Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Job Is a Job

The latest example of genius economic theory to come out of the Republicans is that public sector jobs do not contribute to economic growth.

“Nobody’s opposed to cops or firefighters or teachers — but they aren’t private sector jobs,” Limbaugh said. “They do not contribute to economic growth. Their purpose is otherwise. They have an entirely different purpose: public safety, public education, this kind of thing. But there’s no growth in the economy. “If you add those jobs — and if there aren’t other types of private sector jobs added while at the same time we’re adding to the fire rolls and the cop rolls and teachers — we are reducing the size of the private sector.

This is based on the theory that people with those kinds of jobs — police, firefighters, teachers, and the people who support them in the administration of their jobs — do not spend money. They don’t buy groceries, cars, gas to fuel them, or get their hair cut or buy a house or watch TV. They just collect a government salary and never spend it on anything.

Wow; how many levels of stupid does that cover?

Let’s answer that with a little pop quiz. Pencils ready? Okay; who is the largest employer in Miami-Dade County?

Give up? It’s Miami-Dade County Public Schools, with over 50,000 employees, including administrators and teachers. (Full disclosure: I’m one of those administrators.) Now, who’s number 2? That would be Miami-Dade County government, which employs over 32,000 people, including police and firefighters. Number 3? The federal government. Number 4? The State of Florida. (Source.)

You get the idea. You have to get to number 5 before you hit the largest private sector employer; the ironically-named Publix Supermarkets. They’re followed by two hospitals and healthcare providers, then a university. In fact, it’s not until you get to number 9 — American Airlines — that you hit another employer that is not involved in the business of providing a service such as health and education to the public. And all of the people who work for those entities, be they cops, nurses, professors, or the bean-counters and the custodians, all buy stuff, pay bills, raise families, and pay taxes.

By the way, lest you think that Miami-Dade is a hotbed of socialism — you know how multicultural it is and how all those foreign folk are used to living off the government — guess who the top four employers are in Palm Beach County, home of the super-rich and super-capitalists like Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh? Yep; the public schools, followed by local, state, and federal government.

How many people does Rush Limbaugh employ?

Adding… this would be a good place to insert a quote from my brother in response to a similar complaint about public employees:

When did government become the enemy? And why is it the people who seem to be the most vociferous are those who are either part of it or desperately want to be?

Government is, as a rule, made up of your friends and neighbors who are often underpaid doing the best they can with limited resources. It’s not the boogie man in a leather chair counting the spoils, it’s the soldier, teacher, firefighter, policeman, road maintenance worker doing the very best they can each and every day.

The people who complain about government, on the other hand, are largely short-sighted people who nonetheless complain about the potholes on their street, the speed of the first responders, and carry around signs demanding that we “keep your government hands off my medicare”.

Government is neither the entire answer nor the entire problem. Perhaps we could refocus the debate off this made-up issue and back on to how we can get out of needless wars, our educational deficit, and this struggling economy.