Tag: government jobs

Return of the Principal-in-Chief

According to a Fort Worth Star-Telegram report, President Obama plans to reprise last year’s hotly debated role as Principal-in-Chief to help kick off the coming school year.

Will he have the Department of Education once again put out leading and Obama-aggrandizing study guides? Will he again take personal credit for getting computers and other goodies into your kids’ schools? Will this address look as much like a campaign event as the last one? Will he tell all the kids that the really noble thing to do is get government jobs?

We don’t know the answers to these pressing questions yet, but we do know one thing: If he really does plan to play Principal – or maybe Motivational-Speaker – in-Chief again, it will be both unconstitutional, and unacceptable to a whole lot of people.

For a refresher on last year’s spectacle, by the way, check out this terrific “Cato Weekly Video” installment on it:

Growth in Government Employment

The 1990s were a decade of rapid private sector expansion and federal government restraint. The 2000s are a decade of government expansion at all levels and private sector retrenchment.

From 1990 to 2000, private sector employment soared 21 percent. Then, remarkably, private sector employment actually fell during the 2000s and was 3 percent lower in 2010 than it was in 2000.

The chart shows the changes in government employment in these time periods.

(Note: Numbers are for January of each year for consistency and to avoid the inclusion of temporary federal decennial census workers that show up in later months.)

Federal employment declined during the 1990s, when we mainly had Clinton in the White House and Republican control of Congress. However, federal employment increased under the Bush administration and the Obama administration is pursuing further growth. As a Cato essay on overpaid federal employees shows, growth in federal employment will cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

The Obama administration is concerned that the economic recovery will be jeopardized by revenue-strapped state and local governments cutting employees. Therefore, it’s advocating another federal bailout for the states to head off government job cuts. However, government jobs are supported with money taxed or borrowed out of the economy. Diverting more resources away from the private sector in order to sustain the public sector is a recipe for economic stagnation – not growth.

The Government IS Creating Jobs

Federal government jobs that is. According to the president’s new budget, federal civilian employment in the executive branch will be 15 percent higher in 2011 than it was in 2007:

*I subtracted out the Department of Commerce because it’s temporary hiring of workers for the 2010 Census skews the chart.

Private sector unemployment remains high despite the the administration’s claim that massive deficit spending was necessary to return the economy to health. Instead of fostering private sector growth, the administration is fostering government growth at the expense of the private sector.

Those Who “Serve” Us Celebrate

adamsThose who think that the college-educated, or soon to be so, should have more and more of their education funded by taxpayers – whether those taxpayers themselves attended college or not – are shooting off the fireworks a bit early this year, celebrating increasingly generous federal aid going into effect today.

Perhaps the most galling part of all the increasingly free-flowing aid is how much is being targeted at people who work in “public service.” Ignoring for the moment that the people who make our computers, run our grocery stores, play professional baseball, and on and on are all providing the public with things it wants and needs, to make policy on the assumption that people in predominantly government jobs are somehow selflessly sacrificing for the common good is to blatantly disregard reality.

Consider teachers, as I have done in-depth. According to 2007 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, adjusted to reflect actual time worked, teachers earn more on an hourly basis than accountants, registered nurses, and insurance underwriters. Elementary school teachers – the lowest paid among elementary, middle, and high school educators – made an average of $35.49 an hour, versus $32.91 for accountants and auditors, $32.54 for RNs, and $31.31 for insurance underwriters.

So much for the notion that teachers get paid in nothing but children’s smiles and whatever pittance a cruel public begrudgingly permits them.

How about government employees?

Chris Edwards has done yeoman’s work pointing out how well compensated federal bureaucrats are, noting that in 2007 the average annual wage of a federal civilian employee was $77,143, versus $48,035 for the average private sector worker. And when benefits were factored in, federal employee compensation was twice as large as private sector. But don’t just take Chris’s word and data to see that federal employment is far from self-sacrificial – take the Washington Post’s “Jobs” section!

And it’s not just federal employees or teachers who are making some pretty pennies serving John Q. Public. As a recent Forbes article revealed, it’s people at all levels of government, from firefighters to municipal clerks:

In public-sector America things just get better and better. The common presumption is that public servants forgo high wages in exchange for safe jobs and benefits. The reality is they get all three. State and local government workers get paid an average of $25.30 an hour, which is 33% higher than the private sector’s $19, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Throw in pensions and other benefits and the gap widens to 42%.

Recently, my wife and I have been watching the HBO miniseries John Adams, and I couldn’t help but make the observation: In Adams’ time, many of those who served the public truly did so at great expense to themselves, often risking their very lives and asking little, if anything, from the public in return. Today, in contrast, many if not most of those who supposedly serve the public do so at no risk to themselves – indeed, unparalleled security is one of the great benefits of their employment – but are treated as if their jobs are extraordinary sacrifices. And so, as we head into Independence Day, it seems the World has once again been turned upside down: In modern America, the public works mightily to serve its servants, not the other way around.

How Many Jobs Saved? We Do Not Know

In the past couple of days the administration has been discussing the employment impact of its stimulus package. Employment has declined steadily since adoption of the package, so it might seem odd to claim that it has already had beneficial impacts. The administration’s response is that employment would have declined even faster without the stimulus, so hundreds of thousands of jobs have been saved.

The administration might be right, but how can we know? The short answer is, we cannot know with any confidence because we cannot know what employment would have been in the absence of the stimulus. Thus, the concept of “jobs saved” is problematic; it allows the administration to conclude, no matter how bad things get, that the stimulus worked because the economy would have been even worse without the stimulus.

The Tax-Defying DC Detective

One of the most read articles on today’s Washington Post website tells the story of a DC detective who tried to get away with not paying federal income taxes.  Here’s what caught my eye:

But federal prosecutors said the 18-year law enforcement officer – who earned $180,000 in 2005, most of it in overtime – should have known better.

$180,000?  Wow – that’s a lot of taxpayer money for a single police officer.  In addition, the odds are pretty good this fellow is going to receive extremely generous retirement benefits, which taxpayers will also be on the hook for.  That he apparently earned the bulk of his salary in overtime also made me wince.  I recall from my days in a state budget agency that the state police liked to play the same game.  Thus, I find it irritating when state and local government officials discuss laying off police officers during an economic downturn and the media pay little or no attention to the salaries and benefits these folks are receiving.