|Working for The Man: Federal Employment Spike Exacerbates Dependency on the State|
By Ashton Ellis
Tuesday, December 15 2009
If you’re an experienced worker looking for employment during the recession and in need of some schadenfreude, feast your eyes on this recent headline: "Job market worsens for recent college graduates." The L.A. Times article profiles a recent UCLA graduate’s failure to land a job after nearly a year of applying to 600 positions across several states. True, the student majored in political science. But theoretical training in finance or engineering isn’t giving his competition much of a leg up either. Instead, the problems facing young, recently graduated workers are twofold.
First, they lack experience. The expectation to attend college immediately after high school combined with the necessity of getting good grades means few young workers have relevant work experience when they finally enter the job market. Being long on theories but short on practical skills contributes to the perception that young workers will want to be paid at a higher rate than their value to a business. Though that isn’t true for many new job seekers, the sense of entitlement for hard-won grades and competitive schooling continues to rub up against the reality of a radically changed employment environment. Gone are the days when being demonstrably intelligent is enough to convince a company to take a chance and train you up.
Adding to this is the second problem: a shrinking job market. With more experienced workers flooding the applicant pool for mid- and entry-level positions, employers are able to get better employees for (in some cases, much) less pay. For every former sales manager working now as a sales clerk on a reduced staff, there are several would-be clerks that were not hired, and maybe not even interviewed.
These problems in turn feed the phenomenon of working several part-time jobs with no benefits. Because the federal government continues to create uncertainty about the price of employment with efforts to increase the costs of health care and energy consumption, many employers are opting for less costly employees. In many cases, that translates into hiring part-time workers to avoid providing health benefits. As for reducing costs associated with energy consumption, businesses are pushing more workers to telecommute. In both areas, the individual worker’s costs go up, be it because of buying health care coverage or increases in utility bills and computer equipment.
Who cares? For starters, taxpayers should. Even political science graduates realize the importance of making a living. And if they can’t get a foot in the door with the private sector, they’ll eventually resort to working for the federal government. That trend will only increase with the knowledge that federal employees can make six-figure money – or at least average $71,000 a year – with almost no threat of being fired.
One wonders if the rise in federal employee salaries and federal regulations is part of the Obama Administration’s overall goal to bring more people into a relationship of dependency with the federal government. The “green jobs” movement is supported by big business because it is funded by taxpayers. Regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant brings the Environmental Protection Agency into every American home. And of course, federalizing the health care industry brings one-sixth of the economy into the public sector. With more and more jobs being “created or saved” by federal interventions and subsidies, it is little wonder that young workers faced with bleak private sector options will eventually wind up on the federal payroll. After all, if the government can dictate the compensation at federally-funded businesses, is working directly for The Man any different?
A recent trip through two heavily trafficked airports this holiday season provides dismal confirmation. While ticket booth and baggage check personnel bore the polo-stitched insignias of out-sourced employment, those working the security checkpoints for the Transportation Security Administration were noticeably younger. Several looked to be in their twenties. And with the “protection” that being a federal union member enjoys offering a sense of stability in an uncertain job market, don’t expect a young worker to walk away from inspecting laptops and I-Pods when employers like Circuit City are erasing their retail footprints.
Of course, an entire generation can’t work for the federal government without creating huge tax increases to fund their paychecks. On a macro (dare I say, theoretical) level, most people understand this. On the other hand, most folks with a college degree can’t afford to stay on welfare or work for minimum wage. In order to get individuals back on private sector payrolls, federal policy makers would do well to reverse the current inverse relationship between government spending and sustainable growth in business. Otherwise, the lesson learned by many of today’s young workers will be that the only reliable source of income flows from Washington, D.C.
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