About That Government Shutdown. (Part Two.)

An interesting take on the government shutdown.

There are lessons to be learned from the shutdown.

Government stopped collecting trash and cleaning up public parks in DC, so volunteers stepped in to pick up trash. Without so much government, Stossel says, private citizens will often step in to do things government workers used to do.

Stossel says the shutdown highlights where some government waste can be trimmed.

Farmers don’t get their “support” checks during the shutdown. But Stossel asks–why should they get checks at all? While the big subsidies go to grain and corn farmers, most fruit and vegetable farmers get no subsidies. They survive without them. Other farmers could, too.

FDA inspection of food has stopped during the shutdown. Paul Krugman asks smugly, “does contaminated food smell like freedom?”

But Stossel notes that the main reason food is safe isn’t government. It’s competition. Companies worry about their reputation. Just ask Chipotle, Stossel says. Their stock fell by more than half after food poisoning incidents at their stores; since then they have instituted far more food inspection than government requires.

Most food producers already do that. Beef carcasses undergo hot steam rinses, and microbiological testing goes well beyond what government requires. Market competition protects us better than rule-bound government bureaucrats.

Stossel says most of government could be done away with or privatized.

Even airport security. TSA workers aren’t getting paid. But some airports (San Francisco, Orlando, Kansas City, and 19 others) privatized security. Those workers are still getting paid. They also do a better job. A leaked TSA study found that the private security agents, in test runs, are much better at detecting weapons in bags than the TSA. A congressional report found they are also faster at processing passengers.

Stossel says that while politicians bicker about $5.7 billion in wall funding (much less than 1 percent of the federal budget) what they really should worry about is that America’s debt will soon reach $22 trillion because government squanders money on useless things.

At union protests, government workers say “We are essential!”

But based on the above, Stossel says: Give us a break.

We are somewhat conflicted on the shutdown. We think that the shutdown is a political football with workers and families in the middle. That’s never a good thing.

We are also against the idea that after the shutdown ends, that furloughed workers will be paid for the time they missed – time in which no work was done.

Perhaps our biggest issue is this:

With the release of every new study [2017] examining federal employee compensation comes different numbers and familiar arguments.

But a recent report from the Cato Institute’s “Downsizing the Federal Government” project describes, by far, the largest pay and compensation gap yet between public and private sector workers.

Federal employees earned 80 percent more in 2016 compared to private sector workers, according to Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at Cato. Federal employees earn 42 percent more than state and local government workers, he added.

Edwards used Bureau of Economic Analysis data to compare average wages and benefits for the 2.1 million federal civilian employees to the average compensation for the nation’s 114 million private sector workers.

Wage Disparity
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Total Compensation (wages plus benefits)
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The argument for the disparity is that the government should have the best workers and that means paying them.

That’s a fair point (although if you have ever tried to contact a federal agency, it is hard to imagine the person on the other end being stellar in their field.) It is also hard to imagine that Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Donald Trump, (who are at the center of the shutdown controversy) as being stellar employees in the private sector.

So if we are paying for the “best people,” why does the disparity gap shrink with more education?

The Cato Institute’s report also comes months after the Congressional Budget Office conducted a similar study.

According to CBO, government spends 17 percent more compensating its employees compared to the private sector. The disparities grow, however, depending on the employee’s level of educational attainment.

In total, federal employees with a high school diploma or less earn on average 53 percent more than their counterparts in the private sector, while federal workers with a bachelor’s degree received 21 percent more in compensation.

In contrast, total compensation costs for employees with a professional degree or doctorate were 18 percent lower than workers in the private sector, CBO said.

Perhaps after the shutdown, we should look at the need for certain agencies and trim employees at the federal level. At least that would be a start in trimming the budget and the budget deficit. We all know that isn’t going to happen. Government workers are a voting block, often in two ways. One is as a block of government workers and secondly, fully one-third of all federal workers are unionized. There aren’t too many politicians who want to go against unions.

It is almost as if politicians are willing to use tax dollars to placate and buy workers’ votes.

We are highly sympathetic to the government workers who have been furloughed. We really are.

We just feel that the shutdown is a chance – an opportunity – to look at government workers, compensation and need for those workers. It is a chance to lessen the burden on the American taxpayer.

Looking at the issues is a smart thing to do.

Which means it won’t happen.

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