..., I find that my economy collapses something like 50 years in. I know that it is because my overhead is too high, but if I lower pay, the people get mad. ...
Pay is not all there is to 'overhead'.
One of the biggest expenses in Tropico is worker's wages. It becomes a huge factor when there is a highly populated island. To keep job quality up, I raise the wages (& rents) so the average income is the Caribbean average. Have people found that it is easier to keep payment down, and focus on other happiness-makers?
No, although it is a workable alternative. If you have set a high population as a personal goal, or as a means to register a 'high' score -- you need to pace that growth particularly to avoid building and/or fully staffing non-productive buildings just to provide employment
. If you are putting people on the payroll just to keep them happy and grow the population, then the Caribbean Average will kill you. Unless you learn to be very adept in the use of the Immigration Office to manage who comes and goes.
You've identified one of the main factors; allowing your expenses to outstrip your income. ...
Several suggestions spring to mind.
i) When you build a 'service' structure, such as a Clinic, Church (or anything that does not make a profit of itself) then also 'make' yourself build a profit-making structure too.
ii) Even out the profit-making structures to lessen the boom-bust cycle. There is nothing worse that allowing your economy to be dependant on only one or two exports or industries. ...
iii) Try making sure you expand your [create a] tourist industry; iv) and have some profit-making media up and running. ...
That covers the 'income'
side of the equation - mostly.
As to the income producing media, watch your target viewers\readers and your building location carefully -- they are not the entire population (if you can't cover all the builtup area).
As to your industry (other than tourists), make sure production remains high and reasonably steady ; mines do have a limited amount of ore, farms not only fluxuate due to rainfall variations but also become polluted and less productive.
You also have to learn to control your urge to use the expanding treasury to overbuild. Every building has a maintainence cost which is adjustable only in narrow limits, if at all.