Friday, September 02, 2016

Public sector jobs are second class jobs

Governor Otter released a letter on Sept. 1 “celebrating Idaho’s private-sector job growth.”   He mentioned how important jobs are, but made a distinction between private and public sector jobs, the former being better than the latter.  In fact, “growing the number of government jobs in society generally is not considered real progress” according to the Governor.  That job creation isn't progress.

Otter is proud that in his term as governor, “job growth in Idaho’s State government has been consistently outpaced by private employment growth,” and that “Idaho businesses began growing jobs at rates from two to four times that of the State.”  

Otter is a conservative Republican, and these results, being in line with his philosophy, make him proud.  But I submit that his philosophy is out of whack, and I also quibble with some of the points he makes in the letter.

He says “Our statewide unemployment rate now is 3.8 percent, down sharply from 9.7 percent in June and July 2009.”  Yep.  So much for that jobs-killing Obama agenda, eh?

I don’t think that creating a bunch of low-paying minimum wage jobs is much to brag about, especially when Idaho ranks at the bottom of the nationwide wage scale. 

The Governor says that government’s role is to focus on improving the underlying conditions for private-sector economic growth.  Read another way, that paragraph (not fully quoted here) is just saying that government works are takers, others are makers.  Which isn’t analysis, it’s sloganeering.

Otter notes that “we need more and better-educated, better-trained people,” thereby acknowledging the importance of teachers, i.e., government employees (mostly).  He also lauds the recently enacted Tax Reimbursement Incentive.  Well, yes, very nice.  But it’s a government policy (as he notes) and it’s administered by government employees.  It wouldn’t work without government help.

But mostly I disagree with the idea that a government job does not have the value of a private sector job.  A job is a job; public employees spend money to buy stuff just like everyone else, and that helps the economy.  Otter dismisses public jobs because “government is the ultimate service industry.”  Not sure why service industry jobs are so puerile, especially when Idaho is mostly creating service industry jobs like call centers.  Low paying public-sector service industry jobs.

Robust public investment spurs an economy.  If the state began constructing roads and bridges and schools, “government” jobs will be created, if you define “government jobs” as coming from government spending.  Investing in higher education will pay off, though on a more long-term scale.

Otter is consistent with his philosophy.  But I think his philosophy is the reason Idaho is the minimum wage state.  If you only think as far as Reagan’s “government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem,” and you don’t care that people can’t get a job with a livable wage, then Idaho is just fine.

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