Michael Barone

It looks like a happy new year for you -- if you're a public employee.

That's the takeaway from a recent Rasmussen poll that shows that 46 percent of government employees say the economy is getting better, while just 31 percent say it's getting worse. In contrast, 32 percent of those with private-sector jobs say the economy is getting better, while 49 percent say it is getting worse.

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Nearly half, 44 percent, of government employees rate their personal finances as good or excellent. Only 33 percent of private-sector employees do.

It sounds like public- and private-sector employees are looking at different Americas. And they are.

Private-sector employment peaked at 115.8 million in December 2007, when the recession officially began. It was down to 108.5 million last November. That's a 6 percent decline.

Public-sector employment peaked at 22.6 million in August 2008. It fell a bit in 2009, then rebounded back to 22.5 million in November. That's less than a 1 percent decline.

This is not an accident -- it is the result of deliberate public policy. About one-third of the $787 million stimulus package passed in February 2009 was directed at state and local governments, which have been facing declining revenues and are, mostly, required to balance their budgets.

The policy aim, say Democrats, was to maintain public services and aid. The political aim, although Democrats don't say so, was to maintain public-sector jobs -- and the flow of union dues to the public-employee unions that represent almost 40 percent of public-sector workers.

Those unions in turn have contributed generously to Democrats. Service Employees International Union head Andy Stern, the most frequent non-government visitor to the Obama White House, has boasted that his union steered $60 million to Democrats in the 2008 cycle. The total union contribution to Democrats has been estimated at $400 million.

In effect, some significant portion of the stimulus package can be regarded as taxpayer funding of the Democratic Party. Needless to say, no Republicans need apply.

One must concede that there is something to the argument that maintaining government spending levels helps people in need and provides essential public services. Something, but not everything.

For it's more difficult to cut waste and unnecessary spending from government agencies than from private-sector businesses.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM