Public Sector Jobs as Welfare

Here is the text of a message I sent on 1/7/11 to columnist Holman Jenkins of The Wall Street Journal:


Dear Mr. Jenkins,

Following up on my Things You Might Want to Write About, series . . .

I am still waiting to hear someone, anyone, publicly point out that there is probably no public-sector employee in America who would quit his job if compelled to choose between (a) having his salary and benefits reduced to a point where they were only marginally better than the going rate for comparable work in the private sector, and (b) resigning his position.  Granted, the unions (presently) stand in the way of our being able to force such an election upon their members, but that is not the point.

Every dollar of public-sector employee compensation that is in excess of the fair market value of the work performed by the employee, represents a subsidy – call it a transfer payment, income-redistribution, or whatever.  The fact is, excess compensation is a form of welfare (as distinct from compensation for labor).  The truth one dare not utter, as in the case of most forms of welfare, is that, in addition to buying votes,  it has become a means of placating the “have-nots” in our society; we pay this money to keep people in the office and off the streets, both to promote civil order and to foster normalized behavior.  That is not necessarily a bad trade-off, but it is one we can no longer afford.

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