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As I approach my third month without work, and with my best prospect for a job now uncertain, I was curious to know what the unemployment numbers looked like in southern Maryland. After all, our proximity to Washington DC, and the presence of major employers like the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant and the Naval Air Station Patuxent River should shield us from severe job downturns.
The numbers would suggest that's the case. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the unemployment rates in Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's at 6.3, 6.4, and 6.4 percent respectively. Each figure is up about one percent from the same time a year ago. By contrast, eight Maryland counties have unemployment rates of 10 percent or higher.
Baltimore City stands at 10.6 percent, and the hardest hit region appears to be the Eastern Shore, with Caroline County at 10.5 percent, Somerset County at 10.6 percent, Dorcester County at 11.7 percent, and Worcester County at a whopping 16.5 percent. Washington County in western Maryland stands at 11.1 percent.
What I couldn't find, and would like to see as a real reflection of the strength or weakness of Maryland's job market, is the unemployment rate sans government jobs. Before my government friends start feeling put upon once again, let me explain why I think this figure is important.
For the past decade or so, private sector employment rates have been flat or falling, while government employment has significantly expanded. A USA Today report said that "Paychecks from private business shrank to their smallest share of personal income in U.S. history."
Meanwhile, not only are government jobs expanding, so are the payouts of government-provided benefits to American citizens. In addition, average government salaries and benefits exceed average private sector salaries and benefits when comparing similar jobs, regardless of whether they're white-collar, blue-collar, management, professional, technical or low-skill. Of the 216 government jobs with private sector equivalents, 180 of them paid higher average salaries.
The government needs taxes on private wages to sustain itself, While the popular image is of government printing as much money as they want - they certainly spend it like they're cranking it out non-stop in a basement somewhere - the truth is that government doesn't create a penny of wealth. Every government paycheck, every government handout, is paid for by the folks in the private sector who take the risks and, in the right environment, generate infinite wealth. Of course, government has been growing so fast that it's already spent today's wealth and is churning through tomorrow's wealth like a thresher.
It doesn't take an economist or a mathematician to see these trends cannot continue. The government has already "run out of other people's money," as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once put it, and is now spending money that doesn't exist. That is how the seeds of economic collapse are planted.
When I was a political appointee in the federal government, I always wore my citizen/taxpayer hat, and I used to tell the career civil servants under my charge to take a good look at their pay stubs and the amount of taxes taken from them to feed the government beast. I wanted them to treat the government budgets with which they'd been entrusted as if it were their money, since it was. I don't know if I ever got the point across that this wasn't Monopoly money, but the hard-earned family funds of countless millions.
Too many times the debate over the size and role of government becomes a zero-sum game where if one side gains, the other loses. To some extent, that's true. A government that does only what it is designed and designated to do would be smaller, more focused, and more effective, but it would need fewer employees.
I would argue, however, that both sides benefit from a robust private sector. Private sector wealth expands infinitely; we have more wealth today than ever in world history, and the only thing that prevents wealth from continuing to expand are higher taxes and intrusive regulations not essential for workplace and community protection, the calling cards of bloated, intrusive government. More wealth means more jobs in the private sector for everyone, and more tax revenue for the government to pay its workers and pay down the debt.
Ultimately, the current trend of a burgeoning government and a crippled private sector cannot continue. If people don't have jobs, they don't pay taxes and are forced to take from the government rather than pay into it.
If government hiring and salary increases continue at their current pace, and government benefits continue to be paid out at record levels, we will rapidly reach a breaking point. With the national debt well over $13.07 trillion, a cost of over $42,000 per citizen and nearly $118,000 per taxpayer, and the debt racing upward even as you read this, we may already be there.
I ask my friends and neighbors who work for the government, either as employees or contractors, to think strategically when it comes to government policies that adversely affect the private sector, especially small businesses, the economic engine of our state and nation. If the private sector doesn't work, then eventually no one does. Don't give away your support to incumbents whose policies choke the goose laying the golden eggs.
Ron Miller, of Huntingtown, is a military veteran, conservative writer and activist, communications director for the Calvert County Republican Party, and executive director of Regular Folks United, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Ron is a regular contributor to RegularFolksUnited.com, American Thinker, and RedCounty.com. You can also follow Ron on his website TeamRonMiller.com, as well as Twitter and Facebook.