T wo things jumped out at me last Thursday, when I read the front page story in The York Dispatch having to do with the local economy.
The first was how York countians have found ways to keep their heads above water in these difficult economic times we live in and have lived in for the last five or six years.
These have been years of unemployment for many people, underemployment for many others, stagnant earnings, reduced wages and benefits, ages since the last pay raise, all while the cost of just about everything -- housing, insurance, food, medical care, transportation and utilities, for example -- has continued to go up.
That includes taxes, of course, particularly property taxes.
And some people have gone belly-up.
Most, however, have not. There are a lot of reasons for that, I guess, including that some folks have taken on second and third jobs just to help make ends meet.
But the key, it seems, is the willingness of many York countians to dig a little deeper by cutting their personal expenses to the bone.
In other words, they try not to spend money they don't have. They cut corners. If they can't afford something, they don't buy it. They've tightened their belts a notch at a time. And it hurts.
Which only makes sense, I guess, in a community long known for being tight-fisted, especially at home. Not all of us are tightwads, of course, but a lot of us are. And in times like this, it's a trait that comes in mighty handy.
Frugality is an f-word in York County, but there's nothing obscene about it.
It does, however, raise the question -- in my mind, at least -- of why our various government bodies aren't able to do the same thing. Tighten their belts? Hold the line on spending?
Start at the top with the federal government, now more than $16 trillion in debt -- that works out to a $53,000 share for every man, woman and child in the country -- and work all the way down to the smallest of municipal governments and school districts.
It's a rare occurrence when budgets don't increase from one fiscal year to the next.
And you have to wonder how regular people, mostly middle- and low-income folks, can squeeze a dime until it screams for mercy, but politicians at every level can not. Or will not.
"Cost-cutting is main way many Yorkers stay afloat," is the headline above the local story about the economy.
But I immediately thought how great it would be to see a headline that said: "Cost-cutting is main way federal and state politicians stay afloat."
It just hasn't happened.
And I don't know why it hasn't.
Then I happened to notice an info-box headed: "The cost of living in York County."
And because I'm a glutton for punishment, I read it.
When I got down to the last line, in the last column, I came to a sudden stop. A head-snapping stop. At first I thought it must have been a mistake. How could it be that the percentage of increase in hourly wages for all York countians in 2012 was just 1 percent?
I question that because of all the people in York County who work for the federal, state, county or municipal government, or for a school district. And I know that just about all of them have received wage increases.
Even in this lousy economy.
I'm not talking 8 percent, 9 percent, 10 percent, as might have happened in better times. But it's still pretty common for government employees at every level -- and that includes teachers and school administrators -- to receive annual wage increases of between 2 percent and 4 percent.
Somehow it makes sense to them to see their wages go up, while most of the people paying those wages have seen their earnings go down or hold steady, at best.
But that's the way it works, I guess, in the real world.
Anyway, I've always been pretty good at math. So when I see lots of people on one side of the equation receiving wage increases of between 2 percent and 4 percent, or more, then it only makes sense that there must be a lot more people on the other side of the equation getting no wage increases at all, or having had their wages cut, if the final average is going to be 1 percent.
Like I said, it just brought me up short.
I'm forced to ask myself one question:
What's up with that?
And I've got no answer.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.