The other day on CNN, there was this story about a hospital in Russia where the doctors have been having trouble getting paid in real money even though their respective salaries are only something like $60 a month.
Squeezed for cash, the Russian government has been paying in commodities instead of rubles whatever they happen to have on hand. One month it was sugar, another lumber, and yet another each doctor received a bicycle.
As you can imagine, frustration was building.
The last straw came recently when the doctors were paid in cow manure. While, as CNN pointed out, most of them had vegetable gardens to make ends meet, they certainly got more manure than was necessary to fertilize their cabbage patches.
Anyway, one of the doctors went to the media, their plight was duly publicized, and now they're getting paid in cold, hard rubles from an embarrassed Russian government. Which got me thinking about the Town of Payson's recent budget woes.
Because of a decrease in sales tax revenues, the proposed town budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is $700,000 smaller than last year. Maybe there is a lesson in this sad tale from Russia that we can apply right here in the Rim country.
After all, what the Russian government was utilizing when they paid the doctors in goods rather than cash was the barter system a way of transacting business that goes back centuries to a time before money was invented. If one guy had excess beans he would trade with another man for, say, some cotton, and both could have something to eat and something to wear.
Payson's problem is complicated by some other factors, including a big jump in employee health insurance premiums that will end up costing the town an extra $160,000 a year. Councilmember Ken Murphy even suggested employees should pay a bigger share of the health insurance tab to help offset the increase.
If you're starting to see a thread of similarity between conditions in Russia and what we're experiencing here in Payson, then we're on the same wavelength. Like the Russkies, we too have a cash-strapped government whose employees aren't getting any cheaper.
And if the soviets got away with the barter system for awhile, maybe we can do the same thing. I say let's pay town employees in something we have in excess.
Here are some possibilities:
Really quite useful, juniper berries can be fermented to make gin, and their medicinal properties make them good for the digestive system. If town employees aren't getting paid in cash, they can at least tie one on and then have stomach medication for the morning after.
A friend pointed out that the Rim country is truly a berry wonderland. Not only do we have copious quantities of the practically useless juniper berry, but we have a plethora of the totally useless manzanita berry. How lucky can one rim get? As my daddy always said, "The Lord helps those who help themselves." If we pay them in manzanita berries, surely those inventive and creative folks over at Town Hall will figure out something to do with them. Let's just hope it doesn't involve pea shooters.
WATER CONSERVATION PROMOTION ITEMS
You know what we're talking about: coffee mugs, bumper stickers, decals, that little blue water drop guy with the really lame name I can't even remember. The latest water report shows that the town's conservation program has been a big el floppo. Since these items aren't working, I say let's put them to work by paying water department employees with them but only until they "flood" KMOG (not the Roundup) with calls of complaint.
Remember the curbside recycling program that recently went belly-up? Remember how they found all those recyclables stuffed in a storage locker? Remember the old saying, "One man's junk is another man's treasure."? Let's haul that stuff over to the town payroll office and let them dole it out on payday. Curbside pickup will resume soon.
PAYSON CONCRETE & MATERIALS CAPS
Giving town employees the Rim country's ultimate fashion statement says just how much we value them. Since those who wear these endearing green, yellow and white chapeaus find them equally useful as sleepwear, they are really quite a valuable and versatile item.
What government doesn't have an excess of this commodity and, according the Rim country's esteemed builders and realtors, Payson is no exception. Haven't we all wanted to see these guys choke on their own rules and regulations at one time or another?
I realize this is the one that finally brought the Russian government to its knees, but I have reasons for thinking we should offer such compensation anyway:
1. This is, as we are so fond of pointing out, cowboy country. Where you have cowboys you have cows. Where you have cows, you have cow poop. It's a simple exercise in supply and demand.
2. BS. That's right, BS. Where you have cows, there too you will find bulls. And bull poop, roughly translated, is BS. Add in all the extra BS that comes from having a lot of old cowboys and ranchers sitting around on cracker barrels, and I think we have a situation here of an escalating supply in desperate need of an outlet.
3. Since I cover Town Hall for the Roundup, I need a way out of this mess I have created. When town employees get paid in cow poop, they will do exactly what the Russian doctors did and run helter skelter to the media. Whereupon I will write a sympathetic story about their plight. Whereupon the town will resume paying them in dollars. Whereupon they will eventually forgive me for putting them through all this.