“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” — John Donne (1572-1631), an English metaphysical poet and a priest famous for his spellbinding sermons.
When I hear someone say for whom the bell tolls, I automatically think of Ernest Hemingway and his novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” about the Spanish Civil War in 1937. To the best of my recollection in begins and ends in a pine-scented forest which reminds me of Maine. For this column it reminds me of government, its abuse of taking care of itself before the taxpayers which fund it and the money spent by incumbents and new candidates which must total in the billions every election cycle. When lifetime politicians run time and time again for office, there is no doubt for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee, the sucker who in the end will pay, and pay and pay some more.
Last Tuesday, the Windham Town Councilors voted to reduce their weekly stipend for attending a formal council meeting or council workshop from $35 a meeting to $1 and that is commendable although totally insignificant as far as the total town budget goes. Even if all of the seven councilors met each and every week (which they don’t), their net salary would be $12,740 but I do congratulate them for doing something to reduce our municipal budget. What really disturbs me is the fact that no other elected official, state or federal, has elected to do the same and neither has any appointed or hired official done the same either.
The Windham dispatchers were cut along with the deputy director at Public Works and some from the school department. Did the town manager or superintendent of schools take some kind of pay cut to help ensure other public employees would remain employed? The answer is no. What bothers me the most, and please remember I live off a retirement funded by the federal government, is the fact that the very elite of government employees suffer the least while the rank and file are the sacrificial lambs when the budget hatchet falls during hard times. That’s probably true at all levels of government. I can remember at one point in the military we almost had more officers than enlisted soldiers. I was one of those who received orders that I was being removed from the Army after four years of service during the cutbacks when the Vietnam War was winding down, but I fought hard and was successful in staying for another 16 years.
I do want to make the point that it is time that the bell tolls for lifetime politicians as I and many others feel that this is one thing our Founding Fathers missed in the Constitution. I can word my thoughts in several ways, like don’t put the fox in charge of the hen house and don’t put the thief in charge of the bank. I fully support the Tea Party movement and will become more involved soon. Hopefully there will be several Tea Party events in the Lake Region in order to begin the changes we feel necessary at the local, state and federal level. In Windham, there will be three positions on the ballot this coming November. They are one each for the North District, South District and At-Large. I have a sneaky feeling we might see some of the past councilors run again, especially ones suffering from a loss of power.
Evidently there’s a clause in the recently passed national health care bill that allows the Internal Revenue Service to hire over 16,000 new IRS agents. Ever seen the quotation on the IRS building in Washington, D.C.? It is a quotation from Anne Robert Jacques Turgot: “The expenses of government, having for their object the interest of all, should be borne by everyone, and the more a man enjoys the advantages of society, the more he ought to hold himself honored in contributing to those expenses.” I recently read a newspaper article that stated that half of Americans don’t pay federal taxes. I guess the bell tolls for those who do.
Lane Hiltunen lives in Windham.