Up side of down economy

Steven Greenhut: There are plenty of reasons to be happy about a down economy (provided you have a job). From a policy standpoint, the down times force governments to live within their means — something they haven’t been doing for years, and which is easier to hide during the up economy. NPR had a “where’s the world’s smallest violin” story this morning interviewing government workers. Most of these workers have been spared the tough times of the private economy, but they were whining any way about cutbacks and furloughs. One well-paid government attorney was complaining that she couldn’t remodel her house right now — too much uncertainty about retirement. Well, as a government worker she has a guaranteed retirement, but never mind such details in State Run Radio.

USA Today at least had a good news story: “Expect lots of government layoffs at state, local level.” The story reported that “Up to 400,000 workers could lose jobs in the next year as states, counties and cities grapple with lower revenue and less federal funding … .” The story complains that this could “slow an already lackluster recovery.” Apparently, the writer isn’t familiar with Bastiat’s parable of the broken window. Obviously, we need some government jobs and those who work for government should be fairly paid. But there are far too many of these jobs, government workers are paid far too much and receive an unsustainable level of benefits. They are a net drag on the economy, even though government workers pay taxes.

If the USA Today writer were correct, then everyone should work for the government and the economy will boom — lots of people to spend money! And where are all those federal dollars coming from to prop up the current government spending situation? From taxes and debt, which also are drains on the economy.

The good news is that governments must shed jobs and reform pensions thanks to the reduced revenues. It had to happen some time and the cuts need to get deeper. That’s reality in the private sector, and it’s about time our government masters face reality too.

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