sent the wrong message at a tough time, I think he did something the next day that set a good example. One of his first acts after taking his seat behind the world’s most important desk was to freeze the salaries of all White House Staff making more than $100,000 per year. White House staff salaries probably don’t amount to more than a pimple on the federal budget elephant’s butt, but Obama’s action has symbolic value. This sends the right message.
Now, if Timothy Geithner, Obama’s choice for Secretary of the Treasury, can just do a better job running the Treasury Department than he did at understanding his own taxes.