2018-07-05 / Viewpoint

The VIEW from here

Being a cheapskate…


Phil Foley — Staff Writer Phil Foley — Staff Writer It’s okay to be a conservative. No, really, being conservative is not the problem.

If you’re a farmer or grew up on or near a farm, you probably have a conservative gene. Any farmer with more than three active brain cells will tell you that if you slaughter more chickens or steers than your flock or herd produces, you won’t be in the livestock business for very long. Except for the most incompetent, who are a self-regulating group, farmers understand you can’t take from the land year after year without putting something back and stay a farmer for any length of time.

Conservative and conservationist both derive from the same 14th century Old French word, conserver, with means “to keep safe, preserve from loss or decay.” It, in turn, comes from the 9th-century Latin word, “to keep, preserve, keep intact, guard.”

So, being conservative, expecting the most value for money (especially public money) spent is a good thing. What is not good is being cheap.

When I was a young reporter I covered an aqueduct authority — a water system the local community had taken over from the Navy at the end of World War II. They started out with an 18-inch transmission line that had been designed to service two large Navy bases, but with the war over, the sailors were gone and the locals had been living off cisterns and shipped in fresh water for decades.

Thing is, over the next 40 years the county’s population more than doubled and one way to guarantee a seat on the five-member aqueduct authority board was to promise low water rates. The only way to maintain low rates was to skimp on maintenance and under build neighborhood expansions.

By the time I showed up in the community, if your bathroom was on the second floor and you didn’t take a shower before 7 a.m. you weren’t taking one until after sundown sometime. On top of that, a third of the water pumped out of the ground simply disappeared. The system’s main transmission line leaked like a sieve and in some places is was more patches than pipe.

Eventually, the state stepped in and the locals now have the country’s highest water bill.

Any farmer will tell you that if you don’t take care of your equipment and land, you won’t be a farmer very long. Being a cheapskate is a poor plan for longevity.

A conservative will tell you that polished marble floors are a pretentious waste of money in your garage. A cheapskate will question why the house built 30 years ago needs a new roof.

I may question the way a conservative arrives at a solution. But a cheapskate is just an idiot.

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