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Sustainability: It’s The Responsible Thing To Do

Kamal Jain

If you ask someone to explain the difference between an adult and a child, you will find that the answers generally come down to physical, mental and emotional development.  Physical distinctions often address the hormonal and other bodily changes, the transition through puberty into adulthood.

On the mental and emotional side of things it often means the development of essential cognitive skills and the ability to make rational decisions.  One way to distinguish children from adults is that adults are responsible for themselves and their actions.  Parents instill a sense of responsibility in their children from a very young age, and the child gradually moves toward being a responsible adult.

In our modern societies it is easy to take those fundamental differences for granted.  We just know that is how it is.  But do we truly hold ourselves and others to these standards?

In the physical sense we try to do so by enforcing rules and regulations regarding a minimum age for adult activities such as driving a car, consuming alcohol or tobacco, or even viewing certain movies at the theater.  Some of these activities also require proper judgment, but not necessarily the type of judgment that one equates to long-term responsibility.

Thankfully we are seeing increased awareness about long-term behavior in areas like environmental impact.  People are concerned about sustainable living.

But there is another area of sustainability that has recently begun to catch people’s attention: Economic sustainability.  Indeed, with the global financial crisis bearing down on us, everyone is rightly concerned about the future.

Those who have lived within their means and are not overextended with credit and expensive living do not have as much to worry about as those who have acted irresponsibly and find themselves in trouble.

This extends not only to businesses, but also to governments.  Recently, Massachusetts joined California in stating that due to dire economic conditions, they might be asking the federal government for loans of billions of dollars.

Why is this so?  Because Massachusetts politicians have been reckless and irresponsible in growing the state government ever more.  How irresponsible?  If you just look back at the last decade, state government spending has grown to an amount in 2008 which is more than $10 billion greater than spending levels from 1999 were if adjusted for inflation and population growth.  (see chart)

Also of great concern is the state government’s long-term debt, which has also gone up by approximately $10 billion dollars in the past decade:

The logical conclusion of such growth in spending and debt is a financial disaster.  The urgency of the situation is compounded further when considering that full-time employment in the state government over the last five years has been nearly 5 times the rate of growth in the private sector.

If passed, ballot question 1 this year would roll back state government spending to the same level it was in 1999.  It will force the state government to fund essential services such as public safety and education while cutting the waste and making our state viable in the long run.

Sustainability in all areas, including government, is essential to our own future, and that of our children.  Question 1 is a strong first step toward sustainable government.  This November 4th, please vote YES on Question 1.

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