Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


The Great Recession resetting American life

posted by Rod Dreher

That’s what Richard Florida calls this current economic period, compared to those in the past. Excerpt:

While some do not want to face the looming reality, it is becoming clearer every single day that what we face is not any typical recession but a full-blown economic reset. My own look at the previous two similar crises shows that Great Resets like what we are now going through are generation-spanning events which require deep changes in economic, institutional, and spatial structures.
Are our economic policymakers ready for the enormity of the challenges we face – the deep and fundamental changes in our economic system, from what we produce to what we consume – required to restore economic prosperity?

Bill Galston takes a look at the new economic survey out from Pew (“How the Great Recession Has Changed Life in America“), and sees a dramatic psychological and cultural shift in the American people, coming from the economic situation. Excerpt:

Today, the optimists’ share has declined to 45 percent, while pessimists now constitute fully 26 percent of the population. And doubt tends to reinforce caution. We don’t have enough evidence to conclude that the Great Recession will generate the kind of long-lasting risk aversion that characterized the Depression-era generation throughout their lives. But we do have reason to believe that for some time to come, what Keynes famously called “animal spirits” will remain subdued, which suggests that we’re in for a slow recovery and historically high levels of unemployment for much of this decade. If the Pew report is on target, the “new normal” will be more than a slogan.

This made me think about how unbelievably relieved Julie and I are to have sold our house recently, and to have paid off our cars. We are so anxious about the economic future that we aren’t remotely ready to buy a new house anytime soon, or make any big purchases (like a car). We’re going to sit tight and sock as much money away as we can. The problem with that is that if everybody is as cautious as we are, the economy will not recover. So I’m in a position of hoping that most Americans aren’t as thrifty as we intend to be — that is, that they’re more willing to take on risk than we are. What’s the morality of that? Hmm.
Galston’s pointing out how pessimism on the economy can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. That may be, but the risk of taking risk right now strikes many of us as too much to bear. Consider this eye-popping commentary, based on the judgment that our debt-swamped banking system is going to need another bailout in a couple of years, and the government will have no choice but to give it to them.
How has the Great Recession reset your life? How do you anticipate that it will? Another way it has reset my life, for the longer term: I am going to go to extraordinary ends to keep my children from taking on debt to pay for college.
UPDATE: Edmund Conway, writing in The Telegraph:

This is not merely about the financial crisis, but something more deep-seated: the way in which wealth is distributed around society. It is about the middle classes, and why they have become the biggest victims of all. … [T]he cost of trying to live a stable, contented middle-class life will balloon.
So I have one simple question: when do the politicians intend to let the public know about the fate that awaits them? The longer they put it off, the nastier the reaction, the bigger the strikes and the greater the chance that governments will fall. Don’t say you weren’t warned.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(103)
post a comment
DeeAnn

posted July 2, 2010 at 3:44 pm


Rod,
My instincts are to do exactly what you are doing, so we have cut back. But we are in a decent financial position – only debt is a very affordable mortgage, enough savings to carry us through for 6 mos, food storage, husband has a good job, etc… And I keep telling myself I need to spend SOME money to help other people make a living. So I don’t feel guilty when I hire people to do work for us or purchase things, we try to be generous with our tips and donations, and are just generally trying not to get in a miserly mode. But we are definitely not being extravagant.



report abuse
 

Charles Cosimano

posted July 2, 2010 at 4:14 pm


They can be as cautious as they want. Life is too short to waste on thrift. The day I feel guilty about spending money is going to be a day long after they put me in the ground.



report abuse
 

Michele

posted July 2, 2010 at 4:25 pm


My husband is a public school administrator–we’re making it, but obviously no one gets wealthy in public education (except some of those charter school CEOs). Your comment about college debt for your children is in line with our thinking. Our clever girls, now in junior high and high school, should be in a position to get good scholarships, and we’re going to watch the debt like a hawk. We have great state universities in Indiana, living at home may be an option, finishing in less than 4 years is highly desirable, and the liberal arts education I chose may be a luxury they can’t afford. Science, business, engingeering are more practical and employable, and they can read all the novels, history, and poetry they want on their own time!



report abuse
 

mc

posted July 2, 2010 at 4:37 pm

John

posted July 2, 2010 at 4:39 pm


We will continue to do what we’ve always done: live well within our means and rid ourselves of, and/or avoid, debt. We haven’t had debt of any kind in more than two years, and plan to keep it that way. We plan to put our kids through college without any debt, even though one is going to a private school next year. It won’t be easy, even with the scholarships, but I consider us fortunate to have enough income that this is even an option.
We have also become more attuned to the needs of others, I think. It seems like the continuing recession is hurting many, and while this is never a good thing, it does provide opportunites for us to be a reflection of God’s love and care for those in need.



report abuse
 

Jon

posted July 2, 2010 at 4:47 pm


If your job is not at risk (and many people’s are not) you shouldn’t be shy about spending sensibly– not throwing money away lavishly, or running up the credit cards, but nothing wrong if you enjoy a few meals out, buy affordable gifts for loved ones, even take a nice vacation as your budget allows. Also, don’t forget charities. They need help more than ever.
It should also be stressed that this recession is affecting people very unequally: for the less skilled and educated it is a true depression, but for people like Rod (or me or many of the other posters) the unemployment rate is still in “normal” digits. Though there are some changes percolating through society: much commented on is the “mancession” aspect of it. Also a big problem with older people, despite high skill levels, being unable to find new jobs– and at the precise time we need to ask older folks to stay in the work force longer.
I really think we need some bold measures in some areas: a compolete ban on outsourcing at least until unemplpyemnt is back below 7% and strict age discrmination laws since the current ones are more toothless than the average hen. And if this lasts much longer then a new WPA to put people back to work, and public unions take the hindmost.



report abuse
 

Lord Karth

posted July 2, 2010 at 4:54 pm


Mr. Dreher, @ 2:41 PM, writes:
“How has the Great Recession reset your life?”
For myself, not a whole heck of a lot. The various indigent-defense outfits I do business with have tightened up their payment and review standards, and the bureaucratic hassles are a little worse, but that’s a quantitative change, not a qualitative one. One adapts, one figures out new ways to play the game, and life goes on. There’s ALWAYS going to be a need for people like me, even at the rates offered. After all, fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly and people gotta have custody fights, speed or drive without licenses. So I’m not that worried.
In some ways, it’s got the prospect of actually improving things; I’m currently going through a retooling to handle different kinds of cases, which might represent a profit opportunity; as P. Johnson wrote, “For those who can actually make or earn money, Depressions are the best of times.”
“How do you anticipate that it will? Another way it has reset my life, for the longer term: I am going to go to extraordinary ends to keep my children from taking on debt to pay for college.”
The one way I DO anticipate that Depression 2.0 will change my life is in my expectations; I am at an age where my present standard of living will likely NOT get any better. I know for a fact that taxes are going to go up, and very massively—but then, I knew that they were going to go up without and despite D-2.0, simply because of the long-term demographic crisis (the only REAL crisis this country faces) that will take place over the remainder of my lifetime.
Like you, Mr. Dreher, I am going three sides ’round the barn to make sure that my children are not going to take on debt to pay for college. My older daughter is seriously thinking about doing the community-college route for her first two years, studying to be a paralegal, then she’ll either finish that last two years at some non-Ivy college somewhere or come to work for me and (together) make some serious money. My younger girl still has to decide; she’s only in 10th grade right now.
As for “cutting back”—my family lives in the same house we did 17 years ago, I still only drive used-and-paid-for cars, and the last vacation I took was in 2005. (What’s left to cut back ON, right ?)The trick, as I may have said before, is to consciously look for, and then take, an economic position you can HOLD.
It’s worked so far. I suspect it’ll keep on working, until the wheels really do come off in about 10 years or so.
Your servant,
Lord Karth
P.S. Turning off the television set also helps.



report abuse
 

stefanie

posted July 2, 2010 at 5:09 pm


We haven’t done much different than we have in the past decade. Decades ago we bought a house at a price level where we could pay the mortgage and all our housing expenses on ONE income. We paid the mortgage off early, and are now debt-free. We have never accumulated credit card debt. We “dumpster-dived” for furniture, or took relatives’ cast-offs, or just made do with what we had.
We bought cheap used cars for the kids’ commutes to college; my husband bought a relatively inexpensive new & fuel-efficient car for commuting, and got a 10-year warranty on it. We’ll keep it until the warranty goes out. We don’t carry car debt; if we can’t afford a car outright, we don’t buy one.
Our kids live at home while in college, and 2 of the 3 got 2-year scholarships for their freshman & sophomore years.
Underwear and shoes we buy new; everything else we get from yard sales or second-hand stores.
What I *have* done differently is started keeping a spread sheet to track our monthly discretionary and non-discretionary expenses, to be able to shave back even more. One thing we could trim is eating out; we go to lower-cost restaurants but do it more often than we probably should.
So in short, not much has changed, except I’m tracking the spending better in order to see what else can be shaved.



report abuse
 

kevin s.

posted July 2, 2010 at 7:49 pm


“My husband is a public school administrator–we’re making it, but obviously no one gets wealthy in public education (except some of those charter school CEOs).”
No. You trade the opportunity to become wealthy for a consistent, excellent salary, Cadillac benefits, and vacation days measured in months. Your husband is part of the only sector that hasn’t faced our economic struggles. So yeah, I’ll bet your “making it”.
“We have great state universities in Indiana, living at home may be an option, finishing in less than 4 years is highly desirable, and the liberal arts education I chose may be a luxury they can’t afford.”
Because most liberal arts schools offer scholarships based on need, and your family isn’t all that needy, is it?
I’m sorry to be so coarse, but I find it bizarre what some people pretend to be entitled to. If your daughters want a complete education, with all the bells and whistles, they should find a way to pay for it. Is the PSAT coming up? They should spend their summer studying for it.
But if they have to endure the indignity of going to a state college, I’m sure they’ll be fine, brilliant as they are.



report abuse
 

Naturalmom

posted July 2, 2010 at 8:00 pm


I am going to go to extraordinary ends to keep my children from taking on debt to pay for college.
Yup. In our case, hubby is holding tight to his University job and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that they don’t rescind the benefit of free tuition for kids of faculty and staff. The local U might not be their only option in the end, but we want to keep the debt-free path open for them (and us.) For us, with 3 kids, that benefit is one of the biggies that keeps my husband in a position that would pay more in the private sector. Or rather it was. It would take a lot to get him to change employers for any reason right now — not a good time to be the newest hire…



report abuse
 

Cannoneo

posted July 2, 2010 at 8:04 pm


It blows my mind what people think they have to spend on cars. Besides going to one car or, God forbid, carless, you can get a safe and reliable used car for under $5k. Even with two kids, I’ve found Volvo and VW, even BMW and Mercedes, station wagons as low as $2500. You do need a relationship with a trustworthy mechanic, and some patience … but that patience comes easy when you know the fool next door has taken out a $40,000 loan for roughly the same car.



report abuse
 

Michele

posted July 2, 2010 at 8:34 pm


Wow, mc and Kevin S., you’re so mean! We’re tremendously grateful for my husband’s job. He works in special education, which has been somewhat protected by federal law, but benefits are cut back, salaries are frozen, he’s not making *anything* like those folks in Jersey and New York, and he just turned in more than 25 days vacation, which he could not use last year and for which he will not be compensated.
I don’t feel sorry for us, and don’t ask anyone else to. Quite the contrary. Attending *any* college or university is a great privilege, and no “indignity” at all. Our girls’ intelligence, such as it is, is a gift from God to be cherished and stewarded, and could be taken away from them any day by accident or illness. They’re already preparing for the PSATs, but thanks for suggesting it.
Best wishes to you and yours.



report abuse
 

mdavid

posted July 2, 2010 at 8:36 pm


Rod, The problem with that is that if everybody is as cautious as we are, the economy will not recover.
This is not really true. That’s like saying that if I just can’t get another drink of whiskey, I’m not going to recover. If we don’t save, we merely postpone the inevitable.
Truth: our consumer economy must change – we have had 40 years of debt accumulation, and now we will have to change our consumer economy into a saver/producer economy in order to slowly contract our many debts. In fact, until the majority starts to act like Rod and seriously save, the US will never recover and we will probably have a war/revolution.
How has the Great Recession reset your life?
I’ve been worried about this depression for as long as I remember, so it’s a serious relief to finally see it arrive. It’s like being on a plane that is crashing for hours – you have to land sometime! Personally, I’m better off financially after 2007 – a lot of “paranoid investments” have finally bore fruit, and I won’t need to work again (but will continue to work regardless until the social backdraft works its way out – no assets, nor even cash, will be safe until we see the other side).
We are now at Peak Credit – our kids won’t look at debt the same way fun way we do, they will be Depression types who fear credit and loath the economic pain that results. They will vilify their elders for shafting them and their economy – expect a demographic war once enough boomers die to lose the voting majority. Money was easy during the last 40 years, but it will be much more difficult to hang onto in the future. The Middle Class is all but gone, and it won’t come back anytime soon. The only question: will we go the route of Russia or Mexico? I think the latter is more likely (heck, look at SoCal for our economic tea leaves!), but one can’t be sure how things will shake out.



report abuse
 

Abelard Lindsey

posted July 2, 2010 at 8:46 pm


How has the Great Recession reset your life?
I’ve never lived extravagantly to begin with. I have never owned a house and have never taken on any more debt than a 5 year car loan (twice in my life). I have no kids and live a low-cost life-style, and this brings up my next point.
Getting married and having kids represent huge overhead to many people, especially when you can live a cheap, expat life style. One can do a “Fred Reed” and expat to a cheap beach place. This is kind of hard to do if you have a wife and kids. Many (most?) men can be quite happy with the scuba gear, the wind surfer, and occasional casual sex. This is far cheaper than the Volvo crossover, expensive McMansion, and the educational/medical costs of those 2.1 kids.
Austerity means different things to different people.



report abuse
 

Jon

posted July 2, 2010 at 8:55 pm


Re: The only question: will we go the route of Russia or Mexico?
Neither: we are no where near as dysfunctional as either country.
Long term our likely trajectory is that of Britain as its Empire slowly wound-down leaving it a has-been (but not totally insignificant) power. Of course there were a couple of nasty bumps along that road, like two world wars in which a lot of Britons lost their lives.
Other possibilities: the US breaks up into several successor states, or contrawise expands to take in large portions of Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. In the latter case I very much we will have a democratic form of governance even if it masks itself as one.



report abuse
 

Sarah in Exile

posted July 2, 2010 at 8:57 pm


The recession has impacted us dramatically, but not necessarily in the way it has other people. In order for my husband to remain working with his company, we agreed to move to the middle-of-flippin-nowhere, Pennsylvania. We had a home in the DC area that we thought we’d own forever. We had to sell and lost all but about $600. Somehow we still managed to buy a lovely home in our new town with a much smaller mortgage. He still has a good income, so we save some and spend a lot. We try to patron local shops, hire local contractors and eat local foods. We care about our new community, even as we miss our old one. Life goes on for us, but in a dramatically new way.



report abuse
 

Geoff G.

posted July 2, 2010 at 10:08 pm


I’m interested in the reaction of people to not owning real estate in this economic environment.
Obviously, people who bought at the height of the bubble will have difficulties if they lose their jobs and can’t afford their mortgages, but one huge persistent worry I see around this board is that all of the government debt and liquidity being pumped into the markets to keep the economy afloat will lead us right back into inflation, perhaps on a par with that seen in the ’70s and ’80s.
While I don’t necessarily agree that inflation is a big concern in the short term, surely, if you believe that it is, a 30 year fixed mortgage at a pretty low interest rate is a much better deal over the medium and long term. You would conceivably end up making mortgage payments on a decent house that would be comparable to the rent on an apartment; even better than that towards the end of the term.
Naturally, if you’re thinking over the short term, buying a house may not make much sense. Ditto if you think you may likely be moving in the next few years. But if you’re reasonably certain you’ll be staying in the same place for a while, and if you think the currency is about to go to hell in a handbasket, just how does renting make sense?



report abuse
 

thomas tucker

posted July 2, 2010 at 10:15 pm


Michele- your post was very reasonable and nothing for anyone to sneer at.
Ignore those cranky bitter people.
Or better yet, pray for them.



report abuse
 

mdavid

posted July 2, 2010 at 10:46 pm


Geoff G: if you think the currency is about to go to hell in a handbasket, just how does renting make sense
That’s true, but there are usually stages to a currency going down, deflation first then inflation and collapse.
Money can be described as both cash and credit both. When a person takes a loan from a bank to buy a house, the bank creates this “money” out of thin air – it’s called “fractional reserve” lending. Our economy grows at the pace the government can get people to borrow money at. But sooner or later the game is up, nobody can borrow anymore because they are broke, everything falls apart, and prices collapse.
So in our system, the dollar can only (politically) be printed (inflation via bailout) after deflation, during which real cash (not credit) becomes worth more and more – debts are called, and people have to find the real cash to repay their loans. Remember, today we have a 50T debt bubble backed only by 3T or so in cash, and yet all the contracts (worldwide, since the FRN is the world’s reserve currency) are written in “You Must Pay Me Dollars”. So when we finally hit peak credit, you suddenly have $3T chasing $50 of debt. Ouch. This is why the poor – who are in debt – are so screwed, why Obama is printing as fast as he can, and why you see so much barter going on. Cash is hard to come by, and jobs that pay cash are hard to find.
Re: housing. During deflation, housing gets killed, since it was inflated with fake money (credit) and those loans cannot be repaid since there is simply not enough cash printed to do so. This is why the US government owns most of the houses already (Freddie, Fannie, GeMae)- if they let the free market work and prices deflate, houses would be worth 1/5 of peak value and voters would be hiding in bunkers.
Summary: once a real debt depression hits (already begun), assets collapse in price. However, once the reality sinks in, the government now has the political cover to print, print, print. This fills the cash hole, but also fuels massive malinvestment, corruption, and all the free money being given away to political cronies destroys real production (free enterprise). It’s what we see all around us already, and we are just at the beginning! But guessing that moment when deflation turns to inflation is mighty tough, especially when the government has gone crazy.



report abuse
 

mdavid

posted July 2, 2010 at 10:59 pm


thomas tucker, Michele- your post was very reasonable and nothing for anyone to sneer at.
Michele’s post was positive and showed hope for a bright future for herself and her family. During tough times, where people are unemployed, broke, in debt, divorced, whatnot…well, that’s like waving a red flag at a bull. But it’s not easy for those who are doing well to really understand what’s going on in the trenches.
Ignore those cranky bitter people.
That’s easy to do when the bitter and angry are a sullen minority. However, when depression hits and these folk become a majority and the anger is palpable at anyone doing fine, look out! They won’t be so easy to ignore then.



report abuse
 

M.M.

posted July 2, 2010 at 11:03 pm


I wonder what’s good about not owning a home too, Geoff. We own a small house that’s still valued at far more than we paid. And the mortgage is a lot cheaper than rent would be for our family…if anyone would rent to a family our size. We also have an acre with large gardens, fruit trees and bushes and our chickens. I’m not sure of the downside there particularly if we are looking at inflation.
How have we been affected though? Well, it started off with my husband losing his job after a series of pay cuts that left us with no savings. We ended up on food stamps and all my closest family members lost their homes and most of their work as well. It was incredibly stressful and I’m so glad we had food storage while we could barely afford to feed ourselves before we ended up on food stamps.
Now? My husband is self employed and makes 3 times what he used to make. We don’t really have to skimp on anything for the first time in our lives. We still don’t live remotely “lavishly” and look as poor as we always did. We still drive beaters and have a big garden and chickens. We are just working on paying of student loans, getting us in a more secure place financially and being able to help out our family who are only doing a little bit better than they had been.
There is an enormous amount of stress among extended family members still though. And it’s still a large weight on my mind watching people I love struggle so much. My sister and her family have spent over a year now living as a family out of one bedroom.



report abuse
 

Peter

posted July 2, 2010 at 11:16 pm


I’m worried but not frantic. I find I’m spending more time working with the homeless, at food pantries, encouraging my family to spend time serving those who are struggling A LOT more than we are. It’s important to keep this all in perspective and be grateful for what we have.



report abuse
 

Abelard Lindsey

posted July 2, 2010 at 11:39 pm


What you guys are calling austerity is nothing more than pre-1995 life for most Americans, including myself. Prior to the bubble that started in 1995, most people drove cars that were 5 year old or more and bought their houses on conventional mortgages with a 20% down payment. Many of us rented. Credit cards were not used often, mainly when traveling (this is the only time I ever used mine) and the ostentatious bullshit affluence that I have seen since my return in 2001 did not exist at all in most places. Phoenix and Dallas were places that you could live comfortably in $150K homes with swimming pools and the women in the bars did not expect you to drive a high-end BMW or Lexus. Both places were nice and modern, but not ostentatious. In 2001, Phoenix had become like Bel-Air and it seemed like everyone drove a BMW, Mercedes, or a Lexus. It was totally different than it was in 1991.
Most of you here are obviously young because you guys all think that the pre-1995 life style, which is what we are returning to, is going to be the End Times. Its not. Its just going to be, well, pre-1995, and I can tell you that I had some good times in the late 80’s and early 90’s (prior to my move to Asia). Also, the women then were just as randy as they are today.
Also, the 1970’s are not remembered as a good time, economically speaking. Yet, there was lots of good partying during the 1970’s, especially the late 1970’s.
Lots of people partied and had a good time in 1991. Indeed, lots of people had a good time in 1979. I would not worry about this stuff at all, unless you have lots of debt, that is.



report abuse
 

Abelard Lindsey

posted July 2, 2010 at 11:43 pm


Come to think of it, 1979 had some of the best, wildest parties I ever heard of. 1979 is considered one of the worst years for the U.S. since the 1930’s. For many people I know personally, 1979 was actually quite a fun year. I even remembered the “head” shops they had in my town that year (1979 was the year I discovered partying. I was 16 years old). which were shut down in 1980.



report abuse
 

californian

posted July 3, 2010 at 12:11 am


Abelard,
I, too, “partied” in the 70s and then grew up. I hope that anyone young reading any of this will work and save and not forget to have a family. When its all said and done “partying” is better done with your friends, your family, your kids and their cousins, your neighbors and fellow workers. Even better in your own yard under your own vine and your own fig tree.
Grow up, Abelard. Its not too late.



report abuse
 

Julie

posted July 3, 2010 at 12:12 am


Things are not going to change for the middle class until enough people wake up to all the ways Wall Street/big business controls our country. Eliot Spitzer provides a good explanation for how top executives at the Federal Reserve will continued to be selected by Wall Street in the current financial reform bills. The above link provides a list of articles that Spitzer wrote that point out the problems with financial reform. He has written several very negative articles about Geithner and Bernanke
“The ABCs of Reform How Washington blew its chance to bring real change to Wall Street.”
The individuals controlling the Federal Reserve election o include the chief executive of GE, the largest beneficiary of the fed guarantee of commercial paper; the chief executive of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world; and the chief executive of one of the largest insurance companies in the world; Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs; and Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corp.
“The end result is an almost perfect illustration of not just how legislation is made but how politics works. Proponents of the bill continue to talk in grandiose terms of reform, but the actual terms of the bill provide continuity in both power and structure.”
Under the “2009” link, Spitzer wrote a detailed article with that list the change in income distribution.
“In Sickness and in Wealth How America’s rising income inequality figures in to the debate over health care.” Eliot Spitzer July 28, 2009
The Senate keeps weakening the bill in an attempt to get a couple Republican votes because they cannot pass anything without 60 votes.
Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody’s Economy.com and a former adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), said Friday that Congress needs to hurry up and reauthorize expired jobless aid or risk derailing the nascent economic recovery.
“The odds that the economy will slip back into the recession are still well below even,” Zandi said during a conference call with reporters. “But if Congress is unable to provide this help, those odds will rise and become uncomfortably high.”



report abuse
 

kevin s.

posted July 3, 2010 at 12:48 am


“Wow, mc and Kevin S., you’re so mean!”
I am tired of public sector workers playing as though put upon. The rest of America is really struggling, while you are concerned with the question of whether your children will get a well rounded post-secondary education.
If I am being mean here, it is only in response to your initial conceit. Your second comment strikes a more reasonable pose. In this economy, you ARE rich.



report abuse
 

stari_momak

posted July 3, 2010 at 1:07 am


One difference between the ‘great recession’ and the great depression is that during the latter we didn’t have 900,000 legal immigrants and anybodies guess home many illegals entering the US. Unfortunately, no politician has thought that this influx might be hurting working Americans — guys from the rust belt couldn’t find work on California construction crews even if they could survive on $15-20 an hour (no bennies). Ethnic networks freeze them out, and our libertarian and liberal elites prefer compliant (for now) Mexicans — if for different reasons.



report abuse
 

godisaheretic

posted July 3, 2010 at 1:07 am


yes, the commentary at theautomaticearth is often eye-popping.
but Rod, while you think that there still will be colleges for your children to attend, I very much consider that to be quite the view of an Optimist.
time will tell.
hope for the best but prepare for the worst.



report abuse
 

thehova

posted July 3, 2010 at 2:41 am


I graduated from college back in 2006. Although the economy was okay back then, I struggled to find a job.
I know that a lot of people are against this, but my parents financially supported me until I found a job. I’m really, really thankful that my parents were financially comfortable enough to do that.
It’s a tough job market out there for young adults. So save up for your adult kids. They might need support.



report abuse
 

Barb

posted July 3, 2010 at 8:01 am


I let several of my adult children stay with me on different occasions after college (rent free) while they got on their feet, and have no regrets. I actually enjoyed having them around as fellow adults. Parents: this is one thing many of you could do for your kids if it gets dicey – and I know many of you will. God bless the family!



report abuse
 

praesta

posted July 3, 2010 at 8:02 am


I’m a PhD student. Ok, I know, dumb dumb dumb career move. Gotcha.
Chances are I won’t get a teaching job that pays anything more than bus fare. I’ve been reading up on non-academic careers for academics, and polishing a CV and a resume. I’m not defeatist — I’m still TAing/teaching, trying to get published anywhere I can, and networking.
I’m in my early 30’s, unwed, and with very little to no consumer debt. Almost everything is paid in cash. No car, no car payments. The credit’s around to pay airfare and secure a rental car if I need one. My parents (God bless them) paid my way through college. My debt load is appreciably smaller than many of my colleagues.
Coda: I predict a noticeable decline in fertility among people my age. I don’t want to get into the contraception debate. Still, When times are tough young people will either plan to have less children, delay marriage, or forgo marriage altogether. Hopefully the fertility will remain above 2:0. Even so, there’s a good chance that the United States might dip below replacement.



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 3, 2010 at 8:05 am


Kevin, that’s fascinating. A teacher’s spouse’s comment bothers you? I’m used to the fact that there are people out there who snipe at the mid- and senior-level federal officials that I still count among my friends in DC. I’m used to seeing them dehumanized and misunderstood, hey, they’ve been a feel-good for the attacker target since Reagan took charge of government while saying government was the problem. No need to discern what they are doing, there always are going to be people who just take potshots at them automatically. Just as some people do viscerally at other misunderstood hierarchies (including the Church.) Whatever. But teachers in public schools? Not only do they face enormous challenges on the job, their jobs, which I value, aren’t that safe. Haven’t you read the articles about projected layoffs of teachers and police due to the Medicaid issues, which will leave many states’ budgets tighter than anticipated?



report abuse
 

Jon

posted July 3, 2010 at 10:12 am


thehova: Families should take care of their own in times of trouble (I am assuming Their Own is not simply goldbricking on Ma and Pa’s dime of course). If more families did so we would have fewer social problems.
As for 2006 I remember it as an incredibly hot job market. The company I worked for went bankrupt early that year, throwing me out the door. It was less than a week before I landed a temp job, and as I looked for something more permanent my cell phone did not stop ringing with recruiter calls for months. And all I did was post my resume on some job sites. I can’t imagine what it must be like now.
And Stari, the 1930s was one decade removed from the time when America cut back on the come-one-come-all immigration policies that had obtained previously. There were still plenty of folks just a few years removed from the Old Country in the US at that time– and they weren’t all Albert Einstein types either.



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 3, 2010 at 10:24 am


On the broader question of austerity and decline of the middle class, a lot of the increase in the standard of living of the middle class over the last 20 years has been illusory because it has depended so much on debt. As David Brooks has pointed out, personal and public debt skyrocketed after 1980. The poster above who said few private citizens used credit cards for personal expenses in the old days is right. My parents took on almost no debt in anything they bought while I was growing up. They paid by check or cash or they didn’t buy it. That has stuck with me. Although I use credit cards, I don’t buy anything I can’t immediately pay off in full, without making too big a dent in my checking account, when the bill comes due. They passed on that “rainy day” mentality to me although I grew up mostly during boom times.
Scholarships and very small student loans (which I paid off quickly) took care of my undergraduate studies. I paid for my graduate studies out of pocket while working. I just did without for a while, living with the basic bed, lamp on a box substituting for an end table, books and small tv for a while. Eating leftovers, rarely eating out, wearing and using things until they wore out, attending free concerts, going to museums that didn’t charge admission, etc. That’s how I lived for quite a while after I graduated from college. I never felt deprived but then just socializing with close friends and reading, rather than accumulating objects, brought me my greater pleasure. Even now, I don’t buy a lot of “stuff,” but I never did develop expensive hobbies.
All of that seemed normal to me during the 1990s at a time when some people I knew were ramping up their spending and putting a lot on credit cards. I had friends who said, “oh, payday!” and ran out to get the latest upgrade or whatever. Others banked and invested their pay. I tended to do the latter. I reflected my parents’ values more than those of my peers and I wasn’t the only one. So you definitely have to discern among members of various generations.
I’m not sure anyone has to “tell” the middle class what awaits them. Anyone whose lifestyle depended so heavily on use of credit cards and debt had to have known, deep down, that he or she was fooling him or herself. The employment situation is another matter. The private and public sector workforces both face contraction right now. Some of that is needed or unavoidable. Some of it is due to technological advances. Some of that is due to the way businesses operate, looking to maximize profits and cut down on overhead. Some of it is due to the fact that banks still are reluctant to lend. And yes, some of it is due to the fact that our economy relied way too much on consumers buying a lot of things in the past that they could have deferred or put off buying altogether. Some of them have to know that, looking back.



report abuse
 

Steve D

posted July 3, 2010 at 11:05 am


@ kevin s.
“I am tired of public sector workers playing as though put upon. The rest of America is really struggling, while you are concerned with the question of whether your children will get a well rounded post-secondary education”
As a public sector worker I’d like to comment. There’s a faulty impression that has been spread throughout some groups that somehow public sector workers have nice, cushy jobs that have great benefits. Maybe in some big cities that is true, but in most municipalities it is not true. Having worked in both public and private sectors, I can attest to the fact that the pay and benefits are somewhat comparable. Just like you, we struggle through the same issues of making ends meet and trying to educate our children. We are really no different than you. The biggest difference is that you can go down to the municipal building where I work and look at my salary. It’s a matter of public record.Whereas in the private sector salaries of most employees are kept confidential. Maybe if private sector salaries and benefits were published in annual statements, we could see the supposed waste there as well.



report abuse
 

elizabeth

posted July 3, 2010 at 11:14 am


No change for us at all.
My husband has been mostly out of work since late 2006. He was 57 when he was laid off, in the age group most impacted by the GR. We had expected him to continue to work as long as health allowed, but now it looks like he is “retired” though not touching our savings or planning to collect SS benefits until he is well into his 60s or even 70. Our son just finished a 4-year public university liberal arts education with less than $8,000 in debt. He has moved back in and is getting little temporary jobs – one will pay $20/hr for 5 weeks, so he plans to chop away at the loans before they come due, to reduce the monthly payment.
We still save money on one income. The mortgage will be paid off in under 2 years, I can still get my employer’s full 401k match and we put as much as we can into an HSA.
All this is because we never lived on credit. Not because we were financial geniuses or anything, but because debt made us feel sick.



report abuse
 

Mike

posted July 3, 2010 at 11:43 am


“The problem with that is that if everybody is as cautious as we are, the economy will not recover.”
This is not really true. That’s like saying that if I just can’t get another drink of whiskey, I’m not going to recover. If we don’t save, we merely postpone the inevitable.
Of course it’s true. Any competent economist will tell you it is.



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 3, 2010 at 11:46 am


Well said, Steve D. I believe a lot of the grumbling about public sector workers stems from the fact that people find it easier to complain in generalities rather than to sit down and think about what functions and programs specifically they would like to see their tax dollars supporting and where cuts could be made. That’s true at the municipal/local, state and federal level.
Rarely do people think in terms of what their communities would lose if teachers, firemen, police, library employees, people of that ilk, faced drastic cuts in employment. Nor are they familiar enough with budgets to know where the largest costs lie, especially in the federal budget. That’s not to say some states haven’t been short sighted in some of the low retirement ages and compensation packages they’ve put in place for some public sector jobs. They should have thought more about sustainability and worked out better solutions before now. Just as the federal government should not have raided the Social Security trust fund and embraced deficit spending starting with the Reagan administration. Given rising life spans, some people can spend nearly as much time retired as they did working.
But slashing jobs indiscriminately simply because of animus against the public sector makes no sense. When cuts are needed, they have to be carefully thought out and done in a targeted manner. A lot of states can’t do that now, they have to cut pretty indiscriminately. They relied way too much on increasing property values bringing in more and more in property taxes. And on federal aid with Medicaid and other payments. As the federal sector starts to tighten its belt, states are feeling the impact as with the looming Medicaid shock. Cuts affect public safety and quality of education (larger class sizes, less strategic investment in schools, less access to libraries). One reason that I, who have been a big reader since childhood, could live so frugally right after I graduated was because I relied so heavily on public libraries.
Of course, the laid off public service workers will be competing with private sector workers for job openings. It’s a myth that state employes would not be competitive with those who once worked in the private sector. I’m just one person, but I have a number of friends who have worked very successfully in both public and private sector jobs. .



report abuse
 

Your Name

posted July 3, 2010 at 11:57 am


I will be 50 in 4 months. For the last 20 years I worked as a journalist; my last posting was a 4 month stint in Prague. But the paper I worked for began going under last year, and so I was forced to return to the States…not my ideal country of residence, but my country of origin. I decided to throw myself into academia, and to work toward getting, finally, a masters’ degree and a PhD. I have moved in with my aged parents, who I help out, and so find myself sleeping again in my “old” bed. My first purchase upon returning was a sturdy Schwinn, which is my sole means of transportation (other than walking). I was in Europe long enough to develope a distaste for cars). I am 45 minutes by bike from my university, and an hour and a half from getting to Portland, OR., one of the few civilized cities in this country. And so my life has been altered, but I’m enjoying the change. I’m gardening with my father, and learning how to can fruits and vegetables from my mother. I think I’ll survive.



report abuse
 

mdavid

posted July 3, 2010 at 12:16 pm


Mike, “The problem with that is that if everybody is as cautious as we are, the economy will not recover.”…”This is not really true. That’s like saying that if I just can’t get another drink of whiskey, I’m not going to recover. If we don’t save, we merely postpone the inevitable.”…Of course it’s true. Any competent economist will tell you it is.
Love this comment! You offer zip, zero, nada evidence for your claim except that the “competent economists” agree with you.
i’m laughing, because 95% of your “competent economists” missed 2008 completely. One got rich by ignoring them. Methinks you should start to think for yourself.



report abuse
 

kevin s.

posted July 3, 2010 at 12:39 pm


@Indy
“Kevin, that’s fascinating. A teacher’s spouse’s comment bothers you?”
Administrator, not teacher. Different play scale.
“Whatever. But teachers in public schools?”
Not that this applies specifically to the commenter here, but I think the public is especially bitter at public school employees right now. Our education system is an extremely expensive disaster.
“Not only do they face enormous challenges on the job, their jobs, which I value, aren’t that safe.”
They are extremely safe, and FAR safer than jobs in the private sector. It is only now that certain states are even beginning to consider laying off tenured employees for reasons other than complete incompetence or outright illegal activity.
As far as sniping goes, I seem to recall someone sniping at the CEOs of charter schools.



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 3, 2010 at 12:52 pm


Kevin, you may be bitter at whatever but how in the world can you write “the public is bitter?” I mean, none of us represent anyone but ourselves. This whole “I speak for Everyman” thing on the web just seems weird to me. I think it comes from the fact that some writers leave out qualifiers (some, many, a few, an unknown number) when they write in comboxes. It creates (perhaps inadvertently) a didacticism that may not be intended.
For what it’s worth, my public school education enabled me to attain my six figure salaried job. But I wouldn’t extrapolate from that the the schools have no problems, any more than I would take some weaknesses and dismiss everything about public education as a result.



report abuse
 

kevin s.

posted July 3, 2010 at 12:52 pm


“As a public sector worker I’d like to comment. There’s a faulty impression that has been spread throughout some groups that somehow public sector workers have nice, cushy jobs that have great benefits.”
That impression is fortified by data that demonstrates public sector workers make more in raw wages, paid leave, health benefits and retirement benefits.
If you adjust for education (and I’m not sure why we should), you can close the wage gap, but not the benefits gap, and certainly not the job security gap.
Some municipalities pay their public employees less than others, but this is true of the private sector as well, and public sector employees still come out on top overall.
“Maybe in some big cities that is true, but in most municipalities it is not true. Having worked in both public and private sectors, I can attest to the fact that the pay and benefits are somewhat comparable.”
The date refutes your anecdotal experience.
“We are really no different than you.”
But we are compensated differently. That is the point.
One of the reasons I support austerity is that I think the public sector needs to feel this recession in ways that extend beyond merely having to settle for a lesser university. Right now, we have a legion of employees who aren’t impacted by wasteful spending because their jobs are secure.
That skews our legislative agenda. It’s time for everyone to have some skin in the game.



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 3, 2010 at 1:09 pm


Kevin, that’s wonderful! You’ve just laid bare what I’ve suspected underlies some of the griping from anti-government folks. Punitive motivation. You just want people to suffer because. You haven’t looked at shrinkage in government over time, you haven’t looked at out sourcing versus permanent pay, you haven’t looked at modifications in benefit packages. You just argue as if there is a big, bad, laxy, “they” there.
Instead of looking at budget issues from the angle wof hat can be cut, or, heavens forbid, what I as a taxpayer have contributed to the problem with my inflated expectations for services (municipal, state, federal), you appear to have just admitted you just want generic suffering in the public sector. Gotta love such candor.
No wonder Lindsay Graham recently said that when he met with TEA party folks in his officed and asked them, “ok, you get your country back, then what,” he said they lapsed into silence. No answers, no solutions, because the underlying thinking is raw and emotional. For too many people it’s not about solutions or pulling together as a nation (what nation?) or figuring out where the useful functions lie and the redundant functions lie, it’s about something else. Problem is, when people start acting out of resentment and wishing ill on others “just because,” they contribute to an overall withdrawal into self interested groups.



report abuse
 

M.M.

posted July 3, 2010 at 1:10 pm


Praesta: I think we were already seeing a noticeable decline among our age range before the financial crisis. I’m in my early 30’s as well as my husband. However we are total odd ducks in that we are in our early 30’s and we have 6 children. It seems most people my age are either not married or if they are they are just starting a family.



report abuse
 

kevin s.

posted July 3, 2010 at 1:24 pm


“Kevin, you may be bitter at whatever but how in the world can you write “the public is bitter?” I mean, none of us represent anyone but ourselves.”
Polling suggests, at minimum, Americans are fed up with the pay discrepancies. For the first time in decades, politicians have the latitude to move toward public sector cuts. That suggests a profound change in the public mood.
Anecdotally, did you see the public sector awards SNL skit? It was pretty vicious, and got some big laughs. Someone thought it was relevant to write that. Have you read the op-eds and LTEs?
Whether or not the public mood could be described as bitter, it certainly isn’t sanguine toward the public sector right now.
“But I wouldn’t extrapolate from that the the schools have no problems, any more than I would take some weaknesses and dismiss everything about public education as a result.”
By any statistical measure, our public schools fail miserably.



report abuse
 

mdavid

posted July 3, 2010 at 1:40 pm


kevin s., just smile and remember that all those people ripping on you now are mostly feeding at the government till. One can’t discuss in good faith if they have a very vested interest in the discussion. Truth be told, it’s only folk like you who care about the “public”.
And take heart: once the depression starts to pick up speed, you will have a LOT of hurt people joining your cause. Government employees will get whacked, hard. Not because they lack the political power – no, the public sector unions own the DNC and abuse the public without shame. Rather, we will finally just run out of money and taxes will dry up, so the unions will lack the cash to control the political process. It will be like the auto company unions – they will simply kill the golden goose. This is no “coming to Jesus moment” for corrupt public workers – they will fade out as corrupt and morally bankrupt as they are now. You can’t reach them.
Personally, I will enjoy the process along with you – it’s always nice to see justice served, and to see the little guy grinding away in the private sector score one for a change.



report abuse
 

Abelard Lindsey

posted July 3, 2010 at 1:41 pm


Abelard,
I, too, “partied” in the 70s and then grew up. I hope that anyone young reading any of this will work and save and not forget to have a family.
Grow up, Abelard. Its not too late.
I definitely believe the first two parts to this, but the third seems like expensive overhead to me. Why not work and save, stay single and retire at age 40? To the beaches of Costa Rica or South East Asia? I mean this is a discussion about austerity. There are ways to live an austere life and there are ways to live an austere life and actually enjoy it.
I think you guys lack perspective.
It is useful to compare the post-bubble crash in the U.S. to that of Japan over the last 20 years. When Japan’s bubble ended in 1992 (I was there, so I know what I am talking about), one of the first things that happened is the birth rate plummeted to its current fertility rate of 1.0. Since there were no longer any decent jobs for young people in Japan, they all became “freiters” (German slang for freelance slacker types). They lived with their parents, worked odd jobs and saved their money, and did the “lonely-planet” style international travel to places like India and South East Asia (“lonely planet” style international travel is actually quite cheap). When the economy recovered in ’04 or so, some of these people went for career-oriented jobs but many did not. More ambitious Japanese young people are going to either S. Korea or China because they still have growth-oriented economies (with lower tax rates to boot).
I think the same trend will occur here in the U.S. Many young people will live with their parents (or rent apartments with roommates), work whatever jobs they can, and live a “slacker” life style. I see this already in Portland. I predict the U.S. birthrate to decline to East Asian (or European) levels within the next 2-3 years. I also think that the more adventurous will go to China to work or start businesses. I see the next 10-15 years as being an extended version of the early 90’s (remember the Gen-X slackers?).



report abuse
 

kevin s.

posted July 3, 2010 at 1:53 pm


“Kevin, that’s wonderful! You’ve just laid bare what I’ve suspected underlies some of the griping from anti-government folks. Punitive motivation. You just want people to suffer because.”
No, I want the sector at large to suffer as the private sector suffers, for the reason that otherwise we have a minority leveraging the power of government to create a de facto fiefdom. Instead of addressing my reasoning, you pretend I didn’t provide any. Wonderful, indeed.
“You haven’t looked at shrinkage in government over time, you haven’t looked at out sourcing versus permanent pay, you haven’t looked at modifications in benefit packages. You just argue as if there is a big, bad, laxy, “they” there.”
Another caricature. That said, can you explain what you mean by “shrinkage in government over time”? The government has not shrunk. Also, is there a discrepancy in permanent pay between the public and private sector that somehow explains the gap in overall compensation? I have not found any evidence to support this. If it exists, please provide it.
“Instead of looking at budget issues from the angle wof hat can be cut, or, heavens forbid, what I as a taxpayer have contributed to the problem with my inflated expectations for services (municipal, state, federal),”
On what basis do you assert that I have “inflated” expectations for services? In my city, we waste all sorts of money on services for which I have no expectation.
“No wonder Lindsay Graham recently said that when he met with TEA party folks in his officed and asked them, “ok, you get your country back, then what,” he said they lapsed into silence.
Graham represents a strain of the Republican party that is becoming obsolete, so I would expect him to be critical of the Tea Party. Polling data suggests areas where protesters would like to see cuts.
I don’t know what this has to do with my comments on the public sector. Personally, I would favor tethering public sector pay to the private sector, and increasing performance incentives. If I had my druthers, I would eliminate the system of tenure (literal or de facto, depending on the government job) entirely.
Those are concrete steps, fiercely opposed by unions, that would begin to allow us to ferret out redundancies and under-performance.
“Problem is, when people start acting out of resentment and wishing ill on others “just because,” they contribute to an overall withdrawal into self interested groups.”
I hope that rant was cathartic for you, as it has nothing to do with what I wrote.



report abuse
 

Steve D

posted July 3, 2010 at 2:29 pm


@ Kevin s
“That impression is fortified by data that demonstrates public sector workers make more in raw wages, paid leave, health benefits and retirement benefits.”
Really? Care to quote your source? I work in IT and on average we have been paid 10-20% LESS than comparable positions in the private sector for well over 10 years. Unlike some in the private sector, we don’t get bonuses for work performance. Even if we save money.
Yes, there are some government employees who sit on their butts and collect tons. Those who work in large cities have a better chance to do that. Work in a small municipality/school district and that just can’t happen easily.
“Some municipalities pay their public employees less than others, but this is true of the private sector as well, and public sector employees still come out on top overall.”
I wish it were true. It’s just not a matter of pay scale. After my 1.5 percent increase last year my health insurance went up. I got $45/paycheck less. I’ve been feeling the pinch for over a year.
“One of the reasons I support austerity is that I think the public sector needs to feel this recession in ways that extend beyond merely having to settle for a lesser university. Right now, we have a legion of employees who aren’t impacted by wasteful spending because their jobs are secure.
That skews our legislative agenda. It’s time for everyone to have some skin in the game.”
Kevin, you are one of those people who are mad about taxes, and see public employees as over paid goof offs. It’s a shame that you can’t see past your prejudices.



report abuse
 

Steve D

posted July 3, 2010 at 2:41 pm


“It will be like the auto company unions – they will simply kill the golden goose. This is no “coming to Jesus moment” for corrupt public workers – they will fade out as corrupt and morally bankrupt as they are now. You can’t reach them.”
I forgot we’re ALL corrupt. Perhaps you need to talk to some people on all Street. Talk about corrupt.



report abuse
 

Jon

posted July 3, 2010 at 3:00 pm


[Kevin] “That impression is fortified by data that demonstrates public sector workers make more in raw wages, paid leave, health benefits and retirement benefits.”
[Steve] Really? Care to quote your source?
Kevin’s claim is true on the face of it, but it’s also an apples to oranges comparison: the private sector includes a huge number of low-skilled, low-wage, and often part-time positions, and so of course the public sector, which has rather few jobs of that sort, will look more munificent. It’s a little like comparing the salary and benefits of tech jobs with all jobs in general. Direct comparisons of similar jobs across private and public sectors generally show the public sector workers make less than their counterparts, but enhanced job security and better retirement benefits help coimpensate for that.
And as to those retirement benefits, once upon a time just about all “good” jobs included such benefits, but the private sector, where workers are treated like so much livestock these days, has gotten away with dumping workers on their own resources. This by the way is probably a big reason the ACA went down: the next push will be to get workers off of company health benefits and that can only happen if there’s a functional market in individual health insurance with alternate subsidies. That’s not a bad idea, in fact I support it in principle, but keep a close eye on whether employers end up pocketing the premiums they once paid, or whether they pay that money out as salary instead. Some economists claim that *of course* salaries will boosted, but color me very skeptical on that as nothing of the sort happened with the switch from company pensions to 401ks.
But there’s something else here that needs to be mentioned: the Right has been trying to whip up anger against public employees ever since Obama took office. This is as ugly and morally reprehensible as that infamous tactic of old, race-baiting, or (in Europe) Jew-baiting. And of course one of the goals is beat down yet more workers to benefit the high and mighty on the top of the heap. There was a time when conservatives complained, with some justice, about liberals preaching the politics of envy. Well, who is doing this now? Shame upon the Right! Morally and intellectually bankrupt, it descends into the sewer of the human soul to summon the worser angels of our nature.



report abuse
 

Jon

posted July 3, 2010 at 3:07 pm


Re: I predict the U.S. birthrate to decline to East Asian (or European) levels within the next 2-3 years
I think this may happen, but over a longer time frame: cultural inertia is a facto in big shifts like that. Also, the US appears to have more of a certain sort of low income individual who simply does not care how many kids they have and can’t support. And no, those people are not all swart of skin; many of them are pale as ghosts and live in places most of us never visit.



report abuse
 

Steve D

posted July 3, 2010 at 3:07 pm


Kevin S and mdavid
While I understand your anger and to a certain extent share it. I wonder why you attack people that you don’t even know. Worse yet, I wonder if you have any direct knowledge of corruption or whether it just stuff that you read. I suspect it is the latter.
While you are contemplating all of us “corrupt” public sector worksrs. Remember a few things:
1- the vast majority of us are not corrupt.
2- you may not see it, but we are in the same boat as you. If you don’t believe it, think about the thousands teachers that are being laid off in CA, IL, and elsewhere. I know, you don’t believe in public education.
3- Next time your roads are in disrepair so bad that people can’t even get to your business. Next time your house is broken into or there’s a fire. Chances are there will be a public sector worker will show up.



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 3, 2010 at 3:13 pm


Steve D., Rod’s sister is a teacher and I think his brother in law is or was a public safety worker. There are plenty of us here who appreciate teachers, firemen, policemen, librarians, and other federal, state and municipal employees. They are real people to me, I have friends among them. Kevin and MDavid are only hurting conservatives, but that’s there choice, I can’t help them. (I actually contemplated voting straight GOP as recently as 10 years ago. It’s the Kevins and MDavids that have given me pause in recent years.) Still, I wouldn’t worry too much about them. Look for the conservatives like Bruce Bartlett who actually want to fix problems, don’t just go by what random people say in comboxes. There are some solution oriented ones out there, they don’t all hate on public sector employees.



report abuse
 

Steve D

posted July 3, 2010 at 3:19 pm


“but enhanced job security and better retirement benefits help coimpensate for that.”
Not at the rate things are going. State and Local governments are doing what private sector companies have done when it gets tight. Under funding pensions and benefits. Not to mention the hit that they took (along with all of those 401ks) when the stock market tanked. The rain falls on all.
“That’s not a bad idea, in fact I support it in principle, but keep a close eye on whether employers end up pocketing the premiums they once paid, or whether they pay that money out as salary instead. Some economists claim that *of course* salaries will boosted, but color me very skeptical on that as nothing of the sort happened with the switch from company pensions to 401ks.”
A Republican candidate for Congress stopped by my house in 2008. I asked him about health care and he gave me the line about individuals buying their own and the onerous burden on businesses that would be lifted. I asked him how he was going to insure that businesses would actually give their workers the money that is saved. He said he couldn’t guarantee that they would. What sounds good on paper doesn’t always work in real life.



report abuse
 

mdavid

posted July 3, 2010 at 3:35 pm


Abelard Lindsey, that’s an interesting post. I think I agree with you – birth rates will go down, and the economy will fall. Btw, note that the Japanese government workers did pretty well during the crash – they sucked the life out of the nation, and made it tough for young folk to get by. But also note that Japan is the most indebted rich nation around by keeping their economy “stimulated”.
I also agree with you on the cheap living by not having kids – one can really live and travel cheap if they avoid a family (and especially materialistic women). However, if you do have children in the low spots, it’s like buying a stock when prices are dirt cheap – those few kids become valuable to society at large during the recovery that eventually follows. I remember Mark Farber saying that the first thing he would do during a bust is have kids, because it’s like buying low and selling high.



report abuse
 

mdavid

posted July 3, 2010 at 4:10 pm


Fact: Government jobs pay more FOR THE SAME JOB. Why? The public sector unions tax the poorer people to pay for their own largess. It’s like the Mafia – the public sector uses their political power to take money from the poor working stiff in order to pay for the excessive salaries and juicy benefits they currently enjoy.
Doubt this? You can look it up: …accountants, nurses, chemists, surveyors, cooks, clerks and janitors are among the wide range of jobs that get paid more on average in the federal government than in the private sector.
Overall, federal workers earned an average salary of $67,691 in 2008 for occupations that exist both in government and the private sector, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The average pay for the same mix of jobs in the private sector was $60,046 in 2008, the most recent data available.
But the benefits, job security, and political power are the real difference between public and private sectors. The private sector loses everything when the economy falls, and yet they still pay their property and sales taxes to support the fat cat pensions in the public sector. One would think the public employees would be moral and have enough shame to take pay and benefit cuts, but no, they won’t even admit the reality and grasp for more…until it finally falls apart (see: California). Actually, I have some relatives in public service, and they agree they are overpaid and need serious cuts, but they are a rarity. Most gov employees (like on this thread) are merely immoral grabbers.
The next time you want to see the true colors of a public worker, just ask what they think about privatizing their job. Why not, you might ask them, why not privatize the public schools and allow vouchers? Wouldn’t that get fair wages? Well, the public worker would freak out, because they know their salaries would be slashed overnight to the level everyone else gets. The immorality and corruption of public workers is obvious from even the most casual conversation with them about privatizing their jobs. And one should not expect anything else – everyone who is getting free money soon gets used to it and screams when finally told to act like everyone else.
But it really doesn’t matter anymore. CA, NJ, NY, IL lead the way to where the feds will eventually be – bankrupt. The public sector unions will eventually kill themselves…but not before bringing down everyone else along the way.
captcha: 22 shafting



report abuse
 

kevin s.

posted July 3, 2010 at 4:16 pm


“Really? Care to quote your source?”
http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ecec.pdf
“I work in IT and on average we have been paid 10-20% LESS than comparable positions in the private sector for well over 10 years.”
If so, that only means that the discrepancy is even more severe in other industries.
“Unlike some in the private sector, we don’t get bonuses for work performance. Even if we save money.”
Yeah, that’s pretty dumb.
“Kevin, you are one of those people who are mad about taxes, and see public employees as over paid goof offs. It’s a shame that you can’t see past your prejudices.”
I’m not mad about taxes. I am mad that public sector employees are not subject to the same market forces that drive private industry. That said, I live in a major city. Large municipalities and bureaucracies employ the majority of public sector employees. As such, my prejudices are based on first hand experience with the sort of public sector employees who represent the majority.



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 3, 2010 at 5:03 pm


MDavid, you really don’t get it. I wouldn’t want some of my friends in Defense, State, Jutice, and Homeland Security to have their jobs privatized. I’ve heard their stories about contractors versus civil service staff. No point in getting into any of that here except to say some of it is a national security thing. (Some of us do care about that.) It’s got nothing to do with the money angle. It’s how people perform jobs, what they learn on the job, how they fit in with their colleagues, and what motivates them to serve the nation.



report abuse
 

kevin s.

posted July 3, 2010 at 5:16 pm


@Indy,
So you pivot from misrepresenting the points I am making to referring to me in the third person. That is utterly pedantic.
@Steve D.
Thanks for your responses. I would continue here, but I am getting exasperated, so I am bowing out.



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 3, 2010 at 5:23 pm


Kevin, some of those market forces do apply and have applied to the public sector. That’s where your generalizations hurt you and where I think you need qualifiers. One of my friends received a federal job offer only to have it rescinded when a freeze went into effect. It took that person two more years to get a federal job. I personally also know some public sector employees who have gone through the hoops to successfully fire other public sector employees for poor performance. Yes, there is a lot of paperwork but it can be done. I also know public sector employees who lost their jobs despite outstanding performance simply through staffing reductions caused by budget cutbacks. Yes, they do have some protections but they don’t have tenure for life. Nor are their pensions what they once were. During the Reagan years, the federal pension system was reformed and became a mix of Social Security and employee selected investment. Some of their pensions are affected by individual choices, just as with private sector investment choices. It is a myth that they are untouched by performance issues or budget cutbacks. It’s not your fault you don’t have as many friends as I do due to once having lived in DC. But it’s discouraging to hear so many generalized talking points about them when you actually know real public service workers, albeit at pretty senior levels (some of the former and present government employees whom I know may be real cream of the crop).



report abuse
 

Sheila

posted July 3, 2010 at 6:13 pm


I speak as one of the ‘outsourced’ private employees who is over 50 and now with over 20 years experience in my field but, no ‘paper’ (IE degree) to go with it, am reduced to throwing newspapers to keep myself alive. I live in low income housing, get food stamps and County Medical insurance and would be destitute without them. I have never purchased a home, having never been in a position to do so (I had to go to work when I was 16 after my father was forced into retirement at age 60, my mother did not work due to disability.) I married but my now ex-husband and I never had children, feeling it would be irresponsible in our case.
I have taken numerous community college courses over the years but they don’t add up to a degree as they were all directed at keeping my position and being more marketable in an increasingly competitive environment.
I am not angry with public sector employees as they do difficult and often thankless jobs and no I am in no way related to any.
My anger is directed toward the excessively greedy top 2% of out economy who instead of reinvesting in the country that made them rich have gone elsewhere to get even richer. Meanwhile they are sniveling about the pittance they have to pay back to the society at large with their burdensome taxes (cry me a river). Follow the money honey, wise up and look at who is financing the ‘grass roots’ TEA party. I assure you it is not mostly small business or small contributors.
Compare this with the financing of the COFFEE party http://www.coffeepartyusa.com/ and learn what American political discourse is supposed to look like.
Is there a solution for me and others like me? I can only try. I am in the process of trying to get my certification as a paralegal so I can hopefully be independent from government supplements working free lance.
As for the young JOIN A UNION and as quickly as you can do not listen to anyone who opposes your doing so. As someone who has watched average Joes real wages plummet with the decline of the unions I speak from having lived history. It is a bit painfull in the beginning but you will be better of in the long run. If you don’t have a union at your place of employment and there exists one in your field of work, talk to your fellow workers, stand up to the spirit of fear and say NO to the endless greed machine. If you don’t have a union in your field form one! Connect to others in your field; in this day of modern communication it won’t be as hard as you think. Get under the ‘umbrella’ of one of the larger remaining national unions. BEWARE ‘in house’ unions as they are usually managed by the same people who are running the greed machine.
I see this as the best and least likely to result in violent revolution solution out there.
The group consisting of the very poor, the disenfranchised (who are frighteningly ignorant and easily led for the most part), the disgruntled educated ‘outsourced’, as well as the angry ex-middleclass now looking at serious poverty. This group is growing at a frightening rate. Do not go back to sleep! If there are not some REAL solutions and I mean SOON I fear we will see a rise in militancy (the TEA party is but a foretaste) and even possible violent revolution. All it would take is one real “Personality” to unify them, direct their anger as the “Personality” sees fit and we are in deep trouble.
Pray for our leaders whether you agree with them or not, do not assume they are not doing what they honestly believe is beast for our nation. Pray for divine intervention before we collapse under the social disaster we are now facing.
Judging for the few posts I have seen in this thread from Abelard Lindsey I suspect he and his ilk are the reason over half our children were born with out the benefit of a two parent family last year. I chose not to share what I personally would like to seen done with the lot of them (it involves large carnivores). These precious children of God, Abelard Lindsey and his ilk, are some of the main reasons our family unit has gone down the shooter. With out this foundational unit no civilization has ever stood. Do not think our great nation is exempt from this rule!



report abuse
 

stari_momak

posted July 3, 2010 at 8:32 pm


AAnd Stari, the 1930s was one decade removed from the time when America cut back on the come-one-come-all immigration policies that had obtained previously. There were still plenty of folks just a few years removed from the Old Country in the US at that time– and they weren’t all Albert Einstein types either.
And how does that contradict my point that the inflow had largely been reduced to a trickle? We have literally millions on unemployed, wages have been stagnant for men for three decades, and we still allow mass legal immigration.



report abuse
 

mc

posted July 3, 2010 at 8:38 pm


Indy,
It’s not “mean” to point out that you made a very general statement which is demonstrably untrue, and distorts the political debate. I bet those school adminstrators I linked to wouldn’t make nearly as much if fewer people bought the line about how everyone in public education is poor. I didn’t insult you personally, I just disproved your point, so try not to be so thin-skinned.
And as Kevin noted, I wouldn’t have bothered calling you out if you hadn’t sniped about charter school salaries, as if they were so much worse, and as if no such thing could happen in the private sector.



report abuse
 

mc

posted July 3, 2010 at 8:39 pm


“as if no such thing could happen in the private sector”
Check that: “public sector”



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 3, 2010 at 8:51 pm


Kevin, in the last to you, I meant “it’s not your fault you don’t have as many friends in the public sector as I do.” Not friends generally.
Sheila, thank you for sharing your sobering story and interesting observations. I’ve never been laid off but I have been through downsizing situations before where I worried whether or not I would be. It can happen to any of us, none of us, whether we have the paper or not, are immune. Good luck to you, may things get better for you soon.



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 3, 2010 at 9:28 pm


MC. dude, you got the wrong guy. I never wrote about charter school salaries. Whoever you called out, it wasn’t me. I got no reason to worry about being thin skinned as a result. Wanna talk about my friends in DOJ or DOD or whatever, that’s fine. But charter schools? I haven’t discussed them.



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 3, 2010 at 9:32 pm


MC, go back and re-read the thread. I mentioned teachers a couple of times, never discussed administrators or charter schools. Not my field of specialty. I have discussed senior officials in the public sector whom I know at State, Justice, etc. I’m happy to discuss what I’ve written about, but you have mixed up some authors here.



report abuse
 

Steve D

posted July 3, 2010 at 9:46 pm


@ Kevin s
If you actually stop thinking of public sector employees as a block of zombies who are all the same, you might not get so exasperated. For most of my tenure in a public sector employee I was non-union. The ONLY reason that our department decided to join a union was that our paychecks were shrinking faster than our union colleagues. As I stated before, my take home pay actually shrank last year. Sorry you get exasperated hearing that.
@ mc
Frankly, the School Administrators that I know are under paid based on equivalent responsibility in the private sector. The HS building administrator where I work makes $150,000/year with a doctorate and is responsible for 200 staff and 1700 students. That’s almost 2,000 people he is responsible for. Plus budgetary concerns of a couple of million dollars. I would bet that in the private sector with a PhD, that salary would be at least doubled, if not more.



report abuse
 

Steve D

posted July 3, 2010 at 10:14 pm


From page 4 of the Bureau of Labor Statistics report that Kevin S linked to:
“Compensation cost levels in State and local government should not be directly compared with levels in private industry. Differences between these sectors stem from factors such as variation in work activities and occupational structures. Manufacturing and sales, for example, make up a large part of
private industry work activities but are rare in State and local government. Professional and administrative support occupations (including teachers) account for two-thirds of the State and local government workforce, compared with one-half of private industry.”
As Jon noted it is an apples to ranges comparison.



report abuse
 

mdavid

posted July 4, 2010 at 2:21 am


It is sort of funny to listen to people trying desperately to justify the bloated salaries of government workers. I would guess the majority must be on the public employee dole or related to such, because everyone knows the truth about government worker’s salaries and benefits. They doth protest too much.
Read below. And then don’t forget to always ask the public “servants” (our new masters) who are killing the poor via draconian sales taxes and property taxes: would you be willing to privatize your job? And then listen to the lame justifications. It’s amazing what people will to do to try and morally justify bad behavior. But again, one needed worry about it. As we are seeing in the states and cities, and soon to be federally, public sector drains are going to bankrupt first, then fire next.
State and local governments spent an average of $39.81 per hour in March 2010 to compensate public-sector employees ($26.25 in wages and $13.56 for benefits). Total employer compensation costs for private industry workers averaged $27.73 per hour ($19.58 for wages and $8.15 for benefits)
Bottom Line: Government employees are compensated 44% more on average per hour than private-sector employees, with 34.1% higher monetary wages and 66.4% more in benefits. On an annual basis, government workers make almost $80,000 on average with benefits (assuming a 40-hour week for 50 weeks), $24,000 more per year than the average private-sector worker ($55,460 annual compensation).
And one of the biggest differences between private and public employees is the “retirement” portion of benefits. Government workers are paid $3.16 in retirement benefits for each hour worked, and almost 90% of these retirement benefits are in the form of “defined benefits” and the other 10% are for “defined contribution.” In contrast, private sector employees receive only $0.96 in retirement benefits for each hour worked, and more than 57% of this coverage is for “defined contribution” and less than 43% for “defined benefits.”
The fact that retirement benefits for public workers are more than three times as generous as those paid to private sector workers, and the fact that almost all pension programs for government workers are “defined benefits,” helps explains why the fastest growing group of millionaires is…government workers.



report abuse
 

mc

posted July 4, 2010 at 3:33 am


Indy,
apologies, my comment was directed at Michele, not you. I misread the post.
Steve,
Maybe your friend the school administrator’s salary would double if he supervised 200 people in the private sector. But so would his hours.



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 4, 2010 at 7:23 am


Mdavid, dude, you’re focused on the wrong part. Understandable for someone who is guessing from the sidelines. You’re not the only one. As I said to Kevin, it’s not your fault you don’t know how things work. Like most people, you’ve probably only dealt with clerks while getting your driver’s license renewed and think that that is what the public sector is like in total at all levels. My homeland security and DOD friends could tell you different, but hey, not your fault they’re not your friends. But still, you could read up on some of this. If you don’t want to be solution oriented, you’ve got plenty of company. These things admittedly are tough.
I haven’t yet seen you address issues such as what services you use, what could be done to deliver them best, what could be cut out, the issues of redudancies and voters demands that I’ve raised here in on other threads. To say nothing of the deficit spending which starteed going up during Reagan’s administration. Or why campaign finance reform hasn’t made a dent. Or why DOD has to buy weapons systems it doesn’t want or need just because states like yours and others want the jobs. (What’s your solution to that one? Are you going to write your representative and say your state doesn’t want the jobs?) It’s like there’s a real world and then there are people who are watching the world on some kind of big tee vee. Again, my advice to others is, read what men such as Bruce Bartlett write. He advised Reagan but has manned up and looked at reality squarely in the face.



report abuse
 

Jon

posted July 4, 2010 at 7:41 am


Richard Bottoms,
If Al Gore had taken office inb Jan 2001 it’s safe to assume there would have been no Iraq War (but still an Afghan War, assuming 9-11 went down) and no irresponsible tax cuts racking up a huge deficit. But the real estate follies and the deregulation of the financial industry were a bipartisan project. So still a housing boom and bust and a meltdown on Wall Street. Also, the Democrats would have gotten the blame for that, so a Repubican would be president down, and probably the GOP would be controlling Congress.
And mdavid, once again direct comparison between private and public sector wages are invalid for reasons I already stated above and will not repeat here. And please stop fomenting the politics of envy and class war.
[Note from Rod: Jon, I took his comment down. More of the same inchoate rage from Bottoms. One of the great things about my moving this blog to Big Questions Online in a few weeks is that in order to comment, people are going to have to register. While that will, sadly, inhibit some from commenting, it will mean that I’ll have to spend very little time weeding the comments, and, more to the point, I can effectively kick trolls like Bottoms off the site … by never letting them on in the first place. — RD]



report abuse
 

Steve D

posted July 4, 2010 at 8:28 am


“Maybe your friend the school administrator’s salary would double if he supervised 200 people in the private sector. But so would his hours”
Before I worked in a public school district, I believed the same thing. What people who are not involved with education don’t get is that the school day is really the tip of the iceberg. My job is a 12 month position. That means that even when there are no classes, I see what goes on in the buildings.
Building Administrators are on site from a half hour before classes start to at least 1 maybe 2 hours after classes end. They are also responsible for attending board meetings as necessary, being at concerts, awards, and other special events that are held at the school. Sounds fun? Not if you HAVE to be there. In smaller districts, they are the public face of the school. that means rotary club meetings and the like.
Teachers have prep time built into their schedule. However, that’s only 1 class period. Class prep assumes a 2:1 ratio. One hour class can take up to 2 hours to prepare. So, prep is done either after school or at home. Not to mention correcting papers/tests and extra help time for kids who may be struggling. Teachers are also required to be back before the school year starts, after the school year ends and put in some time over the summer. What about the summer? Well, teachers need to keep up their certifications, some take classes over the summer, some work on curriculum.
My office used to be a couple of doors down from a Special Ed teacher’s room. She would arrive between 6:30 and 7 in the morning and leave at 4 pm with a 1/2 hour for lunch. She not only had to teach, but fill out education plans and do everything that a regular teacher does.
It’s easy to think that teachers have a nice cushy life. Classroom time is only part of what teachers must do. It is not their whole life.



report abuse
 

Steve D

posted July 4, 2010 at 9:02 am


“It is sort of funny to listen to people trying desperately to justify the bloated salaries of government workers. I would guess the majority must be on the public employee dole or related to such, because everyone knows the truth about government worker’s salaries and benefits. They doth protest too much.”
What I quoted was from the BLS report 4th page. You can believe that government workers are becoming millionaires. I haven’t met one yet, don’t expect to either.
I’m surprised that you’re not railing against Wall Street for paying outrageous bonuses for moving money around. But hey, you have an axe to grind. At least read through all of the documents that you quote.



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 4, 2010 at 10:13 am


Question for Rod: how are you going to get a balanced perspective on your blog if people have to register and comment under their own names? Even if you worked harder to read up on some things yourself, you can’t substitute second hand knowledge for on the job experience. But on a lot of the political and public sector issues, that’s what you’ll end up with, posters reacting based on second hand information. You’re most likely to get the sit-around-and-complain armchairs snipers. Anyone who knows anything about how things work in a particular field or profession will be muted and shut out of the convo. You’ll be surrendering to those who can rant because they have never done some of the jobs under discussion. And the blog will just go downhill. Look at how out of whack your oil spill commenters were because there was no one here who ever had worked at Interior. There were some people who had worked in the oil industry. It was mostly rail against corporations or rail against government. No one from MMS. The chances of such people joining the convos were slim up to now, they’ll be slim on the new blog.



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 4, 2010 at 10:16 am


I mean, “chances of such people joining the convos were slim up to now, they’ll be nil on the new blog.” I probably won’t comment on the new blog simply because I respect my friends at State and DOD and homeland security and Justice too much to let anyone try to figure out who they are and what we’ve discussed as friends.



report abuse
 

mdavid

posted July 4, 2010 at 1:14 pm


Indy, I find you amusing. I’ve worked in many industries, public and private, know dozens and dozens of federal and state workers, likely a lot more than you, since my state has more than most. And unlike yourself, I actually am in business, understand the physical and economic world, and know what I’m talking about. Btw, we should merely eliminate the Dept of Homeland Security and fire all your friends – we got alone fine without it, and it’s done nothing but spend money so far. We could eliminate or privatize over half of government – and likely will, once public workers ruin the country via public debt.
Jon, and I’ve already addressed your lame attempt to pretend government workers cannot be compared to private ones. Even a child knows that most public sector jobs have identical private counterparts (cleaner, teacher, engineer, etc.) and this can provide a matrix to compare, as I show on one of the earlier posts. This has been done for years, the data is well known, and I’ve never even heard anyone try to deny it besides you. You are the first person I’ve heard try to somehow argue an engineer or cleaning person in government somehow is “different”. I guess you have to be one of our new public “masters” to know these things.
…accountants, nurses, chemists, surveyors, cooks, clerks and janitors are among the wide range of jobs that get paid more on average in the federal government than in the private sector.
Overall, federal workers earned an average salary of $67,691 in 2008 for occupations that exist both in government and the private sector, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The average pay for the same mix of jobs in the private sector was $60,046 in 2008, the most recent data available.



report abuse
 

Jon

posted July 4, 2010 at 1:36 pm


Re: I’ve already addressed your lame attempt to pretend government workers cannot be compared to private ones
No you have not. You have simply make an assertion without the slightest backup. Anyone can do that, and since it contradicts everything else I have seen on the subject I flat out don’t believe you, though I will be courteous enough to say I suspect you are the victim of someone else’s lies, not an originator yourself.
Yes, mdavid, you can certainly find a some specific private sector person paid less than a similar public sector person. But overall that is not the case. You can make a case based on retirement benefits, though that’s not due to public workers getting better deals but private workers getting worse over time.
Finally though, the answer here is not to tear down public workers, but to build up private workers. Though the Owning Class would be aghast at that notion as it would mean fewer diamond dog collars and fewer lobbyists to cajole the politicians into doing their bidding. You have not in your previous posts been paticularly friendly toward the interests of the elite. May I resoetfully point out that in this much however you are serving the interests of those latter-day Scrooges and Legrees who are pillaging this country. It isn’t the cop with a decent pension that bothers me; it’s the executive who inflates his bonus by sending jobs abroad and leaving the middle class ever the more impoverished.



report abuse
 

Steve D

posted July 4, 2010 at 1:56 pm


“Jon, and I’ve already addressed your lame attempt to pretend government workers cannot be compared to private ones. Even a child knows that most public sector jobs have identical private counterparts (cleaner, teacher, engineer, etc.) and this can provide a matrix to compare, as I show on one of the earlier posts. This has been done for years, the data is well known, and I’ve never even heard anyone try to deny it besides you. You are the first person I’ve heard try to somehow argue an engineer or cleaning person in government somehow is “different”. I guess you have to be one of our new public “masters” to know these things.”
But the refutation that YOU refuse to acknowledge comes from the report that was quoted to support YOUR view. The people who CREATED the report say that there is no comparing the data sets. The BLS report is very clear that you shouldn’t compare public vs private sector since there ARE differences. And I quote from the report page 4:
“Compensation cost levels in State and local government should not be directly compared with levels in private industry. Differences between these sectors stem from factors such as variation in work activities and occupational structures. Manufacturing and sales, for example, make up a large part of private industry work activities but are rare in State and local government. Professional and administrative support occupations (including teachers) account for two-thirds of the State and local government workforce, compared with one-half of private industry”
Call me a fool, but I would suppose that when the people who generate the report tell you that there is an inherent data issue that two data points shouldn’t be compared, I would think that it is “Game Over” when it comes to comparing them. Quote data from that report to your heart’s content, the authors (those people who presumably understand the data the best) say DON’T.This is not a pathetic attempt to refute irrefutable data. This is an attempt to get show that the AUTHORS say that the data shouldn’t be used in that manner.The difference is that actually read past the first page (there are 24 of them after all).



report abuse
 

Rod Dreher

posted July 4, 2010 at 2:06 pm


Guys, I don’t anticipate that anybody will have to comment on the new blog under his or her real name. Registration will allow us to keep off the site jerks who don’t know how to behave.



report abuse
 

rr

posted July 4, 2010 at 2:51 pm


I’m sure that there are public employees that are lazy and overpaid, etc. I’ve worked in the private sector and seen it there as well. But here is what has happened at my community college, which is a state school, since the recession hit:
1) Our budget cut back to 2002 level
2) Our enrollment surge to double what it was in 2002
3) Layoffs, especially of administrators and a re-organization of the administration
4) Class sizes, and the increased work that goes with it have gone up
5) Furloughs, which are really pay cuts as they are always taken on days when class is not in session (Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.).
6) Health insurance has gone up
Bear in mind that most professors (who have at least an M.A. if not a Ph.D.) at my community college make under 50k and teach year round, 5 classes each semester and 2-3 classes in the summer. Quite frankly, many of us could make more money with our degrees teaching high school. Oh, and we’ve never had a union. Attempting to organize one would probably get you fired. Yes, things could much worse and those of us who still have our jobs, which are personally rewarding, are lucky. But the notion that we are on easy street because we are state employees or that state employees are somehow immune from this recession is laughable. Those who make such blanket assertion simply don’t know what they are talking about.
rr



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 4, 2010 at 3:10 pm


Rod, I tried three different versions of the same comment, all got held in moderation. Don’t bother to post them, they repeat portions or the same version and there’s no point in putting those up. I’ll try again later with a different version.



report abuse
 

Jon

posted July 4, 2010 at 3:43 pm


I don’t mind registering and I wouldn’t even mind using my real name (in fact I am already here, though just my first name). I hope the new site doesn’t use Disqus though. The Atlantic’s blogs switched to that, and it’s miserable– doesn;t play well with Vista OS at all!



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 4, 2010 at 3:53 pm


Fire everyone? Ohhhhh-kaaaaay. You’re arguing as if you want the GOP to lose. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood you and you’re a Democrat. If so, enjoy the Democratic victory you’re working towards.



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 4, 2010 at 4:08 pm


Jon, I couldn’t use my real name because of Facebook, Linkedin, and other sites. People could figure out by piecing some things together, such as when I lived in DC, who are some of these senior people I keep mentioning. I like and respect those dudes, some of them are close buds, so I wouldn’t comment under my real name. Rod says we only will have to register under our own names, not use them as handles. My email addy doesn’t have my real name on it. I’ll think about it, see how the new blog goes before I decide.
I think the larger issue of what has happened and will happen to the middle class is irresoluble. To work out solutions, you’d have to have people of all types willing to work together, that’s increasingly impossible in the U.S. these days. We’ll all just muddle on, I think.



report abuse
 

mdavid

posted July 4, 2010 at 4:44 pm


The real reason we disagree are not our competing studies – there are literally hundreds supporting my position, and if you are intellectually honest, you can just google them. The reality is that we are in a depression, and while the private sector suffers, the public is doing fine. Everyone (that isn’t blinded by free money) knows the truth.
But I won’t try to convince you folk…I don’t have to, since reality is on my side. The government unions will merely run out of money from taxing poor people. They will eventually destroy first cities, then states, then finally the entire US with their mounting debt to pay for fat cat union salaries and benefits that the public do not have and cannot afford. We know how this ends: Greece is an example.
Actually, I do appreciate that you gov supporters are so shameless – you merely hasten the public mood against you and your demise. As for me, I will support the 30% of poor free-market workers who slave to pay for fat-cat union salaries. Those 30% will indeed take care of things at the voting booth…or, if the government keeps ignoring them, they will riot and destroy things before the unions do. We all know how this ends – only some of us are moral enough to do the right thing.
I’m off to a party, so I’m signing off. We can check back in several years after the economic results of your public union agenda comes in.



report abuse
 

rr

posted July 4, 2010 at 5:03 pm


quote: “The reality is that we are in a depression, and while the private sector suffers, the public is doing fine. Everyone (that isn’t blinded by free money) knows the truth.”
Did you even read my post which gave very specific examples from my own life as a professor at a state school (which does not allow unions) which contradict your argument? It’s simply not true that everyone in the public sector is doing well. Sorry, as the saying goes, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. Also, I work on average about 50 hours a week. Call, me crazy, but I have a family to support and I actually expect to be paid for my work, even if it is under 50k a year.
Sometimes I get the sense from anti-government ideologues that they expect state employees to work without compensation. Your comment about “free money” is ridiculous. Any service, whether provided by the state or a private company is not free. You could force my college to go private tomorrow and you would still have to pay faculty and staff if you expected them to continue on as employees.
rr



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 4, 2010 at 5:03 pm


Really, the private sector is suffering, only, and the public sector not?
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/04/government-jobs-no-longer_n_635015.html
You really are working awfully hard against the GOP, MDavid. I just don’t understand why you want to hurt Repubicans so much. I don’t know if more solution oriented conservatives can counter the damage you’re doing here.



report abuse
 

Steve D

posted July 4, 2010 at 5:10 pm


“The real reason we disagree are not our competing studies – there are literally hundreds supporting my position, and if you are intellectually honest, you can just google them. The reality is that we are in a depression, and while the private sector suffers, the public is doing fine.”
No, we disagree because of essentially different world views. Studies and statistics don’t tell the whole story. You have refused to even acknowledge anecdotal information from people that have had the actual experiences. I find it quite depressing that you and some other people here want others to suffer. That, to me is the scariest part I don’t wish other people to suffer because I may be suffering. Yes, I do believe that some are overpaid, I also understand that life is not fair or equitable. My belief in Christ and God allows for a point where I may not see the equity, but it is His fight not mine. I have a friend who makes multiples of my salary. More power to her!
We do see the world from very different perspectives.



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 4, 2010 at 5:14 pm


Rod, on your general point, did you see the article in today’s New York Times about job seekers among the middle class (“The Great Rupture”)? Some of these are supply and demand issues, affected by our strongly consumerist culture which has been premised on constant demand. Some due to a ripple effect from the housing meltdown. And some due to technological changes. I think a lot of people will live more frugally for some time. Just seeing so many others lose their jobs and houses has been sobering. I’ve always been more inclined to save than spend, I’m even more so now. But if we comfortably well off people don’t spend on new technology for our offices or refurbishing the kitchen, it’s going to continue to affect businesses which once depended on people like us.



report abuse
 

Indy

posted July 4, 2010 at 5:27 pm


Steve D., don’t be discouraged, keep solidering on. It is because he refuses to recognize input from people who have had actual experiences that I keep telling MDavid he is hurting the GOP. I’m not of the left, I don’t automatically reject the idea of voting for Republicans. The arguments MDavid uses make it harder for me to do so, however, because I don’t know to what extent he represents Republicans. And this blogs readership is not so large as to attract Republicans who would push back against his approach, with its putdowns and calls for suffering. The Republicans I know aren’t like him, they never would argue issues the way he has. So I tend to think MDavid is an outlier in the dataset. To me, MDavid’s approach seems equivalent to those on the left who argued as if they wanted the U.S. to lose the Iraq war simply and only because it would hurt George W. Bush, the larger objectives regardless. I think there only is a small subset of Americans who actively want bad things to happen to other Americans for what they believe would be political gain for one party. If it is any help to you and others, I don’t think most of us are like that, whether we’re on the left, right, or, like me, in the middle.



report abuse
 

Jon

posted July 4, 2010 at 6:04 pm


mdavid reminds me of the tale of the poor Russian peasant who fell to his knees to pray when his neighbor walked by with his herd of healthy goats. A monk asked the peasant why he prayed and if he was praying for healthy goats too. But the peasant replied he was praying for his neighbor’s goats to die.
This is a very Russian attitude. It is not something, alas, I ever thought to see in the US. Gospodi pomiloy nas!



report abuse
 

Steve D

posted July 4, 2010 at 6:48 pm


Indy, I’m not discouraged just disappointed. I find it disappointing that someone would wish bad on others for what reason, I’m not sure.



report abuse
 

Michael C

posted July 4, 2010 at 6:53 pm


Well…that was a long sad read. You read the news reports and see the stats, but I really had no idea how many of you are really suffering.
Up here in the Great White North, our downturn was mild, and we have a well controlled banking sector, and had been running a surplus since the mid nineties. Our housing sector had a slight downturn, but has recovered, and our Canada Pension Plan took a beating but was redesigned about 15 years ago to cover for the changing demographic.
Richard Florida believes that N America will never be the same as it once was. The manufacturing jobs will largely disappear and we will have to be a knowledge based economy. The USA already leads that field, and it is difficult to see how you would not continue to prosper from that advantage.
Once you have recovered you should maybe look at Canada as a model. You will have to rethink many things, but our kind of regulated economy does work, and it works well.



report abuse
 

Jon

posted July 4, 2010 at 7:41 pm


Michael,
Canada kept its banks on a sort leash and fixed its government debt problem. We fixed our debt too in the 90s, but alas we then unfixed it in a big way in the 00’s. Our nations usually run in tandem since our economies are so well integrated. It’s strange this is not the case now. But yes, I would agree that you folks have are a model for How To Fix Banks and How To Fix Debt.



report abuse
 

Steve D

posted July 4, 2010 at 8:08 pm


Whereas Canada is more accustomed to what some might call a “socialist” economy. The USA’s present political climate seems to be bent away from any type of regulation that would reign in market abuses. It’s really not a good thing since our markets have been manipulated into a pretzel. The longer we wait, the greater the mess that we’ll have to unravel.



report abuse
 

Franklin Evans

posted July 6, 2010 at 11:57 am


I was going to avoid this thread, but the itch remains and I wanted to offer a balancing perspective.
Critics like mdavid and kevin s. have valid points. Both sides would be well-served to tone down the impassioned part of their rhetoric and seek those points.
That said, the pissing contest over details is egregiously a waste of time. We all have an excellent view from the inside, and many of us are too willing to discount that. My inside view is from the middle, having had a ringside seat for both public and private jobs. It is true that they are apples and oranges. It is also true that they have a significant common ground.
One area not touched so far is the effects of collective bargaining. CB exists in both sectors, and in general have the same effects: More generous benefits, less expense to employees for those benefits, and an arbitrary effect on the economics of the sector involved. Government employees in general have both stronger and weaker positions compared to private sector employees, for the simple reason that their jobs are controlled by politics, not economics. The arguments in each sector sound similar, but the arguable points are very different.
That difference is in high relief for public education. There is not even a semblence of similarity to private sector, since there is no monetary outcome to education like there might be in regulatory agencies, who collect fees or receive royalties (for example). In public ed, money goes in, but doesn’t come out. Unless the argument examines the real outcome — children receiving an effective education — then that particular public sector really has no place in this argument. Personally, the parents and others who (IMO) hysterically point to the “earning potentials” of their children are just wrong. They insist on giving public ed a “failing grade” because their Johnny or Judy can’t get the cushy executive or medical specialty job they just know they deserve.
Anyway, do please continue the pissing contest. There is some entertainment value to it, I suppose. :-(



report abuse
 

karina_b

posted July 9, 2010 at 12:43 pm


My husband lost his job last November and after a couple of months of fear we did indeed find ourselves “reset:” – we found ourselves turning back in to people after years of being at least 50% consumers! The first few months we cut way back on our spending, and then we found out that half of what we bought or used, we didn’t need anyway. It’s amazing how much time we used to spend shopping or thinking about things to buy: for ourselves, for the house, etc. Cable TV is gone, so we spend more time talking to each other than staring at a big screen. No online shopping– so less time spent looking at a little screen. We have alot more time and honestly enjoy most aspects of life far more than we used to.
I make a good living and my job is relatively secure, and we could spend more, but we don’t becuase we just don’t feel the need to. And although I have more stress now that I’m the “sole provider” for my family, I can actually say that we are happier now than we were before the lay off.



report abuse
 

dennis

posted July 23, 2010 at 10:30 am


I am a lawyer approaching middle age. In an environment where law schools continue to disgorge eager, desperate graduates in ridiculous numbers, and with law firms shutting down or scaling back, I am in a bind. I’ve been out of work for over a year (living in DC) and my conscience won’t let me fall back into the maw of government employment (the only “growth” industry). Most of what the government does is unconstitutional or immoral, and I cannot participate in that. So, here I stand, already technically broke. Twenty years ago, I never would have imagined this was possible.
However, you are incorrect to note that we will never recover if everyone is as thrifty as you. True recovery is impossible without a dramatic and sustained increase in savings, which is essential for providing the capital for long-term investment and growth. We can’t keep throwing down our Chinese credit card for long. President Obama says the economy runs on credit. Wrong. It runs on savings (see China). A good primer is Peter Schiff’s new book, How an Economy Grows and Why it Crashes. He was one of the few who predicted the meltdown several years ago.
And no, the politicians will not fess up and talk straight, because they cling to the same Keynesian stupidity that blinded them in the first place. The same people who never saw it coming are supposed to be honest with us and propose the right solutions?! I don’t think so. We’re screwed.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

Another blog to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Rod Dreher. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here is another blog you may also enjoy: Most Recent Scientology Story on Beliefnet! Happy Reading!!!

posted 3:25:02pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Mommy explains her plastic surgery
In Dallas (naturally), a parenting magazine discusses how easy it is for mommies who don't like their post-child bodies to get surgery -- and to have it financed! -- to reverse the effects of time and childbirth. Don't like what nursing has done to your na-nas? Doc has just the solution: Doctors say

posted 10:00:56pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

Why I became Orthodox
Wrapping up my four Beliefnet years, I was thinking about the posts that attracted the most attention and comment in that time. Without a doubt the most popular (in terms of attracting attention, not all of it admiring, to be sure) was the October 12, 2006, entry in which I revealed and explained wh

posted 9:46:58pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

Modern Calvinists
Wow, they don't make Presbyterians like they used to!

posted 8:47:01pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

'Rape by deception'? Huh?
The BBC this morning reported on a bizarre case in Israel of an Arab man convicted of "rape by deception," because he'd led the Jewish woman with whom he'd had consensual sex to believe he was Jewish. Ha'aretz has the story here. Plainly it's a racist verdict, and a bizarre one -- but there's more t

posted 7:51:28pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.