Still, the shock of a trillion-dollar price tag may be just what’s needed to make things happen. “The longer state and municipal governments delay the elimination of inefficient and wasteful programs,” Andrews writes, the less money they’ll have “to provide incentives for early retirement and to gently economize through the gradual attrition of older workers.”
Author Charles Murray advocates a more radical approach. In his new book, In Our Hands, he lays out a simple way to replace today’s bloated welfare state. Murray proposes replacing virtually every federal social program with a $10,000 annual cash payment to every adult.
This would have two beneficial effects.
First, we could eliminate wasteful and duplicative programs (the General Accounting Office estimates there are 50 programs to help the homeless, 23 programs for housing aid, 26 programs for food and nutrition and 44 job-training programs, all run by the federal government), which would save taxpayers money immediately. Second, we could lay off hundreds of thousands of unnecessary government employees, eliminating their pensions and thus saving taxpayers money in the long term.
Poorer Americans would actually benefit, Murray says, because instead of depending on various government offices for payments, they’d know exactly how much money they’d get each year. This might encourage marriage in low-income communities and help rebuild civil society. It would at least allow the government to replace the threatened Social Security and Medicare programs with a system that’s sustainable for the long-term.
Andrews predicts that employees who continue to act as if today’s public employment system can survive without reform “will one day find themselves facing the abrupt elimination of positions and programs, drastic across-the-board budget cuts and frozen cost-of-living adjustments in their retirement plans.”
That may seem extreme, but one things’s for certain: Like the Braves’ streak, the current government employment system can’t continue indefinitely. As economist Herb Stein said, “If something can’t go on forever, it will stop.” It’s simply a matter of when and how.