Many Americans are in a bad mood these days.
Unemployment keeps edging up and down, but remains well above nine percent -- far too high. Nearly half of us tell pollsters that China’s economy is larger than ours. In reality, it’s nowhere near as large. Meanwhile, as the private sector keeps losing jobs, the size and scope of government keeps growing.
This is true at all levels of government.
Rep. Cynthia Lummis reports that the federal civilian workforce has added 188,000 employees, a 15 percent jump, since 2008. On the state level, economist John Husing found that California’s economy has not produced a single new net job since 1998. “Public employment has swelled, but private jobs have declined,” Forbes reports. Other states have followed a similar path.
On the local level, remember the small town of Bell, California. There, the city administrator was pulling down almost $800,000, while city council members paid themselves almost $100,000 per year to attend brief meetings.
For elected officials it may be “good work if you can get it,” as the cliché goes, but Americans are worried because today’s soaring budget deficits mean that we’ll be paying for all this government for decades to come.
Furthermore, while the United States needs economic growth, growth alone won’t solve our problems. After all, during most of the George W. Bush years the national economy was booming, but so was federal spending. A supposedly conservative president and Congress worked hand-in-hand to increase discretionary spending. That’s the money lawmakers choose to spend, not what they must spend to support mandatory programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Those, of course, grew during the Bush years as well.
“During his eight years in office, President Bush oversaw a large increase in government spending,” writes economist Veronique de Rugy. “In fact, President Bush increased government spending more than any of the six presidents preceding him, including LBJ. In his last term in office, President Bush increased discretionary outlays by an estimated 48.6 percent.”