With all the talk of laying off casino inspectors, toll takers and other midlevel government employees, I’ve begun to wonder about the wisdom of taking thousands of workers making around $50,000 to $60,000 a year and dumping them on the unemployment line.
One way or another, we are going to be paying them — if not in salaries then in unemployment benefits — as well as paying the costs of losing their labor and the services they provide. Then there are the personal and family costs of ... well, basically ruining the lives of people who have, on the whole, done the work that was asked of them for years.
And consider the wider, social costs: These people will no longer have incomes to pay taxes on; they will not have money to spend on goods and services that pay other people’s salaries, and our economic slide downward will only continue.
I think one reason government work used to be so secure was that there was a widespread recognition that it was good for all of us to have a stable, fairly paid government work force. I’m not saying governments should make work for people, or that there is any obligation to keep hiring. By all means, shrink the government work force by attrition. Don’t replace anyone, if things are that bad. Yes, services would suffer just as if you had laid people off — but you wouldn’t have the family, personal and social costs of firing thousands of working stiffs who have been doing work that needs to be done — while the political appointees in the same agencies and departments continue to earn six-figure salaries and go from meeting to meeting and luncheon to luncheon in government cars.
It sure ain’t right.
It might not be smart either.