Hard Times? Not For Government Bureaucracies
By Howard Rich
The ability of government to insulate itself from the economic hardships that families and businesses across the nation have been forced to grapple with over the last twenty months is both astounding and frightening.
It's astounding when you consider the fact that any entity - public or private - could possibly keep its workforce intact during such a steep, sustained economic downturn. But it's also frightening when you consider the lengths to which these taxpayer-funded bureaucracies have gone in order to protect their fiefdoms from harm while the rest of the nation - which has to pay for all of those government salaries -continues to hemorrhage jobs.
Since the beginning of the current recession in December of 2007, the private sector has lost nearly 7 million jobs. Also, the vast majority of these layoffs came after politicians in Washington spent hundreds of billions of dollars on "stimulus" efforts, which were nothing more than bureaucratic bailouts in disguise.
How many jobs has the government sector lost over that same time period, you may ask?
That's easy: None. Amazingly, state and local governments haven't lost a single job during the recession. In fact, they've actually added jobs - 155,000 of them, to be precise, according to a study released last week by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.
Let that statistic sink in for a moment: During the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, state and local governments have actually added employees.
More than just a chilling reminder of the degree to which government will cannibalize the free market in order to protect its own interests (remember, several generations of American workers are going to have to pay back all of that bailout cash), this expansion of the public sector workforce at the expense of private sector jobs also underscores the danger of turning over our nation's health care system to a government-run market.
Isn't it obvious at this point that government "gamed the system" in order to insulate itself from cuts at a time when the rest of the nation was taking it squarely on the chin? What, then, is to prevent it from doing the same thing with respect to the health care industry? Or any other industry, for that matter?
"I am a little surprised at the fact that state and local government has remained as stable as it has in the nation as a whole, given the depth of the current recession," Rockefeller researcher Donald J. Boyd told The New York Times last week. Boyd may be "a little surprised," but the taxpayers who are being forced to pick up the skyrocketing tab that's coming out of Washington are outraged. After all, they saw this coming a long time ago.
Long before a single vote was cast in favor of America's recent debt-exploding government bailouts, free market advocates warned the leaders of both political parties in Washington D.C. against trying to "spend their way" out of a recession. They were also told in no uncertain terms that pouring money into inefficient government bureaucracies, new agenda driven spending and unsustainable entitlement programs did not constitute a "stimulus."
Sadly, Washington refused to listen. Meanwhile, the worst is still yet to come for taxpayers, who after being placed on the hook for the cost of an un precedented government intervention are still awaiting relief from astronomical unemployment rates and frozen credit markets.
In addition to record deficits and the mountain of debt that's accumulated at the federal level, thirty state governments raised taxes this year in an effort to deal with budget "shortfalls," and more states are expected to follow suit next year. That may stem government job losses in the short term, but it will place an even greater strain on the private sector to pay for more with less in the years to come.
Government has always had a problem living within its means during any budget climate, but its refusal to do so during this recession is creating a much greater hole for America's depleted workforce to overcome.
(The author is Chairman of Americans for Limited Government and a Liberty Features Syndicated Writer.)
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