Commentary by James H. Shott
Most Americans probably have at best a foggy concept of the degree to which the federal government intrudes into their lives, and just how many people are paid to conduct that intrusion from dozens, perhaps hundreds, of departments, agencies, bureaus, divisions, boards and other bodies.
In March of this year the U.S. Census Bureau reported that as of March 2010, the last year for which complete data exist, there were 3,007,938 total federal employees, 2,583,768 of them working full-time, with a payroll that month of $16.2 billion.
Depending upon whom you believe, federal employees either make lots more than their private sector counterparts (according to Republicans and other small government advocates) or lots less than private sector employees (according to Democrats and federal employee union leaders). Looking at total wages and benefits, the Republicans and small government advocates are closer to right, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
A CBO report in January of this year concluded that federal employees with no more than a high school education and those with a bachelor’s degree averaged higher total compensation than their private sector counterparts by 36 percent and 15 percent, respectively. But where benefits are concerned, the lower the education level of the federal employee, the greater the disparity in paid benefits. “Average benefits for federal workers with no more than a high school diploma were 72 percent higher than for their private-sector counterparts,” while those “whose education ended in a bachelor's degree were 46 percent higher” than for similar workers in the private sector, whereas workers with “a professional degree or doctorate received roughly the same level of average benefits in both sectors.”
We euphemistically refer to federal government employees as “public servants,” but increasingly it seems that it is we who serve them. And just what is it that they are up to?
Many of them are madly creating rules and regulations with the force of law and enforcing them. Most of them were not created by Congress, the only government branch empowered to create laws, and Congress is not even specifically aware of many or most of them, except when someone writes a letter of complaint. Furthermore, all of this regulating and penalizing often occurs without oversight by anyone besides other bureaucrats.
“A man’s home is his castle” is a phrase that once represented America’s personal freedom, meaning that people enjoyed the position of rulers in their homes, and others had no right to enter without the householder's permission. That is no longer true; now, Washington is in charge.
This situation has become so perverse that attorney and author Mark Levin describes it thus: “America has become a society in which the people are wise enough to select their own leaders, but too incompetent to choose the right lightbulb.” In his brilliant book “Ameritopia: the Unmaking of America” he cites as one example of the degree to which the feds have become entangled in our day-to-day lives the government’s involvement in the food industry where “the federal budget for regulating nearly all aspects of food, from production to consumption, exceeds the entire country’s net farm income.”
And that is just for our food.
Here’s a test: Before reading further, make a list of the things in your most personal space – your home – that government at some level doesn’t regulate. It will not be an impressive or long list.
Now that you have completed the test, here are some of the things in your home about which you have little to say, courtesy of Mr. Levin: washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, dishwashing detergents, microwave ovens, toilets, showerheads, heating and cooling systems, refrigerators, freezers, furnace fans and boilers, ceiling fans, dehumidifiers, lightbulbs, certain renovations, fitness equipment, clothing, baby cribs, pacifiers, rattles and toys, marbles, latex balloons, matchbooks, bunk beds, mattresses, mattress pads, televisions, radios, cell phones, iPods, and other digital media devices, computer components, video recording devices, speakers, batteries, battery chargers, power supplies, stereo equipment, garage door openers, lawn mowers, lawn darts, pool slides, toothpaste, deodorant, dentures and virtually everything one could put in a medicine cabinet.
Things are not improving under President Barack Obama. Dr. Robert Moffit, writing for The Heritage Foundation, reports that “[s]ince President Obama took office in 2009, federal agencies have issued 75 major regulations with an annual additional cost to the economy of $38 billion. Taken altogether, the Small Business Administration last year estimated that the total cost of America’s regulatory burden reached $1.75 trillion—more than twice what Americans pay in individual income taxes,” and more than the annual budget deficits each year since 2009. And that is just from the federal government; state and local bodies also contribute.
And if it isn’t bad enough that these multitudinous rules and regulations stifle productivity and make things cost a lot more, some of them are manifestly stupid. In order to close down a business, Milwaukee, Wisconsin requires purchasing an expensive license, submitting a pile of paperwork on the inventory to be sold, and a fee based on the length of the "going out of business sale."
What has happened to the “Land of the Free” and the self-reliant spirit that made this country great?
Cross-posted from Observations