Comptroller Justin Wilson likens Memphis to a recovering alcoholic

State Comptroller Justin Wilson has penned an op-ed piece in the Commercial Appeal that compares governments to alcoholics – and pronounces Memphis on the road to recovery. An excerpt:

The individual knows he is drinking too much and the government recognizes that its finances are precarious, but hey, it’s not that serious, I’ll change tomorrow or next year. Besides, getting drunk makes me happy and providing services and benefits we don’t pay for today keeps the voters happy.

The downward spiral progresses until the individual or the government hits bottom. That happens with the realization that the pain caused by the substance abuse or the financial irresponsibility outweighs the pleasure derived from the behavior.

For the individual this might mean the loss of a job or jail. A government might lose control of its budget, or the state intercepts tax collections. What it takes to hit bottom varies widely. Each case is different. But in the end there’s an acknowledgment that life has become unmanageable.

At this point, the individual or government can make a decision to change. If this doesn’t happen, the spiral continues. The individual may lose his life. The government can no longer deliver essential services.

If the desire to change is real, and it often is not, the individual or government begins the long tricky road to recovery. Change ain’t easy. It will take what is commonly called tough love from those who care about the person affected. There will be setbacks. Perseverance and determination are required to recover.

I believe the city of Memphis is now in recovery.

…Most alcoholics still struggle with temptation, and there is always the danger of falling off the wagon. But if Memphis continues on its road to recovery, and continues to make good financial decisions, there is no reason to compare it to Detroit. Rather, Memphis will find its rightful place among the world’s most vibrant cities.