I wrote an editorial for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that appeared on Sunday. Most people haven\’t read it.
Guess who\’s recession-proof?
By Christian Schneider
Posted: Mar. 14, 2009
For the past year, workers around Wisconsin have been flinching when the phone rings. They don\’t want the next call they get to be the one where they find out they\’ve been laid off.
In late February, the state Department of Workforce Development reported what workers in Wisconsin already knew: Employment in the state was falling like a heifer dropped from an airplane. According to DWD, Wisconsin lost 72,500 private-sector jobs in the past year, causing the unemployment rate to leap to 7.6% – up 2.7 percentage points from last January. These unemployment numbers simply codified the pain families across the state are feeling as their loved ones struggle to cope with losing their jobs.
In the midst of the sagging job market, however, there is one sector that appears to be recession-proof. According to the DWD, while the private sector was hemorrhaging, government increased by a shocking 900 jobs. That\’s right – the same people who are supposed to turn this economy around haven\’t actually felt any of the pain. While families across the state are learning to cope with job loss, our government has circled the wagons to protect their own – demonstrating that they just don\’t get it.
The fact that the government continues to grow in a terrible economy actually explains the government\’s misguided response to the recession. Elected officials believe the salve for an ailing economy is to simply do what they know how to do best – continue to add more government jobs. They look at private-sector job loss as evidence that the private economy cannot be trusted to employ people on its own, and they are doing their best to shift jobs back over to the government dole. According to the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, fringe benefits for public employees run 50% higher than those in the private sector – so taxpayers will be asked to subsidize more expensive government jobs while they\’re losing their own.
And, thus, the regular carpenters, electricians and plumbers must pay for the continued excesses of all levels of government. According to the Federal Reserve, Americans lost 18% of their net worth in 2008, for a total loss of $11.2 trillion. Yet Gov. Jim Doyle\’s proposed state budget incorporates $2.2 billion in new taxes, including massive new taxes on the same businesses that represent our only hope of boosting employment in the state. These punitive taxes are meant to close a $5.9 billion deficit created by our elected officials, who now must face the consequences for spending well beyond taxpayers\’ ability to pay.
The growth in government jobs as incomes in the state recede further explains the fiscal dreamland in which our elected officials continue to reside. Minimum wage hikes, climate change regulations, sick leave mandates and higher job taxes all will serve to purge employees from business payrolls. Amid the squealing of public school teachers, the obeisant Doyle has vowed to eliminate the qualified economic offer, which guarantees teachers a 3.8% pay and benefits increase every year. Teachers complained about their pay being too low -think there\’s any recently laid-off employee of Harley-Davidson who wouldn\’t saw off his left leg for a QEO about now?
If you like the way Doyle and the Legislature have run the state government into the ground, you\’ll absolutely love it when they detonate your place of work. If they\’re half as effective at immolating the private sector as they have been in ruining government, then you can look forward to being dependent on an underfunded government program in no time.
And if our elected officials continue to pad their own jobs while costing us ours, it might be time to make them wait by the phone.
Christian Schneider is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.
March 16, 2009 at 9:30 am
Most of the time I enjoy your commentary because it is accurate, interesting and humorous, even if/when I might disagree with the idealogy (not often). However, this is a disappointing commentary mostly because it relies on two key points of hyperbole:
– You label the total addition of 900 jobs in government as “shocking.” Is this really a shocking number? There are over 1900 units of local government in the state, along with schools, universities and the state and federal government. This net of 900 additional jobs means that on average, each government agency added 1/3 to 1/2 of a job – unusual, perhaps but not shocking.
– You indicate that government jobs are more expensive, but all you cite are the higher benefits. Yes, certain benefits such as pensions and health care are higher. However, these are often offset by lower salaries. Also, many benefits that were once common in the private sector – bonuses, commissions, stock options, even company paid parties – are and always were non-existent in the public sector. At the higher-end, public sector jobs are almost always cheaper. The CEO of a 500-person company almost certainly makes more than the Secretary of a 500-person state agency. Some government jobs might be more expensive but your article doesn’t necessarily prove this concept.
Yes, I am a government employee. A long time ago I made the decision to go with the low risk, low-earning, high-stability government career. My career earnings are capped in the public sector – I will likely never have the potential to make a six-figure salary, but I have better health care and pension benefits. I could have gone with a high-reward, high-risk private sector job and would probably have done much better in the 1990’s and early 2000’s in terms of salary. It would have been up to me to put away some of those extra earnings for a rainy day.
March 23, 2009 at 8:05 am
No NCAA Tournament post? You used to live for this tournament. Maybe a post on the decrease in office productivity during NCAAs.
I’ll make one comment on the Marq-Mizz game. How in the world does the Mizzou player (about to shoot FTs) sub out on the “injury” at 0:05? Didn’t look like much, AND I was told he came BACK in on the last defensive possession. That is weak, if I have my facts straight.