Saturday, June 25, 2011

Public Sector Employment

As I showed earlier this month here, our elected leaders caused heavy lay-offs in the public sector. This comes about despite the mantra of Jobs, Jobs, Jobs—because coherent, rational policies are shredding and blowing away in the wind. Budgets must be cut everywhere because tax increases have become the ultimate sin in politics. Therefore the first task in Job One, which our elected officials think is Job Creation is, in fact, Job Destruction at the local level—which is where most of the public jobs actually are.

Anecdotal evidence, in the form of news reports, has since amply documented the statistical evidence I presented on June 4. Yesterday the papers announced huge layoffs and salary cuts in the Detroit Public School System. Today’s New York Times projects the likely loss of 7,500 public jobs in Connecticut because the unions there decided not to disembowel themselves to please the tax cutters. Another story, also page one, announces that in New York state and elsewhere, schools are sacrificing librarians to stay within their shrinking budgets. I expect more red lines when next I produce my chart on June’s employment situation by sector.

The facts are that the bulk of the much-derided public sector is (1) local and (2) consists of educational services. As of May 2011, all told we had 22.1 million public employees, representing 17 percent of all employment. Of these 22.1 million 64 percent work at the local level—and 56 percent of them are in education.

Of the 22.1 million workers in the public sector, nearly half, 10.9 million, work in education or in the postal system. If we look at the state and local employment only, 10.3 million of 19.3 million (53%) work in education. And if we look closely at the 9 million who are not in education, we discover that most of them work in such useful and necessary functions as law enforcement, water and sewage systems, and other jobs at least as valuable as manufacturing soups or cell phones. Education represents 47 percent of all public sector employment—and if we add in postal services, the percent rises to 49.

Topsy-turvy. Teachers, librarians, janitors working at schools, school bus drivers, special education experts, are paying for the sins of speculators, hedge-fund traders, and other lords of the universe who—instead of going on pilgrimage to Rome in sackcloth are, based on other anecdotal evidence, once more pulling down monstrous bonuses.

It is said that the public employment created during the Depression by FDR did not really turn things around. World War II, however, did. We have huge expenditures on war today, of course, but these wars are not having the same effect. Why? We are not taxing the public to pay for them—and instead of signaling hope with publicly funded jobs, we are radicalizing those sectors of the working world that attract the socially-motivated, our real patriots.

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