As the economy has declined over the past several years we’ve all become more aware of federal spending issues, and it has become fashionable to bash those lazy, can’t-be-fired, overpaid government employees. A study by the Heritage Foundation in 2010 and another by the Congressional Budget Office in 2012 both found that federal employees are paid more than those in the private sector.
Guess what: I’m a government civilian employee, a fed. Yes, one of the snakes out to crush the life out of you.
Don’t worry, I’m not a secret socialist, this is not to disagree with the fact that some feds as a whole are paid more, and you’ll never hear me calling for more government, just the opposite. The federal government is getting smaller now and much deeper cuts will come. This is to add some context that media summaries of the larger reports don’t stress enough.
I decided to work for the government because I wanted to be in a certain field where you pretty much must be either a fed, government contractor, or military, and I’ve been all of those things at one point or another. As a side note, before I was evil I was stupid. Back when I came into the federal workforce and the economy was good, many people felt those taking government jobs, or even going into the military with a commission, were idiots, a lot more could be made in the private sector. Times change.
This is longwinded but has a point. From a survivalist’s vantage, if you think collapse is immanent you may not care much what goes on with the government as long as it doesn’t affect you directly before that happens. Fair enough. I tend to see us as being in a slow collapse right now that could trigger a fast one unexpectedly and must eventually if nothing changes, but it could also drag on for many years or even decades. Though I think it unlikely, we as a country and civilization could somehow not collapse with enough dumb luck (our politicians sure aren’t going to fix what’s wrong).
If this slow collapse we’re in does take a long time to wind down to TEOTWAWKI, how and where we cut the government does actually matter. In part how we can defend ourselves, but also how the rest of the world deals with us – especially in trade – is due in no small part to our military power. The Department of Defense is 35% of the federal civilian workforce. Unfocused budged can easily hurting our national defense.
This could affect our access to energy, other imports, policies on exports, etc. that would in turn influence inflation/deflation, what goods we have, and of course jobs. Maintaining some global influence will be important as long as we’re in this slow collapse.
In the larger scheme of things, we could cut defense out of the budget entirely and in a few years mandated increases in Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and interest on the national debt would eat up that savings – and we’d not have a defense/military.
I’m not saying that because I’m in defense and trying to save my job. Being on the inside I can say yes we need to cut a lot but we’d better be damned careful where we do cut. We do have a lot of deadwood. There are people that are not productive, there are departments or divisions or offices that are redundant or of no real use. On the other side of that, we need to cut carefully and there are some dedicated folks who give it 110%.
Some of this anti-fed sentiment seemed to have fueled part of the rationale for a government shutdown in late 2011. The shutdown is an examples of something that sounds like a good idea but isn’t, unintended consequences. Yeah, let’s stick it to those government employees; give them a taste of furlough!
The problem is that government shutdowns end up costing the government more, even if federal employees aren’t paid for the time they’re off. I’m not saying this because I’m a fed, I’m saying this because it is in reality a lose-lose situation and I don’t want my tax dollars pissed away any more than the next guy.
Getting back to those reports and the public opinions they help drive. The studies control for years of experience, location, etc. One problem with this is that many of those in defense actually have occupations are not in the civilian workforce, but are comprised of highly educated employees. Many have security clearances and other specialized skills that just don’t translate that well.
That is the case with where I work, there is no good private sector comparison. We all have at least a four-year degree (most have advanced degrees), clearances, perhaps another language, and specialized experience and training. Where I work even the janitors have security clearances and get higher pay for it.
In this time of slow collapse the government is finally starting to downsize. Right now it’s mostly through attrition. Eventually it will be through axing entire departments, if we get that far if and before a fast/total collapse.
What can any of us do about it? Besides voting for candidates that we think will cut the budget with some thought and research, not a whole lot. But this doesn’t mean you’re helpless, you can add this to your list of indications and warnings that help you gauge where we’re at. Understanding they “why” can help you determine the “what” to do about it best for you. Sometimes that’s all we can do.
The cuts are coming for all of government and tougher times for everyone, but how it happens will probably matter. If we’re going to go down anyway, I’d rather not have the U.S. end up being China’s or even Russia’s bitch before it does.
And next time the anti-fed bashing begins, remember it’s not as black and white as some say. There are sometimes unintended consequences. Some feds are on your side.