Feeding from the public trough

14 01 2010

One of the great things about subscribing to a magazine like Reason is that you get a bunch of great articles to read over every month before they get posted on the internet.  The downside is that the profound thoughts that come to me after reading an article in print are often lost to me by the time that article is published online.

I could probably get around that by drafting a response when I read the article and then posting it a few weeks later when I can link to it, but what can you expect?  I’m a college student.  Proactivity is not one of my strong points.

Anyway, great article in February’s Reason by Steven Greenhut:  Class War. It highlights the massive and growing disparity between privileges accorded to so-called “public servants,” from speeding ticket impunity to insane benefits.  It’s definitely worth a readthrough, if only to inspire some righteous fury as we enter a new election cycle.

Hopefully, awareness of the creation of a privileged “government class” is rising as fast as public sector wages.  The stimulus seems to have been far more successful at stimulating the growth of government than saving or creating real jobs, something that should surprise no one.  And it’s not exactly a shocker that because of massive public sector spending, government workers have a brighter outlook than all you little people trying to fend for yourselves.

Unless you’re someone who believes that government should, in principle, be understaffed and underfunded (and I do), you may not see why this is a problem.  It’s quite simple: the more pigs surrounding the trough, the harder it is to take the trough away.

That's your money in the trough.

Government workers, especially those who are not elected officials (in other words, the vast majority of them) are not like private sector workers.  Yes, they’re probably good, hard-working folks on the balance, and no one can deny them that.  But you don’t hire them—or, at least, you don’t get to choose to hire them.  And they get paid with your money whether you like it or not.  And they also vote.  Which means they can effectively vote to give themselves a pay raise with your money, and you can’t do anything about it.

This is not such a problem when public sector workers are a few percent of the workforce and their electoral power is relatively insignificant.  But when they become a significant voting block….such are the joys of democracy.  The Reason article above gives some examples of this occuring on a state level, and demonstrates just how ingrained the “suck the taxpayer dry” mentality can become.  Unsurprisingly, the state where most of those blood pressure-raising examples come from is California.

Some will undoubtedly say that we’ve already reached the tipping point; there are too many individuals who have a vested interest in making you surrender your money for there to be any hope for the private sector.  Maybe they’re right—but only in the short run.

After all, the public sector could demand a 100% pension and a retirement age of 35, but to actually get that sweet package, the state ultimately needs to extract that money from people who are actually being productive or else face ruin.

We’ve already seen the endgame in the fiscal wasteland of California, where the government has started paying some of its employees with IOUs.  We can all take some joy in the knowledge that the pigs who claim to be our public servants can’t fill their own troughs, and will eventually starve themselves as a result of their greed.




One response

14 01 2010

I am enjoying your recent daily posts. Keep them coming.

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