Government should not pay employees more than the private sector…

One way to cut down on government spending would be to index the salaries of government workers to the private sector, so said a Tea Party spokesman.

I thought about that a long time ago.

That was when I was working as a reporter on a small town daily (except Sunday) newspaper. My salary was low. To be fair, I have to admit the requirements for the job were not high. There was no actual requirement to have a college education. At that point I only had a year of junior college completed.

Nonetheless, I took my job seriously and felt that I had to understand a lot of things. And I felt I used what creative talents I had (I was also a news photographer).

I lived in the town where I had gone to high school. I had a family — wife and two children. While I took the job because I felt it was more suited to me than other types of work, and while I did enjoy it immensely (most, well much, of the time), I was not just doing it for the fun of it.

It always seemed curious to me that people thought since I was a journalist I must make fairly good money (well some people did anyway). Working as a reporter I had some status, but I was often chagrinned to find that people who were supposedly working at jobs of lower status often made more money than I did.

And even though my employer did not require a college education, it was an implicit understanding that one needed to be the college type to do the job.

So it bothered me that the county was hiring clerk typists, whose only requirement, besides a high school diploma (I think) was that they type 45 words per minute (not really sure about the exact WPM number) — no thinking and creativity required.

The equivalent position at my newspaper, a typesetter, paid far less than the county clerk typists. And worse yet, a starting clerk typist for the county made far more than I did.

As reporters, at the time we used the old manual typewriters. I think most of us did a kind of variation of the standard hunt and peck method.

Sheriff deputies who booked prisoners did the same — hunt and peck. But once when the sheriff was asking for permission from the Board of Supervisors to buy a typewriter for jail booking he said they needed an electric one because the old manual was too cumbersome.

Another time the planning director said his employees needed to use county cars and not just be reimbursed for their mileage on their personal vehicles because other members of their families, such as spouses, needed the family car.

Well gee, that was the situation in my family, but my employer did not think it cost effective to supply cars to reporters.

And maybe the employer was right in the business sense.

So the point of all this nonsense here is that government does not seem to have to follow economic rules or business rules.

And while I would be the first — the very first — to say government is not business, I do think that in the area of budgeting, some economic rules should be followed.

I think government should be a top class employer. But government agencies should not have to pay employees a lot more than the private sector and should not buy equipment at a higher grade than they need or pay inflated prices for it just because they are government.

P.s.

In more recent years in casual conversation a fellow truck driver volunteered to me that his wife worked for the city as a secretary to some city big wig. She had a private telephone line in her office she could use for her own personal calls — at taxpayer expense.

Ps. P.s.

Just something to keep in mind as you file your taxes…

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