Posts tagged ‘TODAY’

Adverse Selection

From Radley Balko, this is just staggering:

Federal employees’ job security is so great that workers in many agencies are more likely to die of natural causes than get laid off or fired, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

Death — rather than poor performance, misconduct or layoffs — is the primary threat to job security at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of Management and Budget and a dozen other federal operations.

The federal government fired 0.55% of its workers in the budget year that ended Sept. 30 — 11,668 employees in its 2.1 million workforce. Research shows that the private sector fires about 3% of workers annually for poor performance . . .

The 1,800-employee Federal Communications Commission and the 1,200-employee Federal Trade Commission didn’t lay off or fire a single employee last year. The SBA had no layoffs, six firings and 17 deaths in its 4,000-employee workforce.

When job security is at a premium, the federal government remains the place to work for those who want to avoid losing a job. The job security rate for all federal workers was 99.43% last year and nearly 100% for those on the job more than a few years . . .

White-collar federal workers have almost total job security after a few years on the job. Last year, the government fired none of its 3,000 meteorologists, 2,500 health insurance administrators, 1,000 optometrists, 800 historians or 500 industrial property managers.

The nearly half-million federal employees earning $100,000 or more enjoyed a 99.82% job security rate in 2010. Only 27 of 35,000 federal attorneys were fired last year. None was laid off.

Forgetting for a minute the adverse selection and incentive problems from preferentially attracting folks who want to work in an environment without any accountability for performance, how can an institution that is running $1 trillion over budget not have any layoff either?

Grim Milestone

Via the USAToday

Paychecks from private business shrank to their smallest share of personal income in U.S. history during the first quarter of this year, a USA TODAY analysis of government data finds.

At the same time, government-provided benefits "” from Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other programs "” rose to a record high during the first three months of 2010.

Those records reflect a long-term trend accelerated by the recession and the federal stimulus program to counteract the downturn. The result is a major shift in the source of personal income from private wages to government programs.

Buried in the ariticle is a quote that I have to cite as perhaps the worst analysis I have ever seen:

The shift in incomeshows that the federal government's stimulus efforts have been effective, says Paul Van de Water, an economist at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

"It's the system working as it should," Van de Water says. Government is stimulating growth and helping people in need, he says. As the economy recovers, private wages will rebound, he says.

How does the income shift prove the stimulus worked?  The problem is, as usual, a difficult one of evaluating what the economy would have done without the stimulus.  The mere shift in income is a necesary outcome of the stimulus -- all it means is that we have succesfully robbed Peter to pay Paul -- it says nothing about whether Peter and Paul are more wealthy in aggregate had we not moved money around by force.  In fact, proponents of the stimulus never, ever address a very simple fact - someone was using the money to run a business or invest or buy things or employ people before the government took it for stimulus programs.  And it is really, really hard to look at the body of stimulus programs and come to the conclusion that the private sector was investing the money worse, which is the only way stimulus would occur.

The Federal Government is Working Hard To Shield States From Their Own Irresponsibility

Many states managed to grow state spending in the last decade far faster than inflation and population growth, soaking up every new dime in bubble-generated tax revenue they could.   It may seem like states were forced to make a lot of hard decisions last year, but in fact they were sheltered from really dealing with the full measure of their own fiscal problems by large influxes of Federal "stimulus" money.  As I demonstrated way back in January of 2009, most of the stimulus was actually ear-marked not for the mythical shovel read project, but for "stabilization" of state and federal budgets.  This is a couple of months old, but still applies:

A historic nosedive in state tax collections extended into the third quarter of the year, and only an infusion of federal economic stimulus money has averted widespread program cuts and worker layoffs.
Tax collections from July through September dropped an average of 8.3% from a year earlier in the eight states that release up-to-date monthly tax figures, a USA TODAY survey found. New York's tax collections fell 8.9%, despite an income tax hike earlier this year. States reporting partial third-quarter results showed a similar downward spiral in tax collections, including 13.2% drop in Arizona.

Federal stimulus money has protected states from making big cuts in the number of government workers, in aid to schools or in spending on Medicaid, the health care program for the poor. But most federal stimulus money ends in December 2010.

This is not a new trend, from Tad DeHaven of Cato:

According to the Goldwater Institute, over a third of the AZ state budget is federal money.

How can there possibly be any accountability for how this is spent, though it actually is larger than the amount raised by state taxes?  If we want the government to buy us goodies in this state, we should at least pay for them ourselves and not take money from others.  By the way, every time I raise this argument, someone says "well our state pays more federal taxes than it gets back."  First, every state says this so it can't possibly be true in every case.  Second, it's a terrible practice from the standpoint of accountability.

Related, via Matt Welch:

The biggest single national political donor in the country during the 2007-08 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org, was the overwhelmingly Democrat-supporting teachers union the National Education Association. What category of worker was the biggest single beneficiary of stimulus spending? Public school teachers. Who, according to Vice President Joe Biden, accounted for 325,000 of the first 640,000 jobs "created or saved." While it's true that teachers are Americans (even my brother), in the vast majority of these cases, the jobs in question weren't "created," just maintained, since it is nearly impossible to fire public school teachers.