NAME: Pat MacDonald OCCUPATION: Idaho highway patrolman, Boise barracks INCOME: $16,000 a year as a trooper, $1200 as an army reservist PLEASURES: His two sons, a wife who is a full-time homemaker and mother COMPLAINT: Political games-playing by the Idaho legislature over pay raises OUTLOOK: Mormon hopefulness; "No matter how bad things get, you can look around and see others in worse straits."
Some of his coworkers think he is living in a fantasy world, but Pat McDonald is determined to keep his college-educated wife at home, no matter how tight things get.
Unlike most of the wives of Idaho's 190 state patrolmen, Sarah Jane, McDonald's wife of 11 years, does not bring in a second income. Instead she stays at home to wash, cook, clean and care for their two young sons.
"Her work is in the home," says McDonald, 32, "and it's hard work with long hours. Our philosophy is that no success can be compensation for failure in the home. And we feel that by keeping her at home we can retain family unity and avoid the turmoil so many other families go through. If that means I have to hold two jobs, then that's what it's going to have to be."
For a policeman who makes $1,328 a month -- $750 after taxes -- it is a philisophy that is increasingly harder to live by. The McDonald's living expenses come to about $650 a month. A devout Mormon, McDonald also tithes 10 percent of his annual income to the church.
Little is left for savings.Twenty dollars is set aside for the boys' college educations; another $20 is put in a "utility fund" to replace broken down and worn out appliances.
McDonald moonlights odd jobs one day of the week. Other outside income includes the $1,200 a year he receives as a Sergeant in the Army Reserves -- what McDonald calls his "survival money."
The McDonalds' three bedroom house is a picture of Middle America. Freshly painted and set on a neat, green corner lot, it stands apart from the properties of less meticulous neighbors. It is a home the McDonalds feel lucky to own.
"No matter how bad things get," says McDonald, "you can look around and see others in worse straits." He adds that "you don't have to look very far. I can't complain."
But inflation still nags at the McDonalds.
In the past year, Sarah Jane has learned to skip certain aisles in the supermarket to avoid spur-of-the-moment buying. She settles for house brands and reduced items in large quantities.
A few years ago, a night on the town was routine. Today it's out of the question. Sarah Jane says: I go by the theater and see all the cars in the parking lot and say to myself, 'Who are these people?"
McDonald, whose state patrolman's salary is at the mercy of the Idaho legislature, received his first raise in four years last summer -- a five percent, or $60 a month, cost-of-living increase. But McDonald saw little reason to celebrate. The Idaho legislature is "playing games," he says.
McDonald sees only one major expenditure for next year -- a summer vacation to Disneyland for his wife and two sons.
"We've never taken a vacation before," he explains, "and come hell or high water we're going to do it this time because it might be the last chance we have."
One of his last odd jobs virtually assured him there would be a vacation. Hired as a parttime security guard for the production of a $5.5 million Clint Eastwood film that was shot in Boise in October and early November, McDonald made $300 that he calls "icing on the cake."
As for Eastwood and Co., McDonald is still shaking his head at the production's multimillion dollar Boise spree.
"Money was no object," he says. "I've never been around that kind of people before. When you see something like that coming to town, where nobody worries about money -- that was really hard to hold with. I remember thinking while watching them one day, 'How would it be to go first class in everything you do?' That would be really nice."