The Job of Government is Not to Employ as Many People as Possible

In Wisconsin, we’ve got big government. And I mean big. We have one of the highest tax burdens in the country. Milwaukee was run by Socialists for a long time. Hence big taxes, big government, and big spending that have held on for a long time.

Government jobs here pay pretty well, have fairly low quality standards, and carry serious benefits to boot. The draw is a low-pressure job with a big benefits package. (One such example is Milwaukee Public Schools.)

Several years ago, Milwaukee County had what we now call “The Pension Scandal.” Basically, county lawmakers sweetened the already sweet retirement packages for county employees. The way they did this was shady and caused an outrage, but once it was passed, it was too late to undo the damage.

Now, each year, the county government struggles to pay for the retirement benefits, in addition to the benefits for current union employees. In fact, the labor burden is so high that it’s cheaper for the county to outsource almost everything it does. Private companies can provide employees to do the job, offering them much more reasonable wages and benefits, and the county saves money.

So of course, it’s no secret that it makes financial sense to outsource as much as possible. County Executive Scott Walker has been diligent in not piling on more taxes to county residents. We’ve already got a huge burden, and if our County Board of Supervisors had their way, we’d have tax increase after tax increase. (Thank God for Scott Walker’s veto pen. Is it out of ink yet?)

The latest budget calls for eliminating 339 county jobs, and outsourcing them to private companies. The jobs are in the areas of food service, housekeeping, skilled trades, and vehicle maintenance. It makes total sense to me, and I’m fully in favor of it if it saves the county money.

But the county employees are, of course, against this. They think Milwaukee County’s purpose is to employ them and give them health insurance and pension benefits into perpetuity.

So they’re protesting. Protest as much as you want! This budget move makes total sense to anyone with an ounce of finanical knowledge. They say quality is going to suffer. I disagree. If anything, quality will be increased. The private companies providing these services know that if the job is not being done right, the county will contract with someone else who can do better. Not so for the county workers who can slack as much as they want without fear of any  consequences.

Taxpayers need to support initiatives like this which reduce our financial burden while receiving better service from the employees. The government’s job is not to provide employment to as many people as possible. Its job is to provide a limited number of critical services to the constituency at the least possible cost and burden to the people.


  1. Tracy Coenen

    That’s a clever, but irrelevant point. The fact that those companies were corrupt does not change the point made here: That if the government can get good and less expensive services by outsourcing, they owe it to the taxpayers to do just that.

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