In my write-up today on Tim Pawlenty’s Courage to Stand, I’ll feature a couple of Pawlenty’s statements on big government, then I will briefly comment.
On page 135, Pawlenty says the following:
“In the course of my lifetime, Minnesota had become a place where the government was the primary caretaker for too many people, which meant many people no longer had the incentive to plan and take care of themselves. For example, our mass transit system’s bus drivers were retiring after only fifteen years on the job and yet were qualifying for government-paid health insurance for the rest of their lives. We lived in a state where teachers’ salaries increased year after year based on seniority rather than results. Public-employee pensions and well-intentioned social service programs were on autopilot, and their costs were out of control.”
On page 137, Pawlenty states:
“We’ve reached a troubling point in America. The Associated Press recently reported that 47 percent of Americans didn’t pay any federal income tax in 2009. Forty-seven percent! Now, consider also all those whose jobs are not generated by the private sector but by government. I’m talking about all employees who work directly for the government or whose jobs are funded at government expense…That sure looks and feels to me like a country that has become addicted to government. How can that not be despiriting? The kind of collective lethargy we see now is reminiscent of what we’ve seen in Greece and other places where large numbers of citizens think of the government as their primary caretaker.”
There are things that I agree with here. I think that governments should be fiscally responsible, and that government workers (i.e., teachers) should receive pay increases based on them generating quality results. But I don’t think it’s so horrible that so many people are working for the government. Heck, they’re receiving salaries, and they put that money into the private-sector economy by spending and investing. Imagine the further trouble the economy would be in were that to be cracked down on. Pawlenty points to Greece as an example of a place where government debt has had disastrous consequences. Well, many progressives point to countries where austerity has not worked out for the economy.
Moreover, public-sector employees, such as police officers and firefighters, help the private sector by protecting businesses from dangers.
At the same time, I have a slight issue with government employees receiving cush benefits, when so many people in America struggle. I wish that there were a way to bring some of those benefits to all Americans. I have in mind a national health insurance system. That could actually help the economy. People, for example, could then go out and start businesses rather than being tied to a job for its health benefits.