'Compassionate' talk at Heritage Foundation

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The Heritage Foundation today hosted a panel discussion on the public-private pay gap that didn’t really touch on a whole lot that hasn’t already been hashed out over the last several months. But it did yield this interesting exchange in response to a reporter’s question about the Obama administration’s claims that stimulus dollars saved state and local government jobs:

Chris Edwards, Cato Institute: ‘What’s wrong with layoffs of state and local government workers? … Recessions create a sort of weeding out in the private sector, where companies lay off the least efficient workers, and then they’re ready to grow again when the economy starts booming. We don’t see that healthy weeding-out effect in the government sector, unfortunately. I’ve got kids in public school in Fairfax County, and I don’t see anything wrong with, during a recession when money is tight, for schools to lay off teachers and have the teacher-pupil ratio rise a bit. What’s the big deal?’

Andrew Biggs, American Enterprise Institute: ‘If state and local workers are actually 10 percent underpaid, as these studies claim, then by laying them off you’re giving them the opportunity to get a private sector job where you can earn 10 percent more.’ [laughter]

Jason Richwine, Heritage: ‘It’s the compassionate thing to do.’

Biggs: ‘Exactly.’

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  1. Something else Mr. Edwards said at this event was “Government is static, arthritic. If you lowered pay and benefits, [for federal workers] you’d get turnover, young and fresh people in which (sic) would be a good thing.

    Evidently Mr. Edwards hasn’t heard of federal age discrimination laws? Maybe that’s something else he wants to curtail as a drag on the economy?

  2. Obviously Mr. Edwards, Mr. Biggs, and Mr. Richwine do not understand some of the employment laws associated with the process. In most cases with government positions the latest hired are required to be the first to be let go. This would be counter productive of the claimed attempt to “youthenize” the respective government agencies; including the federal government. There are ways to curb the government hiring practices and that would be to hire older people into government positions. They would become elegible for retirement sooner than younger workers and thus have a higher turnover and keep people from working in a government position for 30-40 years. How about, these respective gentlemen quit their respective currents positions and apply for a local, state, or federal job and take the resulting pay cut? Also, with the current hiring being conducted in any of these positions, how long will it take them to obtain a government position?

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