New York Times headline: “Public Workers Face New Rash of Layoffs, Hurting Recovery”.
That headline suggests that the US economy is dependent on government employment. I.e., without enough government employees, the economy will decline into recession or depression. The headline even implies (faintly) that if we could increase government employment, the economy might not only recover but even become more prosperous.
I’d like to say those implications make me laugh, but in truth they make me wince. They’re part of a pro-government mindset that’s been killing this country for most of my lifetime.
The economy is not hurt by the loss of governmental jobs. Of course, there’s some sort of economic harm whenever any job is lost. But on balance, it’s private sector “layoffs”—and correlative public sector hirings—that have caused the real damage to our economy. For most of twenty years—under the guise of “global free trade”—the treasonous whores in the cathouse on the Potomac have caused private sector “layoffs” by exporting American industries and jobs to China and other third world nations.
By lowering tariffs and exporting American industrial jobs, Congress helped enrich multinational corporations. Corporations could produce goods cheaply with third-world labor and then sell those goods at relatively high prices in first-world countries like the US.
If increased profits for major corporations is good, the correlative loss of American jobs was bad. For the past 20 years, government has tried to conceal the loss of private-sector jobs exported to China by increasing the size of government and hiring more governmental employees.
So long as enough government jobs were added to more-or-less match the number of industrial jobs exported to China, India or Mexico, the American people didn’t notice or mind the loss of our industrial jobs. Besides, most people would rather “work” in an air-conditioned government office than work in a hot, sweaty industrial factory. More, most people would rather have a government job where they were not only over-paid, but could expect a general healthcare package and a pension that could make So-So Security look laughable.
• The problem is that government employees don’t actually produce anything. When we shipped industrial jobs to China, we exported jobs that actually produced something tangible. In place of these former productive jobs, we put more people to work as government employees who produce nothing.
The difference between productive and non-productive jobs didn’t seem to matter at the time. In a “consumer economy,” what difference did it make if Americans had jobs that produced something or jobs that merely regulated and taxed that production? So long as you had a job—any job—that produced a paycheck, you could do your part to support the economy by spending/consuming every dime you earned or could borrow.
In a “producer economy,” you might be called on to “produce ‘til you drop”—but that’s hard work. But, in a consumer economy, you’re encouraged to “shop ‘til you drop”—and that’s fun. We want the fun, but fun can’t support us. If we would live, we must work. We must produce before we can consume.
• Ultimately, production and consumption must balance. If you produce goods or services worth $40,000 a year, then you should be entitled to spend $40,000 per year buying whatever goods and services you need from others. If you produced $20,000 in goods and services, you should only be able to spend $20,000 on buying goods and services. Your right to consume should never exceed your duty to produce.
Insofar as we sent some industrial jobs to China, we were no longer as productive as we’d formerly been. Thus, we should no longer have been able to consume as much as we’d formerly produced. Our standard of living should have declined.
Government’s solution? Greater debt. Thanks to easy credit, we could not only consume in proportion to the goods we had already produced, we could even consume today based on our promise to pay with goods produced tomorrow and next year. Consuming on credit is tantamount to a farmer eating his seed corn; it makes for a feast in the winter, but later condemns him to starvation.
Figuratively speaking, after shipping industrial jobs to China, instead producing $40,000 worth of goods so as to entitle us to buy $40,000 worth of other people’s goods, Americans now only produce $30,000 worth of tangible goods (we’d exported $10,000 in productive capacity to China) but we borrowed $10,000 (largely from China) to maintain the illusion that our standard of living was stable and we were still prosperous (productive). We continued to purchase $40,000 worth of goods, even though we’d only produced $30,000 worth of goods. We succumbed to the illusion that our prosperity was determined primarily by our consumption (credit) rather than our production.
We played the fool.
• Perhaps our greatest “foolishness” was to increase the number of government employees. Most government employees are little better than welfare recipients since both classes are pure consumers because they produce nothing. The regulations enforced by government employees ultimately slow and diminish productive activities by others.
The most non-productive force in this country is government. It’s no coincidence that “big government” and the “consumer economy” are intimately linked. Both assume production is secondary in import to consumption. Our “consumer economy” could just as accurately be described as the “government economy,” or “credit economy”.
It’s exactly because we’ve embraced the values of a consumer/governmental economy that we see headlines in the New York Times that suggest the economy is failing due to “public sector layoffs”. We’ve been bamboozled into thinking government is some sort of productive, profit-center/cornucopia when it’s really just a cost that’s as non-productive as welfare.
• Our national economy is grinding towards a depression—not because we have too few jobs in this country, but because we have too few productive jobs. We have too many parasites (Ayn Rand called them “looters”) living on welfare, government employment and government subsidies. The parasites have become so numerous, that they’re overwhelming the capacity of the “host” (the productive elements of the US economy) to sustain itself.
Two hundred years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville anticipated this result when he wrote:
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.”
Depending on whose numbers you believe, our national debt is somewhere between $16 and $200 trillion. The mere uncertainty concerning the size of the national debt is concrete evidence of “loose fiscal policy”.
Much of the reason for our “loose fiscal policy” is our legislators’ insatiable appetites for reelection. Self-serving congressmen and senators have persistently passed laws favoring any group that would support their reelection.
Result? Government employees and their unions have exercised their political power to “persuade” legislators to vote to raise governmental pay and pensions beyond what the same job might earn in the private sector. Rich folk have used their financial clout to persuade legislators to vote to provide fat subsidies that sometimes pay the rich to not produce. The poor used their numbers to persuade legislators to vote to support or increase welfare and “free” governmental services like “ObamaCare”.
Result? As de Tocqueville warned, we are “voting ourselves largesse from the public treasury” and flirting with national destruction and even dictatorship.
• The New York Times continued:
“In California, the governor is threatening to eliminate 15,000 state jobs. When school begins in Cleveland this fall, more than 500 teachers probably will be out of work. And in Trenton — which has already cut a third of its police force, hundreds of school district employees and at least 150 other public workers — the only way the city will forestall the loss of 60 more firefighters is if a federal grant comes through.”
As credit becomes increasingly inaccessible to state and local governments, they become increasingly dependent on the “great brown father” in Washington DC for funding. Dependence is the hallmark of the consumer and anathema to the producer.
“. . . since its post-recession peak in April 2009, the public sector has shrunk by 657,000 jobs . . . creating the single biggest drag on the recovery in many areas.”
Complaining that the economy is recessing because we don’t have enough government jobs is tantamount to complaining that poor families can’t escape poverty because they don’t have enough kids. Like children, government workers are dependents. Kids depend on their parents; government workers depend on the productive elements of society. Dependents are non-productive. Increasing the number of government employees will no more alleviate the nation’s economic decline than having more kids will alleviate poverty among the poor.
This isn’t news. If government employment could enrich a country, why did the former Soviet Union collapse? Evidence of “big government’s” inability to enrich any nation is manifest, and yet our politicians have encouraged more government employment for the past 20 years. Why? Are our legislators that stupid, or is national destruction their objective?
“Pennsylvania, for example, has shed 5,400 government jobs this year . . . . ‘We have slipped to the middle of the pack in terms of job growth,’ said Mark Price, a labor economist at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. ‘And that was driven mainly by the fact that we lost so many jobs in the public sector.’”
Bunk. The economic growth problem only appears to be “driven mainly” by the loss of public sector jobs. Our growth problem is “driven mainly” by American’s inability to discern the differences between productive jobs (many of which were shipped overseas) and non-productive welfare that we call “government jobs”.
If the idea of replacing private-sector, productive jobs with non-productive, government jobs wasn’t fundamentally stupid (even suicidal), we could alleviate all of our current economic problems by all becoming government employees. We could send all of our productive jobs to China. Then, we’ll just sit around, around, drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, and (like congressmen) vote ourselves pay raises. Instead of actually working to grow any food, we’ll just vote in favor of having a nice steak dinner. Instead of actually working to produce new cars, we’ll just vote a new Cadillac for everyone. Instead or actually working to produce a new home, we’ll just vote new homes for everyone! America will become Utopia by simply hiring everyone as a government employee—see?!
In truth, we need farmers—who actually produce food—more than we need Department of Agriculture employees who produce nothing and only consume food. We need assembly line workers who actually produce automobiles more than we need government employees who regulate the design and production of automobiles and only consume automobiles. We need the carpenters, plumbers and electricians who actually build homes more than we need the government zoning commissioners and building inspectors who control where and how those homes are built and otherwise only consume homes.
Henry Kissinger once described most Americans as “useless eaters”. I disagree with Henry—at least in relation to men and women how hold jobs that actually produce something in the private sector. But the term “useless eater” is a near-perfect description for most governmental employees. They consume, but they don’t produce.
We can’t continue to subsidize the non-productive and expect the national economy to “recover”.
• America’s economic future can be predicted from the description of our society as a “consumer-based economy”. We’ve favored and subsidized “consumption” rather than “production”. What result could you expect for a “consumer-based economy” other than a shortage of producers, a shortage of goods, and possible economic collapse? Consumerism is a disease. When the consumers/parasites overrun the producer-host, the result is sickness for sure and possible death.
According to a Rand Institute study, government employees are often paid double what they could earn doing the same job in the private sector. That means taxpayers are hiring one government employee but paying for two. The first government employee produces virtually nothing. The second government employee is a kind of “ghost” who produces absolutely nothing, but still consumes a full paycheck.
The truth is that we don’t need—and can no longer afford—most government employees.
• Producers produce at least as much as they consume. Ideally, producers produce even more than they consume and that excess production not only tends to make them rich, but also means “producers” can be called “savers,” “parents” or even “adults”.
Children are all “consumers”. They produce nothing—at least not at first—but they will eat like locusts and defecate like cattle. But we invest our energy and wealth in feeding the kids as a “natural” investment in our species, our society and our future.
However, as we all become adults, we’re expected to give up our adolescent status as consumers and become producers.
As children, we first take a part-time job to make a little extra money to offset some of costs that would otherwise be charged to our parents. Later, we take our first “real” jobs and are expected to produce enough to support ourselves without any dependence on our parents (or government). In our prime, if we are hard workers and effective “producers,” we begin to earn more money than we need to simply support ourselves, so we can “afford” to get married, have children and begin to devote our “excess production” to raising a family.
Generally speaking, adults are expected to be producers who produce at least enough to be self-supporting (produce as much as they consume), and ideally, produce more than they consume.
The word “adult” might be roughly defined as synonymous with “producer”. The word “consumer” might be roughly defined as synonymous with “child”.
Ignoring those who are mentally or physically disabled, when you see an “adult” who is not supporting himself, you are generally looking at a thief or a looter—or they are purchasing more than they produce with credit. The term “adult consumers” is almost an oxymoron. “Adults are expected to be producers. “Consumers” are expected to be something other than able-bodied “adults”. Purported “adults” who are actually “consumers” can also be described as “debtors”.
• There will always be people who are non-productive and yet are paid. Dancing girls are not productive in the sense that they don’t grow corn, assemble automobiles or build homes. Still, the cry to “Bring on the dancing girls!” has echoed across the world for thousands of years and it likely to be heard for centuries to come.
Similarly, as observed in the Bible, the poor will always be with us, and as acts of charity we are expected to voluntarily help support those non-productive persons.
Like the dancing girls and the poor, we will also have government employees as far into the future as anyone can peer. Therefore, it’s OK if the people cry, “Bring on the government employees!” and voluntarily increase the size of government. Want more firemen? OK, let’s figure out how to hire some. Want more police? OK, let’s figure out how to raise enough revenue to hire some more cops.
But when government, itself, has grown to a point where government (not the people) not only calls “bring on the government employees” but compels the people to accept ever more government regulation and ever-larger government, we’ve moved outside the free market and even a free society to enter a dictatorship.
When the people are compelled by government to not only hire more government employees they don’t need, don’t want and can’t afford, but also overpay these new government employees, we have a truly “non-productive” class of government employees.
Thus, when I complain about non-productive government employees, I’m complaining about those regulators and bureaucrats who are not employed by public demand, but rather by government fiat. I’m complaining about every government worker who’s been hired to perform a non-essential task, paid more than he’s worth on the free market, and is thus non-productive.
• As George Washington once observed,
“Government, like fire, is a dangerous servant or a fearful master.”
We can tolerate our “dangerous servants” so long as our private sector is strong and prosperous (productive). But when we allow the number of government employee-parasites to become too numerous and powerful, they morph from “dangerous servants” into “fearful masters” who vote themselves unearned wages, more holidays and overly generous pensions. When tThe “fearful master” of big government overtaxes the productive people, there’ll be nothing left to support the “fearful master” but outright theft of whatever wealth remains in the hands of the formerly productive.
The result is national poverty and increasing violence.
Think I exaggerate? Then why did the Department of Homeland Security recently order 450 million rounds of ammunition? Why are the US military conducting exercises in American cities? Are they planning to defend America against an invasion by the Chinese? The Mexicans? The Canadians? Or do they understand that a time of national poverty, instability and great violence may be approaching? Has our “fearful master” purchased those millions of bullets to defend Americans or to oppress them?
We appear to be approaching the “dictatorship” de Tocqueville warned of. The more government employees we allow, the sooner we’ll reach that result.
• Alexis d Tocqueville also observed that “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
When Americans decided to value non-productive government jobs as highly as jobs that actually produce something tangible, it was evidence that America had ceased to be good. We’d lost our moral compass. Today, we are ceasing to be great. Look around. Can you tell me that America’s former greatness isn’t disappearing—becoming almost unremembered?
And what did de Tocqueville predict would always follow the collapse of a democracy? A dictatorship. Do you see evidence of a growing police state? I do. Do you see a President who increasingly rules by his own executive orders rather than by enforcing the laws enacted by Congress? I do. Do you see a Congress that resists the President’s grabs for more power? I don’t.
Aren’t we at least approaching the dictatorship that de Tocqueville predicted?
It’s neither true nor fair to blame all of our problems on rising government employment. There are other reasons and causes that are at least as important. But rising government employment/falling productive jobs is certainly one of the major causes for America’s economic decline.
If we want to restore America’s prosperity and the American dream, we should first learn to distinguish between productive and non-productive jobs. Then, cut the size of government dramatically, raise tariffs, abandon global free trade, rebuild American industry—and replace non-productive governmental jobs with productive jobs.