Saturday, March 27, 2010

“Servants” in Bizarro World

I don’t imagine too many Other Side readers have servants, at least in the traditional sense.  But imagine that you did.  Would you expect to pay those servants more than you make, and provide them better fringe benefits than you have? 

Would you expect to keep them in your employ even if you could no longer afford them, no longer had jobs for them to perform, or their performance was unacceptable?

For my own sanity, I’m hoping your answers to those questions are a resounding “no.”

Now here’s the Bizarro World connection: we taxpayers in the greedy “private sector” do have servants.  You know them – all those who like to remind us that they are ‘public servants,’ inferring they make personal sacrifices to attend to our needs.  And these ‘servants,’ on average, make more than their employers do, have better benefits than their employers, and have what amounts to guaranteed lifetime employment regardless of the need for their services or their performance in their jobs.

Ample documentation has been provided in previous posts and is readily available from a variety of sources.  The latest item to document this upside down relationship is from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, in a column titled The Government Pay Boom.

Here are a few passages that should be enough stimulus for you to read it in it’s entirety.

It turns out that public employees earn salaries that are about one-third higher on average than what is provided to private workers per hour worked. But the real windfall for government workers is in benefits.

What if government workers earned the average of what private workers earn? States and localities would save $339 billion a year from their more than $2.1 trillion budgets. These savings are larger than the combined estimated deficits for 2010 and 2011 of every state in America.

The Orange County Register reports that California has 3,000 retired teachers and school administrators, who stopped working as early as age 55, collecting at least $100,000 a year in pensions for the rest of their lives.

Some teachers can earn nearly $200,000 a year in pensions and salaries.

The situation described is a huge departure from the past.  When I graduated from college in the ‘60’s with a degree in Electrical Engineering, the Government offered me about 65% of the going private sector pay to enter the “public service.”  And I had a foot in the door!  I had spent the prior summer as an “Engineer in Training” at an Army research establishment.

Looking back, I should have absorbed a much greater message from that summer job than I did.  You know what I did all summer?  I sat in a drafting room, and redrew existing drawings in ‘ink on vellum.’  You’d have to be from that era to know what that means, but suffice it to say I created no new good or service or intellectual property.  I simply traced drawings that already existed, and for all I know, were no longer needed.

Boy, how things have changed!  Be mindful of this as you endure the inevitable wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth as our elected leaders confront the realities that we can no longer afford, or in many cases need, the ‘services’ we are paying for. 

And as the representatives of the ‘servants’ and their supporters regale us with well rehearsed tales of their saintliness and the horrible abuse and sacrifice they face as they toil in our service.  Requiring, of course, that they should be compensated in increased measure, whether they are delivering or not.

Follow the letters and op-eds in the Ostrich, and you’ll already see the campaign underway.  Oh the horrors!  No matter that available resources are shrinking and that student enrollments are doing the same.  Like the town beggar in “Fiddler on the Roof,” why should they have to suffer just because their benefactors have less to give?

There’s my dark side again, as I am frequently reminded.  So let’s look for something positive.

I’ve got it; let’s be glad the government never created a Department of Buggy Whips.  Surely, if they had, the original group of 100 or so would now have grown to 5,000 or more, overseeing the National Buggy Whip Collection, the Archives of Buggy Whip History, and the Regional Centers for the Study of Buggy Whip Culture, each named after a revered member of congress who saw to it that we were not deprived of these vital national assets, and just by chance did it in their own districts where numerous deserving constituents could find secure and rewarding employ.

Not to mention the grants being issued via the National Endowment for Buggy Whip Expression to keep the creative economy rolling along.  Lord knows we can’t afford to lose that connection with our past.

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