As unemployment stubbornly sticks near 10 percent and any sort of economic recovery seems a long way off, think about this: The one part of the economy that's going gangbusters is government work.
Indeed, since the Great Recession started in December 2007, over 8 million jobs have been lost in the private sector while the public sector has added at least 100,000 positions. It's time to recognize that public-sector employment is killing the economy for at least three reasons:
1. They cost too much. As USA Today recently noted, federal employees make on average almost $8,000 more than their private-sector counterparts. When you add in benefits, the gap spreads to about $30,000. State and local government workers make around the same as private-sector counterparts, but their health and retirement packages mean they make significantly more in the end.
2. We can't fire them. The private sector has shed positions in response to slackening demand and the economic downturn. That sort of adjustment is painful but necessary, as it allows the economy to adjust to changing circumstances and workers and employers to move into new activities. Because it is guaranteed certain amounts of tax revenue and has a non-market mind-set, the public sector is largely insulated from such forces and keeps or even adds workers despite changed conditions. The result? We keep paying for things that we don't use, need, or want.
3. They create a permanent lobby for expanded government and higher taxes. Look at California, where teacher unions have spent over $211 million dollars on elections in the past decade. One result is that 40 percent of California's budget must be spent on education, regardless of the number and needs of students. Over the last 10 years, taxpayer contributions to public-sector pension funds has increased by 2000 percent! Such sort of tax-based gladhanding is just getting started. For the first time in history, the number of public-sector union employees is greater than those in the private sector, so expect to see even more lobbying for the sorts of mandatory raises and permanent job security that most of us can only dream of.
Because the public sector gets its pay and benefits from tax dollars and public debt, every thing it gets means there's less for the rest of us to save, invest, or pay workers with. With the federal government and most states already neck-deep in red ink, it's time to cut public-sector pay and payrolls and return more money to the private sector. That will help spur the sort of investment and innovation that will get the economy moving and end the recession far faster than paying more and more money to government workers.
"3 Reasons Public-Sector Employees Are Killing The Economy" is produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie, who also hosts. Approximately 3 minutes. Go to Reason.tv for iPod, HD, and audio versions.
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For more on the discrepancy between public sector and private sector compensation, go here.