MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - "Families have to balance their budgets," my Republican friend said to me, "and the state should, too." We were discussing Kansas's latest round of budget cuts. I had expressed a worry that deeper cuts would eliminate even more jobs and that insufficient spending on education and infrastructure would undermine long-term recovery. Afterwards, I thought about the family as a metaphor for the state. What if we pushed the analogy further?
A few days ago, I was in a post office in another community, waiting to mail a package. I had spent the previous day on the phone and then on-line, trying to get the USPS's click 'n ship to work. The USPS has been urging customers to complete transactions on-line; but after many hours of frustration -- and multiple "chats" with on-line help -- I learned that the zip code I was trying to mail to had not yet been entered into the system. Hence, my trip to an actual, physical post office. There I found a line of customers extending out the door and around the lobby. I was recovering from surgery and unsteady on my feet, so my package and I leaned against various spots on various walls as the line crept toward the two employees at the counter.