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Voters and Government Waste

Posted by Steve Markowitz on November 2, 2014

pigJeff Jacoby, writer for The Boston Globe, posted an article titled “No wonder voters like a candidate who knows how to castrate hogs” about voter concern for government waste.  Jacoby points to one of the most successful political ads of this year by Joni Ernst that plays on her former farming background as a way to focus on government waste.  The catch lines of the ad included below is: “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm.  So when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.”  She goes on to say, “Washington’s full of big spenders.  Let’s make ‘em squeal.”

Ernst is currently running for her first term in Congress against four term congressman Bruce Bailey.  Polls show the race to be a tight one.

As Jacoby points out, the Ernst advertisement has gone viral not only because of catchy words, but also because of voter discontent with Washington wasting the People’s money.  By way of example, Jacoby points to a recent General Accounting Office (GAO) report that included the following government waste:

  • From 2011 to 2013, the federal government spent $775 million to pay thousands of government workers for paid leave.
  • 57,000 government employees were on administrative leave for over 30 days. The GAO report covered only 3/5 of the federal government’s workforce so the actual number is higher.
  • Hundreds of government employees were on administrative paid leave for three years.

Government workers are typically placed on administrative leave when being investigated for some form of misconduct or criminal act.  Their superiors find it easier to use administrative leave rather than fire such workers given government mandated employment protections.  Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn bluntly says: “Charging booze and personal trips on the office credit card.  Passing out on the job after a late night partying.  Wasting most of the work day surfing for smut on office computers.… Any one of these outrageous behaviors would be reason enough for most to be fired … unless, of course, you are on the federal government’s payroll, in which case you might instead get a paid vacation lasting months or even years.”

Adding insult to injury, The Washington Post reported that “while the employees stayed home, they not only collected paychecks but also built their pensions, vacation, and sick days, and moved up the federal pay scale.”

There was a time when working for the government, either on the local, state or federal levels, was considered public service.  That is no longer the case.  Today, many government workers’ pay and benefits are higher than comparable jobs in the private sector.  Add the bloated workforce and inability to discipline unsatisfactory employees and you have a recipe for corruption and waste.  While people working for the government industry prosper, the People are hurt due to higher taxes and lower quality services.

Greed and mismanagement occur within both the private and public sectors of the economy.  In the private sector such poorly managed companies ultimately go out of business with their employees and stakeholders damaged in the process.  Not so in the public sector.  When a governmental organization is mismanaged, it is typically given more employees and more tax dollars to fix the problems.  Unfortunately, this approach only feeds the government workers industry and makes government even less efficient.



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