Project 21 New Visions

 

Cherlyn Harley LeBon

Our Taxpayer Dollars at Work Shrinking the Private Sector


by Cherlyn Harley LeBon (bio)

Government isn't good at creating sustainable jobs. It can create a sensible environment of tax rates, regulations and property rights protections that encourage private sector entrepreneurs to take risks with their capital, expand inventory and create lasting job opportunities.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration and the liberal majority in Congress over the past few years have instead prolonged a lagging economy and engineered a business environment strongly discouraging private sector investment.

In fact, the White House and the outgoing Congress seem more interested in increasing the size of the federal government and the number of federal employees than revitalizing the economy. This fundamentally flawed policy will require a decreasing number of private sector workers to pay higher taxes in order to support the generous wages and benefits currently awarded to federal workers.

One way this transition is happening is commonly referred to as "insourcing." This is when the government takes work done by employees at a private company and declares that only a federal worker can do it in the future.

While it might make sense for federal workers to perform certain jobs, other cases now coming under government control — and taxpayer responsibility — remain unclear.

Management of our nation's armed forces, for instance, is best left solely to the federal government and is, in fact, mandated in the constitutional provision to "provide for the common defense." But must those providing the troops with meals or uniforms also be federal employees? Should someone working the concession stand at a national park be on the government payroll?

Serving ice cream at Yellowstone or making combat boots can easily, and likely more efficiently and cheaply, be contracted out to a private company.

Yet, barely two months into his presidency, Barack Obama ordered all federal agencies to figure out how to make more private contractors into public employees. The Office of Management and Budget months later required such insourcing reviews occur "on a regular basis."

This practice does not necessarily, as argued, provide taxpayers with more efficient service. Nor does it save money. The most obvious thing it does is increase the number of dues-paying union members. Over the past 25 years, the number of union workers in the private sector dwindled to just over ten percent. At the same time, unionization grew among government workers. Over 35 percent of government workers are now in unions.

Insourcing, at its core, is an attempt by big-government liberals to fill the coffers of organized labor at the expense of taxpayers and workers in the private sector. Over a period of time, Americans will have to pay more in taxes to pay the generous benefits and salaries of federal union workers who will be impossible to fire regardless of their quality of work.

Nonetheless, over the past few years, liberals in Congress and Obama Administration functionaries have been strategically inserting language into bills that fund the government. The Obama $800 billion stimulus bill contained strict insourcing mandates, and must-pass spending bills forced private contractors to compete with government wages and benefits. While such language has had to pass every year on its own, attempts are now being made to make this policy permanent.

Ill-conceived policies such as insourcing will lead to a larger and more intrusive federal government that will take away more hard-earned taxpayer dollars to pay for it.

Everyone can't be a federal employee, but everyone has to pay for them. How many more can America afford and at what cost to liberty?

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Cherylyn Harley LeBon is a member of the National Advisory Council of the Project 21 black leadership network and a former Senior Counsel on Senate Judiciary Committee. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.

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