When the Takers Make More than the Makers

When I was a lad way back in the 60s my father gave me some career planning advice -- “If you want to make money go to work in the private sector, but if you want job security go to work in the public sector. The public sector doesn’t pay as well as the private sector but the benefits are good and you’ll never have to worry about getting laid off.” 

My father’s advice made sense. Government employees are ‘public servants’ and servants are not supposed to make more than their employers. But that was then and this is now. The times have changed.   

With 2.7 million-plus workers (excluding non-civilian military) the federal government is the largest employer in the U.S. But now it seems that federal employees are also the best paid workers in the U.S. And when benefits are added in, the total compensation for federal employees dwarfs private sector pay --

Federal workers’ pay and benefits were 78 percent higher than private employees, who earned an average of $52,688 less than public sector workers last year.

The study found that federal government workers earned an average of $84,153 in 2014, compared to the private sector’s average of $56,350. Cato based its findings on figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

But when adding in benefits pay for federal workers, the difference becomes more dramatic. Federal employees made $119,934 in total compensation last year, while private sector workers earned $67,246, a difference of over $52,000, or 78 percent.

But it turns out that it’s not just federal government workers who are happily succoring at the teats of the private sector. State and local government workers are also sucking Joe and Josephine Taxpayer dry.

In Democratically controlled Wayne County MI -- where the Democratically controlled bankrupt city of Detroit is located -- 15 part-time county commissioners are each pulling in $70,000 per year in salaries, a salary that is just $10,000 less per year than the salary that Michigan’s so-called ‘full time’ state legislators earn. And that’s not all:

In 2010, the commission concocted a scheme to take advantage of a loophole in the pension system and allow themselves to qualify for a rich and rapid retirement benefit.

An investigative report last year by WXYZ-TV Ch. 7 revealed some of the pension jackpots. Commissioner Joe Palamara is guaranteed a lifetime pension of $33,660. Laura Cox, a former commissioner and now a state representative, gets $32,000 a year. Retired commissioner Bernard Parker took accelerated payments of $170,000, and then converted to a $27,000 annual benefit. Commissioner Jewel Ware’s pension will be $42,900.

These pensions are not for a lifetime of service; some were awarded after just a few years in office, and can be collected as soon as commissioners leave office, regardless of age.

Is it any wonder why Democrats and even some not so conservative members of the GOP are so fond of Big Government? Is it any wonder why our Democratic and Republican public servants are in no real hurry to downsize government at a federal, state, or local level? Government at all levels has become the goose that lays the golden eggs that enable the takers to make more than the makers.

The inventers, innovators, entrepreneurs, business people, and skilled tradespeople who take the risks associated with competing in a free market should be the ones who are rewarded for their toil, not the politicians and bureaucrats who would not even have jobs were it not for the taxes and fees that the private sector provides. 

But this is the path our republic has been taking for years. Government -- the servant -- has managed to rack up more than $18 trillion worth of debt that we are on the hook for. Every politician that ever voted to spend money the government did not have or to raise the debt ceiling has had a hand in creating this problem, but so has every eligible conservative voter who has not bothered to vote because none of the candidates’ values perfectly aligned with theirs, or who says ‘why bother voting, they’re all crooks.’ 

The low information voters don’t suffer from such apathy or cynicism. For them it’s simple -- they vote for the candidate who promises them the most ‘free stuff.’ And all too often the candidates, mostly Democrats, promising the most free stuff get elected, and both the government and our debt grows and grows. Our public servants dream up new entitlements that require new government departments and more bureaucrats to run them, and then they congratulate themselves by giving themselves pay raises, better retirement packages, and other new benefits. And so the public servants have become better off than their employers. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that the richest county in the U.S. is right outside Washington D.C. or that, “Six of America’s 10 wealthiest counties lie within a stone’s throw of the Beltway.”

Our Founding Fathers envisioned a Republic made up of respected members of society who, having attained prominence in their chosen fields of endeavor would leave the private sector to serve the public for a period of time. But now our country is being run by career politicians and bureaucrats who have spent their entire lives in public service. Service to the political party, homage to the party leaders, paying your dues, and service to the special interest groups who provide the biggest campaign contributions has become more important than service to the people.

We need to make one thing perfectly clear to the next president as well as to every member of Congress: we are sick and tired of politics as usual. 

The Federal Government bureaucracy needs to be downsized big time, the debt needs to be paid down even while defense spending is increased and our military capabilities are restored to pre-2008 levels. Our tax system also needs to be completely overhauled, Obamacare needs to be repealed, and Ron and Rand Paul may also be right – perhaps it’s time to take a long hard look at the Federal Reserve System.

There’s much more that needs to be done to fix all the problems our country is grappling with today.  If the GOP presidential candidate does win the next election and the GOP retains its majorities in the House and Senate, the Dems are going to fight tooth and nail for their secular fantasy utopian vision of what our county should be. We are not going to be able to reclaim our county in just 4 or 8 years. It is going to be a long uphill battle.  

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