I heard it again today and I think we will probably all hear it over the course of the next four months...
The conversation on one of the Sunday morning political shows, lamenting the stalled unemployment figures and the complaint that the Obama stimulus hasn't worked. One pundit stated that 'government jobs' don't have a 'multiplier effect'. In short that public sector employment doesn't equate to 'real jobs'.
Whenever I hear that, I always thing, 'Clearly they don't know any people with government jobs'. Teachers are paid by the government. So are firefighters and policemen. The people who collect our trash and who repair infrastructure, the ones who clean government offices and the security guards and state police, are all 'government workers'.
No multiplier effect?!
My brother has been a firefighter and paramedic for more than 30 years. I've seen what he does with his paycheck. He has a house with a mortgage. He and his wife both drive cars. Those cars require gas and maintenance. They have two motorcycles (much to the chagrin of our mother). Those motorcycles, along with the cars, not only require gas and maintenance, but insurance, along with insurance on the house. They buy clothes and food. Now most of what he pays out goes into the private sector (the government doesn't operate grocery stores, or gas stations or clothing stores). My brother also pays taxes. I also know of co-workers of his, who have small businesses on the side, one even owned a small apartment complex.
You get the picture? Government employees do the same thing with their paycheck that private sector employees do with theirs.
Of course, we like to occasionally look at government employees who are well paid. However, at the end of the day, they're not that well paid. That's why many of them leave government employment for private sector employment!
I also know what happens to government employees who have lost jobs. They file unemployment! So, how much sense does it make to address the issue of the deficit by laying off public sector employees?!
There are only two ways the idea that public sector jobs are not 'real jobs' that have no 'multiplier effect'.
First you have to consider the work being done by these employees as expendable. That's easy, as long as you don't need a policeman or a firefighter, for existence, or if you don't mind your parks overgrown with high grass and weeds. You have to have the mindset that only jobs created by the private sector really matter. I'm hard pressed to see how that makes sense. I am firmly convinced that we will live to regret cuts in education. We are headed toward a future of a minority of employers educated in private schools and an under-educated labor workforce ill prepared to meet the demands of a growing sophisticated market.
The other way the disparaging of public sector jobs makes sense is if you see business ownership as the real economic driver. By which you no longer mean those who are the employee class, but the profits of the ownership class. In other words the only way the economy can recover is if owners make more profits. At that point, those who make the most profit save the economy through consumption. The problem is, that's not logical, nor is it true. The largest profit makers don't consume at the same level as their employees. And those who own business only hire in response to rising consumption and then, only to the point to increase profit.
This is why 28 months of private sector employment, when met with more than 12 months of public sector employment decline leaves the employment picture stalled.
It's clear that our country is recovering. It is clear that it's not recovering as quickly as we want. What's not clear is how, when it comes to jobs, so many smart people have such an illogical analysis on why. Or it could be that there is a very logical answer: we are now a country in which workers are no longer valued.