Dream Job: Government Employee?

Jenny Erikson

Photo by Kristen Bons
It starts at about age five. We begin to figure out what we want to do to pay the bills. Ok, maybe five-year-olds aren't as concerned with the bill-paying aspect of their future careers, but they do start to dream about what they want to be when they grow up. I just asked my six-year-old what she wants to be when she grows up, and she responded very matter of factly, "A princess." Dream big, Baby, dream big.

However big our childhood dreams, people rarely end up with the jobs they once wished for as children. Sometimes it's because of very narrow markets (how many people can actually bust into the movie or professional sports biz?), but more likely it's because reality never seems to match up with fantasy.

My daughter might want to be a princess now, but the reality of public scrutiny and duties to the state might not appeal to her as an adult. Although, in all fairness, "Princess" might be one of those narrow career fields I was talking about earlier.

Take a survey of any group of children, and you'll find a plethora of budding ballerinas, firemen, doctors, race-car drivers, and maybe even a princess or two. One thing you're unlikely to hear is government employee.

Among adults, those wishing and hoping for a bureaucratic job is probably much, much higher. And why not? Talk about job security. It is extremely difficult to fire a government employee, no matter how inept they are. Imagine a world where employees at the DMV worried about their job performance. John Lennon had his dreams; I have mine.

Once upon a time, the trade-off for job security and a stable income was lower rate of pay, along with a small, federally funded pension. Things have changed over the years. Today, 83 percent of the time, when you stack up a private sector job with its federal counterpart, the federal job is going to pay you more.  

Not only that, but the pension packages have become outlandishly outrageous. State employees get to retire after 20 or 30 years with an annual stipend based upon their last year of employment. People know how to work the system too. Government employees get to roll over their sick days every year, saving them up until the end when they receive a cash payout for the unused days. Which is calculated into the equation when figuring out that person's pension payment. 

That's just one example of abuse that is perfectly legal and bankrupting the system. One slice of government waste that is taking more and more dollars out of the private sector. It's just my opinion, but I really think it's better for a baker to hire a couple more cake decorators than to spend that money in taxes to cover the retirement of a 52-year-old state employee with a bloated pension.

Once upon a time, public servants were meant to help the public, and they were rewarded for that with job security and reliable income. It's now clear that government employees are quickly becoming an elite class, to be served financially by us low-level money makers. The gap is small right now, but unless we reign in this unsustainable behavior, the system will collapse. 

I never dreamed of going into agriculture, but I'm pretty sure you can't get blood from a turnip.

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