At Least We’re Not Alone
While the private sector was shedding millions of jobs in 2008 and government budgets were collapsing under the weight of waste, fraud and carved-in-stone personnel costs, the public sector had another banner year. Governments at all levels hired 164,100 new employees and were largely responsible for the addition of a further 96,600 jobs in education and 371,600 in health care. Now President-elect Obama wants to add 600,000 to the bloated federal payroll. Untold thousands more local, county and state employees will be needed to fill all the new and bigger public facilities built with stimulus cash. As it is, nearly 15 percent of the civilian work force draws government paychecks.
Lip service by public officials about fiscal austerity notwithstanding, governments and their public-employee unions seem to be approaching 2009 as if the recession is none of their concern. For example, recent negotiations produced teachers contracts that gave raises of 4.4 percent in Cheshire, 4 percent in Region 6, 3.75 percent in Region 14, 3 percent in Plymouth and 2.5 percent for Torrington. In Waterbury, the school board bestowed upon its administrators raises of nearly 10 percent over three years for the expressed purpose of beginning to undo everything the state oversight board did to rescue taxpayers from decades of governmental malfeasance and binding-arbitration abuse. Concessions will soften the impact of these raises some, but prevailing economic conditions minimally demand pay freezes and staff reductions.
In good times, employment ballooned beyond what could be sustained. The public sector is retracing its steps in search of equilibrium. Whither the public sector?
Misery loves company, eh?