Why Obama’s calls for more public-sector spending are not a good idea

posted at 12:01 pm on July 20, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

As part of his recent push to energize the economy and create jobs, President Obama (like any good Keynesian) thinks it’s a good idea to spend more taxpayer dollars on employing more teachers, police officers, firefighters, etcetera on public payrolls. The fact that state and local governments have laid off public workers, we’re to believe, is a necessarily horrible thing, and Mitt Romney is a horrible human being for suggesting otherwise.

I’m sure President Obama’s stance will win him plenty of approval with unions, but here in the real world, Obama’s suggestion is a singularly terrible idea. President Obama is assuming that (or, more likely, just neglecting to notice whether or not) these are productive jobs, but it’s perfectly pertinent to examine whether employing more teachers, police officers, and firefighters just for the sake of sheer numbers is of any benefit to society. Here’s a chart from Marginal Revolution that demonstrates precisely why:

Over the past 35 years, the number of fires in the United States has fallen by more than 40% while the number of career firefighters has increased by more than 40%…

Sounds obvious, but it’s hard to negotiate with heroes especially when they are unionized with strong featherbedding contracts.

Before you jump all over me for daring to suggest that public employees are motivated by anything other than the absolute goodness of their hearts, that’s not what I’m doing at all — what normal, rationally self-interested individual wouldn’t want a secure job with lifelong benefits and a pension for which they don’t have to pay the full costs? But unlike in the free market, in which industries are constantly forced to compete based on merit and are being continually tailored to perfectly supply society’s wants and needs to the degree to which they demand them, these unsustainable public payrolls become entrenched by law — no matter the fiscal drain on everybody else.

Just look at what’s happening in the Postal Service: As-is, the USPS has long outlived its usefulness, but we can’t agree to cut it loose from its government protections, and now they’re unable to meet their bloated obligations and pose a huge cost to taxpayers.

President Obama’s public-sector proposals are based on neither free-market signals, nor practicality, nor fiscal responsibility — just populist demagoguery, big-federal government progressivism, and a partiality for union contributions.

President Obama is concentrating on how many teachers, police, and firefighters there are. What matters more to me is whether the students in schools are learning, what the crime rate is, and how many fire-related fatalities there are. If standardized reading and math scores are increasing, homicide statistics are decreasing, and fire-related losses are diminishing even with fewer teachers, police officers, and firefighters, that could be a good thing, because it saves taxpayers money. In the private sector, increased productivity—doing the same amount of work with lower labor costs, or getting more work out of the same number of person-hours —is a goal, often achieved through technology or innovation. To President Obama, it seems like a threat.


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….can’t fix stupid!

KOOLAID2 on July 20, 2012 at 12:09 PM

…three teachers in every classroom should work!

KOOLAID2 on July 20, 2012 at 12:10 PM

This city of 30k is down to about a dozen or so fire fighters…simply cannot afford them. Same for the police force. Not so much the salaries, but the benefits packages. These are expensive to maintain. Will not delve into the local teacher and administrators crisis locally. Suffice it to say, spending is way out of control in this community.

Obama’s answer to get more public sector jobs?

Paid by whom?

When the average local salary for fire fighters/police and teachers is far above the local median income for those who are paying for the “service” seems that something is way out of kilter.

So…let’s solve our problems with more public sector employees?

Has Obama ever had a real job? Has he ever had to meet a payroll?

What a putz.

coldwarrior on July 20, 2012 at 12:10 PM

You might as well hold off on any other topics today, the CO shooting info is going to be rolling in and no one is interested in much else right now.

Bishop on July 20, 2012 at 12:11 PM

…we should have a police man on FOUR corners directing traffic…not one in the middle!

KOOLAID2 on July 20, 2012 at 12:12 PM

… just more “walking around money”… right before the election!!

Khun Joe on July 20, 2012 at 12:15 PM

Critical thinking? Obama doesn’t even know what that is. There is a reason why he never wrote an article for the Harvard Law Review (unlike every other president of the Review in its history), and never published any scholarly legal work as a University of Chicago law “professor.” Obama doesn’t think — critically or otherwise — he just recites Marxist talking points. Obama is a fraud, and not just academically.

AZCoyote on July 20, 2012 at 12:16 PM

I boat on one of the largest man made lakes in the US-Kentucky Lake. It’s also a rural area with a very low tax rate.

On hot weekend days with 100′s of boats as well as tugs and barges there are often periods where there is one patrol boat for the entire north end of the lake.

It’s amazing how we are able to function safely without a platoon of police,DNR, Coast Gaurd and Sherrifs to look out after us.

acyl72 on July 20, 2012 at 12:18 PM

Why Obama’s calls for more public-sector spending are not a good idea

Seriously?

Next story:

Why it’s bad to burn down your own house.

FFS.

Tim_CA on July 20, 2012 at 12:21 PM

Seriously?

Next story:

Why it’s bad to burn down your own house.

FFS.

Tim_CA on July 20, 2012 at 12:21 PM

Exactly my reaction.

The Rogue Tomato on July 20, 2012 at 12:22 PM

Kind of a Captain Obvious topic here, no?

Right Mover on July 20, 2012 at 12:25 PM

Why Obama’s calls for more public-sector spending are not a good idea

This is rich; coming from a far right blogger who happens to be blinded by ideology.

Uppereastside on July 20, 2012 at 12:27 PM

This My bottomless foolishness is rich; coming from I am a far right blogger left troll who happens to be blinded by ideology.

Uppereastside on July 20, 2012 at 12:27 PM

Fixed

22044 on July 20, 2012 at 12:33 PM

But unlike in the free market, in which industries are constantly forced to compete based on merit and are being continually tailored to perfectly supply society’s wants and needs to the degree to which they demand them, these unsustainable public payrolls become entrenched by law — no matter the fiscal drain on everybody else.

It’s this.

Resources are most efficiently allocated in a free market system by people trying to make a profit for themselves. Government has never, and will never allocate resources with anything resembling effieciency.

See Friedman and/or Sowell for much better explanations.

RedCrow on July 20, 2012 at 12:36 PM

In the city of Houston, firefighters in fire trucks respond to 911 medical calls. Lots of them. Many are for poor people, not wanting to wait in at an emergency room. Most are nowhere near an emergency.

I am not a firefighter. But I know one.

tomg51 on July 20, 2012 at 12:44 PM

Kind of a Captain Obvious topic here, no?

Right Mover on July 20, 2012 at 12:25 PM

Yeah. Probably has something to do with the shootings in CO?

RedCrow on July 20, 2012 at 12:47 PM

blinded by ideology.
 
Uppereastside on July 20, 2012 at 12:27 PM

 
Well done.

rogerb on July 20, 2012 at 12:52 PM

I am not a firefighter. But I know one.

tomg51 on July 20, 2012 at 12:44 PM

If I get your drift, and I think I do, it is most specious for liberals to constantly intone the professions of firefighter, policeman, and teacher (well, dunno about that last one) as their reasoning for more spending.

No one wants to disrespect the value of firefighters and police. And liberals use them at every turn to justify there tax-and-spend ways.

Cheap. (BTW, I’m not saying this is your argument, just saying it’s a common tactic on the left. What’s next? Puppies and kittens?)

RedCrow on July 20, 2012 at 12:53 PM

Our house recently burned down, and I have no intention of speaking ill about the primary content of this story. However, I think the “Firemen vs Fires” graph is somewhat misleading. A better graph would be to show “Damage in $ vs. Firemen” to genuinely depict whether *more* firefighters have decreased the cost of the fires.

In my home state a prairie fire can spark and spread quickly threatening homes, livestock, and the general livelihood of the surrounding citizens. It takes volunteers and firemen to contain and ultimately douse the flames, but I assume this registers as only a single fire. Having 20 or 30 career firemen from surrounding counties attack a blaze out here is useful, if not necessary. By the above graph, would it suggest that number should be closer to 10 to 15?

In a more urban setting, having 8 firemen show up at our house fire was essential to both douse the flames at the site, and keep the fire from spreading to other homes. If only 4 or 5 had shown up I am confident the decision would have been made to prevent the spread rather than try to save the dwelling on fire. We were only able to save approximately 5% of our belongings, but that was a very important 5% to us.

With reduced numbers of fireman I would suggest the *cost* of each fire would increase substantially…hence the inadequacy of the above graph. The reduction in the number of fires is due to technology and education, but you can’t reduce the fires started due to acts of God, or just dumb luck. You can reduce the impact of those fires by providing enough well-trained firemen to attack and douse the flames.

This argument is not meant to apply to teachers and postmen.

Sinatra_98 on July 20, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Imagine the quandary that would exist for lib Dems if the military were unionized…

Marcola on July 20, 2012 at 1:04 PM

This argument is not meant to apply to teachers and postmen.

Sinatra_98 on July 20, 2012 at 12:59 PM

I’m sorry for your loss. Glad that no one was hurt or killed.

I think you make a good point, but there’s more to it, IMO.

Democrats want to make the argument, “Either we spend more taxpayer dollars, OR we have fewer firefighters and police.” Of course, this is utter nonsense. If government stopped pissing away money–money forcefully taken from the people–we could have lower taxes AND more ffs and police.

Liked your zinger at the end–and agree.

RedCrow on July 20, 2012 at 1:08 PM

Imagine the quandary that would exist for lib Dems if the military were unionized…

Marcola on July 20, 2012 at 1:04 PM

Lol. What if those union military jobs only went to gay, female minorities?

RedCrow on July 20, 2012 at 1:09 PM

RedCrow on July 20, 2012 at 12:53 PM

All I meant was that the number of firefighters, at least in Houston, is inflated by their use as EMTs. The number of Houston firefighters is presumably a function of both fire and EMT calls. I think using firefighters as EMTs is probably not a good use of their extensive firefighting training that does not apply.

tomg51 on July 20, 2012 at 1:21 PM

“Why Obama’s calls for more public-sector spending are not a good idea”

THE GREATEST MONEY LAUNDERING SCAM IN HISTORY: From taxpayer pockets TO public sector union employees TO public sector union dues TO financial support for election campaigns of d-cRAT socialist extremists.

TeaPartyNation on July 20, 2012 at 1:21 PM

Actually the dutch military is unionized

all of them…

It’s considered a joke in NATO; I am ex-NATO stationned in Brussels as part of the Canadian contingent (early 80′s)

they were ajoke then, bigger joke now

J

Gauthijm on July 20, 2012 at 1:30 PM

Actually the dutch military is unionized

all of them…

That’s an excellent idea, if they are attacked they can throw an army of lawyers and protestors at them.

Because if there’s anything that would have stopped the Nazis in their tracks, it’s lawyers and protestors.

NoDonkey on July 20, 2012 at 1:51 PM

The number of Houston firefighters is presumably a function of both fire and EMT calls.

tomg51 on July 20, 2012 at 1:21 PM

I’m guessing you weren’t living here before we had the fire dept. offer ambulance service. It was also before we had 911 but a call to police for medical assistance would send a cadre of independent ambulances scurrying to a location somewhat like wreckers do with some regard to your neighborhood. If they expected to have trouble getting paid they kind of moseyed on over at their own pace hoping to be too late to get their chit in the hat they would draw from.

DanMan on July 20, 2012 at 2:15 PM

tomg51 on July 20, 2012 at 1:21 PM

Yeah. I got it. I think you’re probably correct.

And my main argument, here:
RedCrow on July 20, 2012 at 1:08 PM,
was that the democrats want to pretend that taxpayers either accept their spending even more money, or it means less firefighters.

It’s a hostage situation, and if democrats were capable of shame they would never use it.

RedCrow on July 20, 2012 at 2:54 PM