Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tax Burden: 40 Million Government Workers

How many people work for governments in the United States. Let’s look at the numbers.

The usual estimate of the number of employees of the U.S. government is 2.8 million. The estimate is fake. This does not count military personnel. But most important, it does not count contract workers paid by the federal government.

The Office of Personnel Management does not keep track of these workers. That would give the game away.

One man has estimated the total: Prof. Paul Light of New York University.

[The federal government] uses contracts, grants, and mandates to state and local governments to hide its true size, thereby creating the illusion that it is smaller than it actually is, and give its departments and agencies much greater flexibility in hiring labor, thereby creating the illusion that the civil-service system is somehow working effectively. . . .

Contractors and grantees do not keep count of their employees, in part because doing so would allow the federal government . . . to estimate actual labor costs.

Here is his estimate: 11 million, broken down as follows: 1.8 million civil servants, 870,000 postal workers, 1.4 million military personnel, 4.4 million contractors, and 2.5 million grantees. These figures are from 2006.

Yet the federal government isn’t all. Despite its huge budgets, state and local governments dwarf Washington in direct employment. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 3.8 million full-time and 1.5 million part-time employees on state payrolls. Local governments add a further 11 million full-time and 3.2 million part-time personnel. This means that state and local governments combined employ 19.5 million Americans.