Every single city and town in this state is working on a shoe-string budget. For some reason I'll never quite understand, most people tend to view things through an us-vs.-them lens: 'Marblehead receives more Chapter 70 funding per capita than Swampscott, so let's raise some hell!' tends to be the general view in my town. Of course, the fact that Marblehead receives more funding than Swampscott isn't Swampscott's problem - it's the slap in the face that makes the problem worse. Unfortunately, as countless books discuss (such as What's the Matter with Kansas), it's easy to distract people from the real problems by alerting them to the fact that not everyone shares those problems. Many people may not be riled up if everyone's just as screwed over as they are, but that kind of attitude certainly doesn't make for smart governmental policy.
Of course, the problem extends way beyond school funding: I'm damn-near ready to trademark the sentence - "Pension reform is the new third rail of Massachusetts politics." Anyone else sick and tired about reading how teachers have it so well? Let me be the first to say, as the son of a teacher, their wonderful salaries (/sarcasm off) and benefits aren't all that they're cracked up to be.
Nor is eliminating public employee benefits and salaries the solution to our society's problems. First off, public employee pensions are fair. Massachusetts employees pay 11% of their salaries into pension funds and usually don't earn anywhere near as much as the private sector. Many public employees - the same ones who aren't anywhere near over payed - are also required to have more advanced degrees than private sector counterparts. Even the so-called worst offenders, the people who's pensions end up on the front page of the Boston Globe, have had to put in more than 20 years of service in the state to get them. If a few people are getting a sweet deal, that doesn't mean the pension system needs to be totally overhauled.
That's not to say the pension system is perfect and there isn't some room for reform, but the vitriol directed towards public employees is unsettling, and certainly the aims of many directing such vitriol goes way beyond what's fair and decent. I've yet to read a reasonable pension-reform post on BMG or article in the Boston Globe that proposes specific ideas on how to reform pensions so that there aren't the outliers that get more than they deserve, while also protecting the core middle and working class employees who have put 20+ years and 11%+ of their salaries into the system in return for those benefits. It's all about how some guy got such a sweet deal and it's so unfair and needs to stop, or it's about how public employees are hacks and don't deserve to be decently compensated. People clearly forget that public sector employees perform services that we all benefit from and thus deserve compensation on par with everyone else in society (lest we truly get what we pay for).
The bottom line is that lashing out against public sector employees may feel good, but it certainly isn't a solution to the problem: the erosion of the middle and working classes, or even our budget difficulties (pension reform would represent a fraction of a fraction of our budget deficit). Social Security alone isn't enough to cover the costs of living in today's society and most people aren't expert enough in planning for their future, or they simply don't have the funds necessary to make those plans. So, the problem is the lack of post-retirement security in the private sector, not Billy Bulger's cousins. The solution to the problem isn't tearing the middle and working class apart, it's actually addressing social security and the problems average citizens face when planning for their future. The solution, in essence, is in tackling the bigger issues.