Across party lines economists seem to be in agreement, America is going broke fast and the only remedy is to make monumental cuts in government spending to bring the country back to prosperity. Some of the cuts being proposed will shake government's way of doing business to its core and will directly affect everyone. Despite the rhetoric from newly elected Tea Party Republicans, and the campaign promises of mid-term president Barack Obama and his Democrat administration, no actual cuts have yet been made. There has been a lot of brave talk, but no action. In fact, during his January State of the Union Address, Obama and his advisors still seem to hold the misguided notion that if only the Federal Government had more money they could spend themselves out of trouble.
Even today, after watching a socialized Europe's self-destruction with uncontrolled spending, massive governments, and unrealistic benefits, there are many in the U.S. Government resisting financial change. Resistance is because the change will inevitably cause pain and unemployment within government itself, there is little stomach for the action that is vitally necessary. They propose shrinking government but no elected official is prepared to vote to actually lay off some of the federal bureaucracy and public employees. If they are serious about saving America and reducing the size of government, then it will be necessary for people to lose their jobs. It is an unavoidable fact with no alternatives. Paying employees to leave is costly and does not work, and reduction through attrition or retirement will take too long.
Why is the bitter pill of common sense so hard to take? Must America die as a world leader while our leaders fail to muster the fortitude to act with courage? Must we wait until collapse is forced on us as it was in the Soviet Union?
What else could they do? How can massive cuts be made in such a way as to stave off the social unrest seen in places like Greece and Ireland? Will Americans accept the loss of Social Security benefits after a lifetime of retirement payments while the Federal Government continues to grow and spend the country into ever increasing debt? After spending our retirement savings, government is borrowing to keep their own benefits strong. Can this continue?
Critics of runaway government contend the obvious solution would be to drastically downsize the Federal Government before it is too late. Every week without action means more debt and a larger government to reduce.
What would happen if Congress honors its promises? Federal bureaucrats could be faced with changes to their working environment that will cause unthinkable horrors for job security, security they have become accustomed to and are unlikely to give up without a fight. Only massive public support for change can make it happen.
The exact number of federal employees is difficult to determine because accurate up-to-date data is scarce. But there are millions of them. The US government workforce will take in approximately $447 billion in compensation this year, according to www.bussinessinsider.com. Yes, $447,000,000,000, close to half a trillion dollars. And what do we get for this gargantuan payroll. Critics say not a lot, unless you consider loss of personal freedoms, business killing regulation, and mountains of paperwork, good value for money.
In January 2009, two years ago, the figures say there were 2,749,000 federal employees earning an average of $81,258, when the average wage in the private-sector was $50,462. The average private-sector employer pays $9,882 per employee in annual benefits, while the federal government pays an average of $32,115 per employee. Over 80,000 federal workers earn over $150,000 not including benefits. These numbers could be vastly under-rated when you consider many federal employees are not counted in the 2.75 million. Postal workers are not included. Military personnel are not included. CIA personnel are not included and neither are National Security Agency personnel. There are probably millions more unaccounted for, all with separate funding. Government is not good at keeping track of spending money but it is clear that the cost of employing the "help" has grown astronomically over the years. It must also be remembered that wages and benefits are not the only cost of an employee. They all need offices, computers, or vehicles and equipment. they need training and traveling (boats and planes) and many other support costs. The federal government keep a close tally on what workers in the private-sector earn and cost the employer but figures are scarce on what federal employees cost. Could it be the government is embarrassed to publish the actual total for fear of public outrage?
What would happen if we laid off some of those 2.75 million federal employees as a precursor to cutting Medicare and Social Security?
Cutting Medicare and Social Security is recognized as being necessary to stop the hemorrhaging of the National Debt, something that is top of the list for cuts by bureaucrats but that will hurt ordinary folk much more than federal employees with better benefits.
If federal employment was cut in half, it would save upwards of $200 billion, maybe a quarter of a trillion dollars or more. That's serious downsizing and a good start at trimming the annual budget. It would also cut staff of agencies that regulate to death the art of creating jobs by the private-sector. That's good too. It would also free up over a million highly educated workers facing the choice of an unsatisfying job search or creating new business ventures and employing others. We would have a lot less people with nothing to do but invent ways to make life harder for the rest of us, working to make their lives and ours better. That has to be good and would ultimately help grow the economy.
While we reign in federal government spending would it hurt to consider bringing the benefits for those employees left to conduct public business into line with benefits shared by the private-sector? It is morally wrong for government employees to be better compensated than the private-sector. How did that happen anyway?
Sure, public employee unions will be outraged and government employees are likely to try to punish us for messing with their livelihoods, but in the final analysis, go-slows in government and empty federal offices will save money and get all of us used to the hardship that must be endured if America is to once again hold its head high in the world. The western world looks to the American example for stability. If we fail, they all fail.
And, it would be the first glorious step by our newly elected leaders in finding courage to start the cost cutting process in a way that would spread the hurt across the board and be fair to all segments of U.S. society.
That's what I think. What do you think?
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