Mr. Market Never Gets a Say on Government Jobs

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Hey ho… what goes?

The stock market registered a gain of 53 points on the Dow yesterday. Gold saw a modest gain too.

And the White House came right out and with a straight face said it had saved 2 million jobs. How do you like that? More than 7 million jobs have disappeared in the correction so far. But the total would have been more than 9 million, had it not been for the feds.

Let’s see, $700 billion worth of stimulus spending… hey, that’s $350,000 per job. But every dollar of deficit is actually ‘stimulus spending.’ At that rate, each job cost about $800,000. And what about all the Fed’s pump priming? What about all the loan guarantees and toxic asset purchases… and bailouts of the auto industry, AIG, the banks, mortgage holders, Fannie and Freddie… etc. etc? That’s all stimulating too, isn’t it? The total is said to be around $13 trillion, putting the cost at $65 million for each job saved.

Of course, it’s all hooey… all nonsense… all balderdash.

It makes sense to ‘save’ a job if and only if the job didn’t need saving. In other words, the jobs that are worth doing are worth saving… but they don’t need saving. Why? Because a job that is worth doing is a job people will pay for. And if they won’t… or can’t… it’s NOT worth doing.

Otherwise, the feds could have 100% employment… just as they did in the Soviet Union. Give everybody a job. What the heck, give everybody two jobs! But it only really does any good if the jobs are productive. And how can you know if they’re productive or not? You have to wait for Mr. Market to tell you. If a job is productive, people will pay for it. If not, well… the job is cut and/or the business goes bust.

Mr. Market never gets a say on government jobs, however. That’s why the feds can say any fool thing they want.

Washington, DC is full of government bureaucrats who earn 30% to 50% more than people in the private sector. In the private sector Mr. Market puts his thumb up or his thumb down. The job is saved. Or the job is cut. But here in the federal city his thumbs are in his pockets.

For example, every day, we drive by the NIH – National Institute of Health. Thousands of cars go in and out every day. The NIH was set up in 1930. It had 140 employees, which seems like more than enough. Today, it has 18,442. The same sort of employee inflation happens at every government level on practically every government project. You set up an agency or a commission. Then, you can’t get rid of it. As the saying goes, ‘nothing is more eternal than a temporary government agency.’

But are Americans any healthier thanks to the NIH’s 18,000 + employees? No one knows.

And that’s just the NIH… where employees might conceivably be doing something worthwhile. Just for fun we went to the A-Z Index of US Government Departments and Agencies and copied some of the list. This is just the beginning of the As:

  • Administration for Children and Families (ACF)
  • Administration for Native Americans
  • Administration on Aging (AoA)
  • Administration on Developmental Disabilities
  • Administrative Committee of the Federal Register
  • Administrative Office of the US Courts
  • Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
  • African Development Foundation
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
  • Agency for International Development
  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
  • Agricultural Marketing Service
  • Agricultural Research Service
  • Agriculture Department (USDA)
  • Air Force
  • Alabama Home Page
  • Alabama State, County, and City Websites
  • Alaska Home Page
  • Alaska State, County, and City Websites
  • Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Bureau (Justice)
  • Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (Treasury)
  • American Battle Monuments Commission
  • American Samoa Home Page
  • AMTRAK (National Railroad Passenger Corporation)
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
  • Appalachian Regional Commission
  • Architect of the Capitol
  • Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board)
  • Archives (National Archives and Records Administration)
  • Arctic Research Commission
  • Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Interagency Coordinating Committee
  • Atlantic Fleet Forces Command

Would we be worse off if half of these people were sent home? Probably not.

But what are we ranting about? The Daily Reckoning is about money, right? It’s not about politics…

But… whoa… now politics and economics are mighty cozy with one another. A growing part of GDP comes directly from the federal government. Already, there is now more government spending than there is private investment.

And many mainstream economists are calling on the government to spend more money to fight the downturn… and ‘save jobs.’ They don’t bother to think about whether the jobs are worth saving or not. And they don’t seem to care that government spending is not the same as private spending. As the feds take over, the economy changes shape. It becomes less and less a free-market, productive, wealth enhancing economy. Instead, it becomes more and more of a centrally-planned, unproductive, wealth destroying one.

It becomes Sovietized, in other words… like Venezuela.

The poor Venezuelans. But that’s the problem with democracy. Everyone gets what the majority of voters deserve. They voted for Chavez. Now, they have to pay for it.

The lawfully elected (insofar as these things are ever lawful) government of Venezuela cut the value of its currency in half. That was only a week or so ago. Then, there was “chaos” in the streets, according to press reports. “Inflation fear grips nation,” says The Washington Post story.

In response, Venezuelans are on a buying spree.

“What can the citizen do, but conclude that his money is best spent on a toaster [that] he really doesn’t need,” said the mayor of Caracas.

Señor Chavez has only done what Señor Bernanke and Señor Geithner have done, too. They have all so confused the situation that ordinary people have no way of knowing what to think…and no way of protecting themselves, other than by doing something stupid.

But wait…there’s more…

Now, the press is reporting that Caracas faces “rolling blackouts.”

Well, isn’t that just like dunderheaded government? Energy rich Venezuela is running out of juice. Good work, central planners!

How long will it be before New York runs out of power, too? Or Los Angeles? We don’t know…but give the feds a chance. They’ll make a mess of things; count on it.

“How come Mexicans are doing all the work?” asked Edward innocently.

Edward was raised in France. He was only 2 years old when we left to live in Europe. He is now discovering his homeland. So are we.

“All the people who clean up at the school are Mexicans. So are the guards. And look at the guys working on the roads. They all look like Mexicans…or Latin Americans.”

Yesterday, we were late picking him up. We went into the school building and asked one of the cleaning ladies if she had seen him waiting somewhere.

“No hablo ingles,” she replied.

She was then delighted when your editor was able to respond in flawless Spanish – albeit heavily accented. Not for nothing has he been taking Spanish lessons for the last 3 years!

The woman who cleans our office in Baltimore is from Nicaragua. The woman who serves coffee at The Diner in Bethesda is from El Salvador. Guys operating backhoes, trucks, shovels – all of them look like they are from Latin America.

“I don’t know Edward,” we replied. “They were all black when we left.”

Regards,

Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning Australia

Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Best-selling investment author Bill Bonner is the founder and president of Agora Publishing, one of the world's most successful consumer newsletter companies. Owner of both Fleet Street Publications and MoneyWeek magazine in the UK, he is also author of the free daily e-mail The Daily Reckoning.
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