I mentioned that there were multiple themes in the debate about firefighters. One of them has been about “worth” and whether normative (pay them because they do a dangerous job and thus it is “fair”) or objective (look to the market) measures should be used when setting compensation.

The other is the unwillingness to acknowledge tradeoffs. The household budget analogy can get tired but there is an important truth here: If you want to spend more money on a particular item in most households, you have to spend less on another item.

Around my house we refer to this as the Texas Hash theory of finances: If we want something, we often have to save money by making up a big batch of my grandmother’s hash recipe — one of the cheapest, easiest, and yet nutritional one dish wonders known to mankind that still heats up well after four days. After a week, we may be sick of it but dinner cost me about a buck a serving and I have saved a ton of money for other things.

What we have gotten a lot of is that pain should be shared or that somehow the council went on a “spending spree.”

I doubt it will ever happen but I would love to wake up and Local 145 will have a new report on “how to save $20 million in the city’s budget” or a report by MEA, “10 steps toward cutting waste in San Diego.” Instead, the employee representatives argue for more $$ but do not offer concrete steps that the council could take to free up resources to for this new investment.

And lest you think we have a “revenue” problem, note that since FY 2006, the city’s CFO estimates that general fund revenues will grow by a staggering $238 million ($865 million to $1.1 billion).

Here is an exercise. Turn on the web streaming today at 2 p.m. to watch the City Council’s impasse hearing.

Join with me in donating $25 dollars to the Burn Institutefor each time one of the proponents of the raise stands up and identifies where to cut $4 million from the proposed city budget to fund the salary increase.

Note that doesn’t mean taxes or “revenue” enhancements (though I doubt I will hear specifics about that either except, perhaps, a few references to the “We-should-tax-like-LA-and-SF-because-they-are-so-well-managed” study” by the union-oriented think tank.) Rather, to the county they have to be honest-to-god cuts in other departments to fund the firefighters because, according to the logic of readers and comment writers ms, Joe, and Howiek, they are more “important” than these other services. My guess is that my donation this year to the Burn Institute will be more because of the good work they do than the willingness of the speakers today to engage in governing rather than raw politics.

If you want the recipe to my Grandmother’s Hash Recipe let me know and I will post it. Maybe Katherine can do a blog on favorite money saving recipes. And do consider supporting the Burn Institute — they do a bit of God’s work and are a great organization.


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