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Monday, December 10, 2012

The costs of government

I try to keep up with current events. I read an article on Bloomberg.com about government employee costs under the title, "$822,000 Worker Shows California Leads U.S. Pay Giveaway." Being a part time government employee, I'd like to offer a bit of a rebuttal.

Point 1: "Today, the state’s highest-paid employees make far more than comparable workers elsewhere in almost all job and wage categories, from public safety to health care, base pay to overtime." - This interesting page makes the point that police detectives make more than private detectives on average and by region. What's lost on both pages is the fact that private sector workers can work as much as they are able, take on additional work, work for whomever they like, and negotiate for all of those conditions individually. Speaking of my own situation, I don't set my wage or working hours (no matter how hard I work, or how much I innovate, I get the same rate as everyone else in my pay grade). I don't have a say in benefits (including retirement). I can't actually opt out of my benefits package. I have to pay the union for the privilege of bargaining against my interests. I can't have a second job unless the city gives me permission. I don't get money for overtime worked - I get time off (which has to be used before vacation time). I don't get to go home until I'm relieved, which can be days beyond when I'd like to go home. Thus, there really is no comparison to a police detective and a private detective. The only real thing that we have in common is that we can both quit, and walk away (though my costs would be substantially higher).

Point 2: "From coast to coast, states are cutting funding for schools, public safety and the poor as they struggle with fallout left by politicians who made pay-and-pension promises that taxpayers couldn’t afford." - In California, the state is controlled by a supermajority of Democrats. Democrats and organized labor have walked hand-in-hand for generations. It's borderline conflict of interest to have the two negotiating over wages and benefits. Yet, there's more to the story. California is a magnet for those seeking opportunity. There's one side, those wishing to start a business and grow wealthy. Then there are those who come from all over seeking to avail themselves of our rather generous social programs. California, with 12% of the U.S. population, has one-third of the nation's welfare recipients. This influx of people requiring state services comes at a cost. Which would you rather pay for, schools, police, libraries, parks? All of the above? As each constituency fights for its piece of the pie, there will be winners and losers. Right now, the losers are the tax payers - who after Jan 1 will be some of the most burdened in the country.

Point 3: "“All it took was for political leaders to think more about the general population and the future, rather than their political futures,” said Crane, a Democrat who worked as an economic adviser to former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican. “Citizens should be mad as hell, and they shouldn’t take it anymore.” - Citizens aren't mad as hell. They voted in a Democrat supermajority - see point 2. The results of my own state assembly district is still up in the air. As it stands, the democrat challenger is ahead by 145 votes. With one party rule - they can do whatever they like (for good or ill). We'll see where the democrats lead the state.

Point 4: "Last year, Brown waived a cap on accrued leave for prison guards while granting them additional paid days off. California’s liability for the unused leave of its state workers has more than doubled in eight years, to $3.9 billion in 2011, from $1.4 billion in 2003, according to the state’s annual financial reports." - Why did the governor need to uncap accrued leave? How many prison inmates are in California's prisons? Is the trend rising or falling? Why? Inmates need to be housed and guarded 24 hours per day. They need food, laundry, medical care, and etc. Has the corrections realignment helped or hurt the overall situation? Is passing the buck to the counties a solution, or does it just postpone the problem?

Point 5: Elections have consequences. Here's the 2012 Platform of the political party that controls California. Every item has an actual cost today, plus a compounded (future) cost. Our education system "was once the envy of America. Our K-12 schools were among the best funded in the country and under the leadership of Governor Pat Brown, the California Master Plan for Higher Education made our community colleges, our California State Universities and our University of California institutional systems to emulate throughout the world. In recent years, our continual disinvestment from education threatens our ability to offer our youth the education they require to usher our state into the future." This statement from our leaders flies in the face of our state's constitution - which requires that a minimum of 40% of the state's general fund be spent on education. The actual number is closer to 50%. Thus, 50% of the world's 7th largest economy is spent on education ... and our kids are suffering? Where's the money going?

Here is the platform of a party that holds no current influence in Sacramento. Again, each of the items contained in the Libertarian Party's platform has a cost, as well as a savings for those areas that they think government should no longer control. Items 1 and 7 would reduce the prison population by about 40%. Item 10 is a huge cost saver - but now out of line with Obamacare. Item 18 gets rid of the state's ABC system. And so on ...

Thus, elections have consequences. California's voters chose to have a supermajority of leaders who believe in a large, all encompassing government. That choice has a high cost. If the voters really were mad, then the 2014 elections should see the Libertarian Party sweep into office ... and a massive redistribution of responsibilities back to the individual.

John Overton was right.

Thus endeth the rant.

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