California Must Pay As Many Government Employees As Possible

    Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives.

     One of the best measures of the economic health of a nation would be, it seems to me, the ratio of net tax consumers to net tax producers. A net tax consumer, of course is a government employee. Another would be a welfare recipient. A liberal, by definition, concentrates on tax consumers. Tax producers are vilified as greedy or taken for granted as a steady source of income for the implementation of “social justice”, the redistribution of wealth. Since most government workers make well above the average income of those who pay taxes, social justice must be being served.

California puts union patronage above public service  

By: Steven Greenhut   
On July 2, 1881, a disgruntled federal job seeker named Charles Guiteau shot James Garfield as he waited at a Washington, D.C., train station – eventually killing the 20th president and triggering reforms that still influence the way government operates.

Before the assassination, Congress debated the need for a civil service. When new presidents came into power, they would fire federal employees and replace them with supporters and friends. Guiteau may have been crazy, but he was a catalyst for replacing the “patronage” system with one based on “merit.”


    As Abraham Lincoln said, “Too many pigs for the tits.”

As governments have grown, debates still center on the size and cost of the public workforce. Whether the issue is pensions, unionization or accountability, the same question emerges: Is a government job a benefit and right, or a means to provide a service to the public?

On Thursday, the California Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of HR 29, a union-championed measure to oppose the outsourcing of public services. It was nonbinding, but deeply reflective of the lower chamber’s view that government jobs exist primarily as a means to boost the income of the people who have them.


    We can’t have outsourcing or some civil servants would, gasp, be unemployed and costs, oh horrors, would go down.

“Public services and assets are the fabric that binds our communities together,” according to the resolution. “They are also a ladder to the middle class. … Outsourcing frequently means that wages and benefits for public service workers fall and the local economy suffers while corporate profits rise.” It urges local officials to study a liberal think tank’s “Taxpayer Empowerment Agenda.”


  I always find two of these assumptions unbelievable. The civil service as a “ladder to the middle class?” How can a middle class be created from government workers? The second is that the “local economy suffers” when government workers are fewer. How does taking resources (money) from the productive and giving it to government employees create wealth? Isn’t it the opposite?

The resolution makes this sensible point, as it would “require governments to post information about their contracts online and require contractors to open their books to the public, ensure that governments have the capacity to adequately oversee contracts, to cancel contracts that fail to deliver on their promises … .” Anything dealing with public dollars should be open to scrutiny, and there’s no doubt that private contractors can provide shoddy work – as shocking reports regarding welds on the Bay Bridge project reveal. But that wording is window-dressing.

“We can do transparency if that’s really the problem,” said Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine. “Everyone in this building knows that’s not what’s really going on here. … You are hurting the people in your district who would like to compete for contracts. You are hurting the people in your district who have to pay additional amounts (but) get inferior services because the virtues of competition … get ignored here today.”

Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, said that Los Angeles unions showed the mayor that they provide services more cost-effectively than contractors. That’s counter-intuitive, and such cost comparisons rarely include the cost of unfunded pension liabilities. But even if Jones-Sawyer is right, why slam the door on competition? As I learned when working for a contractor at an Air Force base in the 1980s, the possibility of shifting the work to others provided incentives for everyone to scrutinize costs and bolster service.

As the resolution noted, many California cities are facing “severe budget problems” and are struggling to provide basic services. It doesn’t mention one explanation: Years of unsustainable compensation promises officials have made to unions. The courts have limited the ability of cities to make pension cutbacks, so outsourcing remains a useful cost-saving device.

HR 29 “is aimed at restricting local ability to contract out for services, threatening the very mission of local governments to provide vital local services in an efficient and economical way,” according to a League of California Cities statement, which argued that cities typically contract-out waste collection, construction and even park services.

By most accounts, California pays more for its public services than other states, so it’s hard to see how quashing competitive pressures will help. Then again, the apparent goal here is not to help taxpayers, but to protect a new form of patronage. Sadly, the Assembly has come down on the wrong side of a question that Americans have been asking since the 1800s.


    As the various entities in California, towns, cities and even the state itself reach crises because of the cost of government employees, some new kind of equilibrium must be reached. You heard it here, not first, but you heard it here.

Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “
Days of Songs and Mirrors: A Jacobite in the ‘45.”
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies


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