Our friends are feeling the pinch

At a chamber of commerce breakfast meeting a couple of weeks ago Green River Community College business instructor Jeff Perlot asked those in attendance for recessions jokes to lighten the mood.

  • Monday, March 2, 2009 8:51pm
  • Opinion

At a chamber of commerce breakfast meeting a couple of weeks ago Green River Community College business instructor Jeff Perlot asked those in attendance for recessions jokes to lighten the mood.

Many in the room are small business owners who are struggling to stay afloat during this trying economic situation.

The winner was, and I’m not quoting this directly, “You know you’re in a recession when the young man behind the counter at McDonald’s asks if you’d like to downsize your meal.”

You have to admit after a decade of “supersizing” not only our meals, but our homes and cars, it was funny.

Our own Courier-Herald advertising maven Martha Boston came up with, “You know you’re in a recession when the Mariners can get Ken Griffey Jr. for $2 million.”

Also worth a snicker.

I can’t recall the others, but there were some good ones that provided a few chuckles before the topic became serious.

In reality, these are not laughing times for many.

In the past several weeks, I can’t tell you how many friends or acquaintances I’ve talked with who have let me know they are no longer working. Some by choice, but many more because their company is cutting back.

I read the headlines. I know Boeing is letting go numbers that I can’t fathom. The ever-popular Microsoft is handing out pink slips.

In smaller communities like ours, it hits close to home. These folks are not just statistics or numbers that we read about in larger newspapers or hear on the evening news. These are people we know. They are our neighbors or family members. They are friends we gather with at church or sit next to on the bench at our kids’ soccer games.

When Enumclaw’s Helac reduces its workforce, that’s John Doe. He lives in Buckley or Bonney Lake or Sumner. He goes to The Summit Church. His son might go to college at Eastern, along with a neighbor’s daughter. His wife is in my poetry group. She hasn’t been for a while. I heard she’s been sick. What will they do without insurance?

For those of us in the newsroom, and I’m sure at other places of business, it’s been our colleagues and we can only wonder if we are next.

As many know by now, it’s our teachers or those who support them.

The White River School District is currently ahead of the curve, but is not alone. In the coming weeks, as more area school districts face tighter budgets and declining student populations, there will likely be more. It seems eons ago there was a “teacher shortage” and people were flocking to universities to get their degrees to fill vacancies created by a retiring workforce or those who left the field for greener pastures.

Local school districts have been facing budget cuts for some time now. They’ve gone virtually unnoticed because teachers have retired and not been replaced, or they’ve been asked to fill gaps in areas or at grade levels they wouldn’t usually teach.

The dollar figures are too great to be made up by saving copy paper or turning off the lights when you leave the building. The numbers are in the millions.

The math can be complicated, but with 85 percent of most school districts’ budgets tied up in personnel, salaries and benefits, with very few teachers left of retirement age, and the student portion of the student-teacher ratio on the decline, the answers seem pretty obvious. Hard to swallow, perhaps, but fairly clear.

There were no words to describe the reality when it hit the White River School board of directors as the announcement became formal. The silence and heavy sighs hung in the air as sadness.

They are people. They have value.

I can’t imagine making those decisions, especially in these times for the reasons that these decisions have to be made today.

And harder yet, I can’t begin to know how difficult those decisions must be for local school leaders, chief executive officers or small-business owners, who, in this tight-knit community, know those people as friends and neighbors, too.

More in Opinion

Living in an era where emotions, opinions outweigh the facts

If you have enough money and political power, you can probably find an expert to endorse your position.

Even with postage paid, voters couldn’t send ballots on time

While those ballots don’t get counted, taxpayers still must pay the Postal Service for delivering them.

Spotting outsiders in our little city

There’s always a way to tell who’s new and who’s ‘in-the-know’ in Enumclaw.

We must move away from identity politics

Mr. Trump recognized the legitimate concerns of the “working class” and socio-economic middle class which have born a disproportionate negative impact from many of Washington’s policies.

Polarizing politics works to squash the moderate middle

The definition of identity politics: “Political attitudes or positions that focus on… Continue reading

Enumclaw VFW cites long list of community service

Our post, although one of the smallest in the state, consistently ranks near the top of all state VFW posts in the amount of community service we provide.

A victory they didn’t want means a fight they worked to avoid

De-Escalate Washington needs to restart the machinery of a campaign to pass I-940.

Deeply held religious beliefs do good in the world

It is truly disheartening to see the eagerness with which people jump on the bandwagon to Christian bash.

Economy rises and falls, regardless of who’s in the Oval Office

History from the time of Harry Truman teaches us that presidents have very little influence on the economy.

SPLC accurately labels hate organizations and people

The SPLC has received my support for many years and will continue to receive my support for their efforts to defend the civil rights of all persons.

Rumbling and rambling on the way to November

The short columns for the upcoming mid-terms.

Shakespeare and sex jokes, Act II

How exactly did you think he became popular with the masses back in the time of the Plague?