The two Americas which John Edwards missed

The true privileged class in America is not what people think. John of Powerline brings out an amazing and central fact of our time:

There are, indeed, two Americas: the increasingly straitened world of the private sector, where jobs are competitive, money is scarce, and job security is, for many, nonexistent; and the lush world of the government employee, where competition is more or less unknown, salaries and benefits often double those available to private workers, retirement is ten or more years earlier than in the private sector, and it may take a felony to get fired. This is the central economic conflict of our time, between lavishly compensated and ever more gluttonous government employees, and wealth-creating private citizens who are increasingly unable to support their public-sector masters in the style to which they have become accustomed.

The entry continues with a video by Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute, titled “There are too many bureaucrats and they are paid too much,” and a graph showing that federal employees now earn twice as much as private sector employees.

However, as acute as John’s insights are, and as good as Powerline has been lately, I can’t help but raise the question: would John have said such critical things about the growth of government if McCain had been elected? The record of Powerline in the Bush years suggests that the answer is no. If McCain were president, Poweline would be devoting 70 percent of its energy to defending McCain from the liberal media, while putting McCain a pedestal as a conservative champion and martyr. As I’ve said so many times, the only way to get these mainstream conservatives to attack liberalism is to put a Democrat in the White House. They are unwilling/incapable of criticizing liberalism if its agent is a Republican president. Which is why the Obama presidency has energized conservatism, while a McCain presidency would have put it in its grave.

- end of initial entry -

Jonathan W. writes:

It’s true that federal employees are way overcompensated relative to people performing equivalent work in the private sector, but the biggest problem right now are pension and other government employee benefits of the many employees working for state and local governments. The problem is far more pronounced in liberal states like California, New York, and New Jersey. Absent a federal bailout (which seems likely if the Democrats remain in power), there is no way for those states to avoid insolvency.

LA replies:

What happens to a state when it becomes insolvent (and it’s not bailed out)? Has that happened before

Jonathan replies:

I’m not entirely sure actually. On one hand, states can’t file for bankruptcy and discharge its obligations. On the other, states also enjoy sovereign immunity from federal suits, so they probably couldn’t be sued to enforce those obligations. In other words, they couldn’t actually shed the debts, but couldn’t be dragged into court to account for them either.

It’ll be interesting to see. Clearly, the Democrats want to bail out the liberal states that have promised unsustainable health and pension benefits in order to buy union votes. However, Americans patience for bailouts has worn very thin, and I think forcing all U.S. taxpayers to pay taxes to bail out California, NY, and NJ could be just the step that causes a civil war.

Mark Jaws writes:

I am a defense contractor and I work for senior level officials (GS-15 and Senior Executive Service) in the Department of Defense, many of whom are retired colonels or navy captains. The vast majority of whom are smart, capable, driven, and extremely dedicated. However, with pensions after 30 years of service approaching $80k per year and salaries well over $100K, these senior level workers cost taxpayers mucho dinero. I don’t know what the solution is, but I do know that we cannot afford to maintain such an expansive and expensive bureaucracy led by presidents who use our military for every sort of mission (e.g., nation building in the Islamic world) but the right ones (like securing our borders).

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 02, 2010 01:07 PM | Send

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