A friend emailed me an article about public employee salaries and pensions and asked my opinion. Here was my reply:
He does sound like an angry white guy 🙂
I think he has missed a big part of the point, though. Bureaucracies can’t reward themselves; it is politicians who trade handouts from the public treasury of tomorrow for votes today. And Republicans have been almost as bad as Democrats in this regard, and the Greeks just as bad as Californians, so it looks like a fundamental flaw of our political systems, not something specific to a party.
He doesn’t propose any solutions. Probably the only workable one is to prevent government workers from voting. That was pretty close to what the Framers wanted, by excluding D.C. from the electoral college, House, and Senate. Now that government payrolls have grown to such a huge percentage of the workforce at all levels, we probably need to do that in state politics as well.
So… were the Framers wiser than we are today? They figured out that there was an inherent conflict of interest in allowing a government worker to vote because he would almost surely vote for politicians who promised to expand the government and increase salaries for government workers. The folks who drafted various state constitutions didn’t bother to exclude government workers from state elections because at the time no more than 1 or 2 percent of American households could possibly have been dependent on a government paycheck (since government at all levels was such a tiny percentage of GDP).
It seems harsh to deny the franchise to what will soon be nearly half of all American workers, but perhaps it is the only way to save the country from insolvency.
[Of course, I recognize the impracticality of getting any such change to the American system passed; roughly 50 percent of voters would be almost guaranteed to vote against it! So mostly this idea is good for understanding how democracies collapse once a sufficient percentage of the citizens are government workers. Note that Greece was under military dictatorship until 1974. The economic collapse occurred after 36 years of democracy and roughly when their first large batch of government workers retired with pensions approved by democratically elected leaders. U.S. government workers were first allowed to unionize and collectively bargain for wages and pensions in the early 1960s. Our problems became acute after about 50 years and would have occurred much sooner if not for a near doubling of our population due to immigration (population explosions are great for government finance).]