Local government is hard. In rural areas, it can be like organizing an ongoing bake-sale. In metropolitan areas, it’s more like running a small country.
Today’s big metropolitan governments tend to be run by un-term-limited oligarchs, so of course corruption is endemic. When there’s little competition for power and scant oversight, then the “above-board deals” become, de facto, insider deals.
And we wind up paying more in salaries and benefits for government workers than anything else. Recently, George Will off-handedly noted that in California “80 cents of every government dollar goes for government employees’ pay and benefits.”
Is that “too much”? Had we limited government, we would still expect salaries to make up a huge chunk of government. But since transfer payments are part and parcel of so much of modern governance, the fact that employee compensation packages are actually crowding out other line items should give us more than pause.
Truth is, though, it needn’t be hard to tell who is over- or under-paid, according to economist Arnold Kling:
If you do not have enough sanitation workers because you cannot fill job openings at the current level of pay, then those government workers are underpaid.
On the other hand, if you do not have enough sanitation workers because your budget is busted by the ones you have, then those government workers are overpaid.
Take that notion to your next local government board meeting. Big or small.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.