Many government workers are probably wondering what all the fuss is about when they think back to the “great recession.” Sure, home values dropped and things seemed to slow down a bit, but it wasn’t really that bad, right?
Well, not for them.
It’s no secret that government employees enjoy considerably more job security than their private-sector counterparts, but the extent to which public-sector jobs are immune to economic downturns is downright impressive.
In Nevada this was especially true considering the profound impact of the recession. According to recently released data from the US Census Bureau, local and state government workers not only continued to make more than their private-sector counterparts in the Silver State, but they actually saw a greater percentage of job gains following the recession as well.
According to the Census Bureau, median earnings for local government workers were 150 percent that of their private sector counter parts for the years 2010-2014. State government workers made more than 140 percent compared to private sector workers during that same time. And while private sector Nevadans saw a drop of 4 percent in overall employment, government jobs actually saw an increase of 6 percent.
While Nevada job creators were struggling to recoup their losses after the financial collapse, government hummed right along.
Nationally, the numbers are just as stunning. According to Census data from 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, the total number of state and local government full-time, year-round workers increased 9.9 percent. That’s nearly triple the 3.4 percent gain seen in the private sector.
Of course, it really shouldn’t be surprising that government workers managed to weather the economic storm better than the rest of us. After all, government bureaucracies are funded by tax dollars — not actual customers. While job creators must struggle to attract consumers and cut costs by laying off workers, government funds its recession-proof business model by taking our hard earned tax dollars, regardless of whether or not we approve of the work they do.
Governments, unlike businesses, are not constrained by the necessity of turning a profit. Because of government’s endless supply of other people’s money, it is relatively insulated from the financial hardships that plague families, small businesses and private sector workers.
The lesson to be learned from the census data is that government, unless constrained, will always manage to grow — even during times when the private sector is least able to afford it.
While it might be tempting to applaud the public sector for keeping so many people employed through the recession, it is important to remember that every dollar government spends must first be taken from a productive business in the private sector. More importantly, these dollars are often used to increase the intrusive nature of overbearing government bureaucracy — not just hire another public employee.
In other words, during times of economic hardship businesses and taxpayers are actually funding an expansion of the very bureaucracies that regularly make conducting business and creating private-sector jobs so difficult.
Tax-hiking politicians would have us believe that government is always on the verge of running out of money. But with public-sector pay almost one and a half times greater than in the private sector — not to mention the lavish benefits and pension plans — there are plenty of places to trim spending.
Now, as Nevada attempts to recover from the long-lingering effects of the financial crash, businesses are trying to rebuild their balance sheets. Far from encouraging a full recovery, however, state government has instead stepped in with the largest tax hike in Nevada history — to continue funding its own expansion.
Whether it is a recession, a recovery or a boom, government clearly has no interest in restraining its own growth.
That task remains up to taxpayers and voters.
Michael Schaus is communications director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute.