Thursday, July 19, 2012

The conundrum of shrinking government

kw: government spending, politics

I have occasional discussions and debates with my brother about politics. He is more left-leaning, and I am more right-leaning. I don't know about him, but I'm dissatisfied with every positional label, and no longer call myself conservative, nor am I quite a libertarian.

I am in favor of smaller government, though, but making government smaller presents a conundrum. In today's economy, with about 20 million people in need of jobs, and no more than about 100,000 new jobs opening up each month, does it make sense to shrink the federal payroll.

Wal-Mart is often touted as the largest employer in the world, with 2.2 million employees worldwide and 1.2 million in the U.S. Hold onto your hat: The U.S. federal government employs 2.9 million non-military and 1.5 million military personnel, for a total of 4.4 million. Also, 20% of the budget goes to contractors. That money supports about another million people, or perhaps as many as 1.5 million. Thus the total federal payroll is in the range of 5.5-6 million. I am not even counting federal retirees and people on social security, here…

If a budget cut of 10% were implemented "across the board", that means about half a million people would lose their jobs. Various pundits have "recommended" cuts in the 20-30% range, and some even more. A million out of work, million and a half, or more?

I do think we need to wind back the size of the federal government, but we need to do it sensibly. Trying to end the recession with ill-considered federal cutbacks would just make it worse. The economy is a tangled mess, and there are no simple solutions.

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