Excellent WSJ Article: Public Employment

I read an opinion article that put into words exactly my opinion on the trends in the public and private sector. Now, I have family and in-laws who work for the government, as well as relatives who have worked a long time and retired. I believe the government has it’s place to do thing in our country.

However, the trend is that more and more people are working for the public sector, and this article puts it into perspective.

More Americans work for the government than work in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining and utilities combined. We have moved decisively from a nation of makers to a nation of takers. Nearly half of the $2.2 trillion cost of state and local governments is the $1 trillion-a-year tab for pay and benefits of state and local employees. Is it any wonder that so many states and cities cannot pay their bills?

In a very simplistic view, the government gets it’s funding from taxes, which come from the citizens and private companies. But if the private sector continues to shrink, and the public sector grow, how can we sustain that?

The other troubling factor is that it seems this trend isn’t going to change anytime soon.

Don’t expect a reversal of this trend anytime soon. Surveys of college graduates are finding that more and more of our top minds want to work for the government. Why? Because in recent years only government agencies have been hiring, and because the offer of near lifetime security is highly valued in these times of economic turbulence. When 23-year-olds aren’t willing to take career risks, we have a real problem on our hands. Sadly, we could end up with a generation of Americans who want to work at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

While I’m not an expert in economics and employment, I do believe that if these trends continue, eventually it will end up with much more drastic consequences. Look at the current situation with possible furloughs for non-essential government workers. Unlike with a company which can downsize workforce if needed, the government will end up going much longer until it has to tell hundreds of thousands of people, if not more, that they cannot come to work until budgets are fixed.

What is even more ridiculous is my brother offered to go on voluntary furlough weeks ago, to help those who couldn’t afford to not work for a week or two. Apparently several employees all offered. But they were told no one would be furloughed unless everyone was required to be furloughed, even if others volunteered.

So I recommend to anyone to read this article, and hopefully to understand the concept that the public sector cannot outgrow all other sectors without becoming a burden to it’s citizens and businesses.

Article: The Wall Street Journal – We’ve Become a Nation of Takers, Not Makers

2 thoughts on “Excellent WSJ Article: Public Employment

  1. The first section of the article really put me off and got me angry. It seems to me that the author is trying to claim that since there are more government employees than manufacturing type jobs, this is a sign that government is growing out of control.

    That’s total bull crap.

    Manufacturing type jobs have shrunk enormously, primarily due to shipping those jobs overseas. The other part is the change in this country from being in the industrial age to moving into the information age. He completely ignored the largest sectors of jobs in the US. A better measure of government employment growth would be to compare that number to the total employment population in the US.

    I agree that our nation is a “Nation of Takers, Not Makers”. But this is not because of government growth. It is due to many things, including: 1. general society’s obession with consumption over production, 2. the Information Age in the US, 3. off-shoring manufacturing and production to other countries.

    The rest of the article goes on to deride unions of all sorts. Most of it blames government size or unions for everything, and ignores the specifics and other more probable causes of issues.


  2. I agree it would be better to find statistics on public vs private sector jobs. Also, the government isn’t the sole problem. There are lots of problems going on right now, in the public and private sectors, and overseas.

    But given such a large deficit we have with the federal government, I still do believe the government needs to change it’s attitude. It is ignoring fiscal responsibility and marching ahead. So we’ll need to raise some taxes and cut some spending to get ourselves out of this.


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