Maintaining Our Perspective as Public Servants in an Increasingly Anti-Government Environment Sean Q Kelly Professor of Political Science California State University Channel Islands Annual Meeting of the Local Agency Formation Commission, April 6, 2011. Ventura, California
Public Service as a Vocation “A vocation is a task for which we are prepared and fitted rather than into which we are thrust unprepared and unfitted. called rather than pushed…a career in an organization which has some service to fulfill to the people in general and is not operated [for profit]…” A.M. Ramsay
Most Admired Professions? Public Servants “People who give service of most any kind tend to be greatly admired.” --Regina Corso, Harris International • What do these people have in common? • Provide public service • Protect the welfare of individuals and the public • Make personal sacrifices • Not motivated by narrow economic gain
Inspiring the Spirit of Service “And so my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” –John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address 1961
Discouraging the Spirit of Service In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. -Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Address, 1981
The Current Anti-Government Mood • Long cycle • Effects magnified: • Economic slump • Party competition • Extremity in the GOP primary constituency
Crisis and Opportunity “Only a crisis, actual or perceived, produces real change. When that crisis occurs the actions that are taken are dependent on the ideas that are lying around…our basic function [is] to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available, until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.” –Milton Friedman (1982, ix)
A New Reality? • Public Employees: The New Illegal Immigrants • Political sleight of hand. • Politics of division. • Divide and conquer: Pit public employees against private sector employees/unemployed. • Public employees have relative job security; • Public employees have benefits; • Salaries and benefits are paid with tax revenues.
Target: Public employees and employee unions • Wisconsin • Budget SURPLUS becomes budget DEFICIT • Budget deficit prompts attack on collective bargaining: “We’re broke!” • Bill stripping collective bargaining included in budget bill requiring super majority; Democrats leave the state • Following days of massive protest budget provisions are stripped from bill; bill passes immediately.
Dividing the public “Their version of class warfare is to pit private-sector workers against public servants. They’d rather set average working people against one another – comparing one group’s modest incomes and benefits with another group’s modest incomes and benefits – than have Americans see that the top 1 percent is now raking in a bigger share of national income than at any time since 1928, and paying at a lower tax rate.” Robert Reich (2011)
Silencing opponents and critics • Defunding the Democrats • Why go after public employee unions? • Why should we be concerned? • Defunding higher education • Major cuts to university systems • Why should we be concerned? • Silencing critics • William Cronon, University of Wisconsin • Wayne State University & University of Michigan • “Go for the smear” (Krugman 2011)
Myth #1: Public-sector workers are better compensated than private-sector workers “…public employee wages and benefits often average 45 percent higher than their counterparts in the private sector… How is it that public employee unions have such a leg up on their private-sector brethren?...Employers in the private sector have a bottom line…Politicians have every reason to grant benefits to their political allies, in this case public employee unions. They don't pick up the tab; it's unorganized taxpayers who face higher taxes.” Walter Williams, Syndicated Columnist
Myth #1: Public-sector workers are better compensated than private-sector workers • Comparing Apples and Apples: • 20.9 percent of private-sector employees have college degrees; 27.4 percent of government workers do; • 8.9 percent of private-sector employees have advanced degrees; 23.5 percent of government workers do; • On average public employees are more seasoned (older): median age private sector 40, public sector 44.
Myth #1: Public-sector workers are better compensated than private-sector workers • State and local workers actually earn 4 percent less, on average, than their private-sector counterparts; • On average management-level workers in the private sector receive $48.19 per hour in total compensation compared to $48.15 per hour in the state-and-local sector. Source: Schmitt (2010)
Myth #2: Public employee benefits are the cause of deficits at the state level. • There is no relationship between benefit shortfalls and state budget woes. States with larger shortfalls are shaded lighter blue to white (worst). States with larger deficits are a deeper shade of red.
Myth #3: Bargaining rights for public employees have caused state deficits. • There is no relationship between state budget deficits and collective bargaining rights Right to work states are shaded light blue. States with larger deficits are a deeper shade of red.
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Sources Cronon, William. 2011. “Wisconsin’s Radical Break.” New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/opinion/22cronon.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha212 Friedman, Milton. 1982. Capitalism and Freedom. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press.) Greenhouse, Steven. 2011. “Group Seeks Labor E-Mails by Michigan Professors.” New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/education/30professors.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23 Krugman, Paul. 2011. “American Thought Police” New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/28/opinion/28krugman.html?_r=1&hp Pew Center for People and the Press. 2011 “Shifting Political Winds” http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1913/poll-trust-washington-anger-government-gay-marriage-support-abortion Pew Center on the States. 2010. “The Trillion Dollar Gap: Underfunded State Retirement Systems and the Roads to Reform.” http://downloads.pewcenteronthestates.org/The_Trillion_Dollar_Gap_final.pdf Reich, Robert. 2011. “The Shameful Attack on Public Employees.” http://robertreich.org/post/2615647030 Ramsay, A.M. 1969. “Public Service as a Vocation.” Australian Journal of Public Administration 28(2): 144–152. Schmitt, John. 2010. “The Wage Penalty for State and Local Government Employees” Center for Economic and Policy Research. http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/wage-penalty-2010-05.pdf Van Riper, Tom 2006. “America's Most Admired Professions.” Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/2006/07/28/leadership-careers-jobs-cx_tvr_0728admired.html Williams, Walter. 2011. “Public Employees Unions.” http://patriotpost.us/opinion/walter-e-williams/2011/03/02/public-employee-unions/