Thursday, June 27, 2013

The metonymy of Olympia is especially galling, given what the state legislature is about to do to Olympia

Usually during the legislative session, I get a bit peeved when someone in media or government refers to the state legislature or statewide government as "Olympia."

And, yes, I'm familiar with the term metonymy. I know that people sometimes use a specific word (like press) to mean something else (like news media). But, in this case, it is harmful. And, this week, when thousands of Olympians and Thurston County residents received layoff notices and our local economy is about to get cleaved, it is galling.

Facts gleaned from our county budget:
  • Almost 25 percent of the jobs in Thurston County are state government jobs.
  • And, those jobs are in particular, the high wage jobs in our community. The people with those jobs make up 34 percent of the wages in the county.
  • Public employment since 2008 has dropped half a percent every year, meaning (despite increases in private employment) total employment has been flat across the county.
So, yes. It would suck. Not just for us who live in households partially supported by state government paychecks, but shutting off more than a third of the wage flow in the county would have devastating impacts.

It is worth pointing out that the now shuttered blog Olympia Views (here, here and here) has written in a much broader way about the social and economic impact state government has on us here.

So, when you're writing about how the state government might shut down for a bit, and people in Olympia are going to be having lean times, please don't say it's Olympia's fault.

1 comment:

Mojourner said...

Thanks for this post. The tendency to "blame it on Olympia" is pretty frustrating, since the legislature is from the whole state. It's also fairly ironic, since Olympia is synonymous with taxation and government overreach in parts of the state that turn out to be net beneficiaries of government spending. Finally, the perception of state workers (I'm one) as overpaid is one that can be maintained only by ignoring the data--I would get paid much more in the private sector, and would not have taken a pay cut for two years, much less the 6 years it's been since a cost of living adjustment.