Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The New Eden: the Bloated Public Sector

Each time reasonable people seek to shrink bloated federal (or state) workforce costs, the fearmongers trot out the usual "police and firefighter" scare tactics. Although public safety pensions appear to be a time bomb, one of the primary concerns involves deskbound pencil pushers in make-work government jobs, those "unessential" employees that never have to report to work in bad weather. Large segments of the media never seem to question vast amounts of taxpayer money spent on or by self-serving bureaucrats. Ross Douthat of The New York Times nails it:
The public-sector workplace has become a kind of artificial Eden, whose fortunate inhabitants enjoy solid pay and 1950s-style job security and retirement benefits, all of it paid for by their less-fortunate private-sector peers. Some on the left have convinced themselves that this “success” can lay the foundation for a broader middle-class revival. But if a bloated public sector were the blueprint for a thriving middle-class society, then the whole world would be beating a path to Greece’s door...

The story of the last three decades, in other words, is not the story of a benevolent government starved of funds by selfish rich people and fanatical Republicans. It’s a story of a public sector that has consistently done less with more, and a liberalism that has often defended the interests of narrow constituencies — public-employee unions, affluent seniors, the education bureaucracy — rather than the broader middle class.