Thursday, December 23, 2004
IN MY OPINION (Column)
More Government Deception
By RAY HAYNES
(The writer represents the 66th Assembly District which includes portions of western Riverside County and northern San Diego County.)
One of the most misunderstood problems in government is empire building by the government bureaucrats. Simply stated, the way most bureaucrats earn more money is by growing their bureaucracy. Next time you watch your local city council, listen to how the city manager justifies increases in the pay of his or her subordinates. You will hear him or her compare the salaries paid by other cities for jobs managing “similar numbers of people.” Add people to “manage;” make more money.
The state has the same problem. The way to advance and make more money in state government is to add “responsibility” which translates to hiring more people.
There are a number of jobs the government does that could just as easily be done by the private sector, but are not because if the private sector does the job the bureaucrat employs less people, and therefore makes less money. Take, for instance, the simple job of cleaning government buildings. There are thousands of janitor services in the private sector that clean buildings every day for a very reasonable price. The state of California, however, hires thousands of janitors, protected by civil service, to do the same job.
The management nightmare presented by these employees is significant. The managers have to spend thousands of dollars to fire a janitor that doesn’t do his or her job, because it is extremely difficult to prove that the job problems are the result of employee incompetence.
So the Schwarzenegger administration is trying to hire private janitor services to do the job. However, the bureaucrats who currently run the system are doing everything in their power to undermine that effort. By deliberately understating how many people they need to clean a building, these bureaucrats are lying about how much it will cost to actually clean the buildings owned by the government in order to compete with the private sector.
If there are not enough employees to do the job right, these bureaucrats are simply planning to ask for more money mid-year. Since state law says that the private sector cannot do a job that a government agency can do if both cost the same, understating the cost, and applying for a mid-year augmentation delays the privatization effort for one more year. The bureaucrats hope that the Schwarzenegger administration will forget about the privatization effort, or a new agency head will come in, and not discover the deception until it’s too late.
It is an obnoxious, but typical, effort for the bureaucrats. They know they are going to survive several administrations, so, if one administration, or one administrator, does something the bureaucrats don’t like, the bureaucrats just sit him or her out, delaying, obfuscating, and downright lying to maintain the status quo. In political science some have taken to calling this “director surfing.” Lifetime bureaucrats know that no matter what a new administration’s appointees want, if they can stall the efforts they can ride out the waves of change relatively easily until the new guys go away. The permanence of civil servants is no match for the temporary nature of political appointees. Here, the deception keeps the janitor jobs in the more expensive government hands for a little longer.
This small piece of deception is yet another example of why smaller government is better. Once a government agency, effort, program or job is created, someone has to run it. That person then has a vested interest in making sure the agency, effort, program, or job continues into infinity, so that his or her paycheck is secure. Multiply that by the over 320,000 people currently employed by the state of California, and one soon finds that there are a lot people with a vested interest in bigger government. The more of these folks there are, the more likely they are going to vote (in a democracy) for bigger government.
There is a reason that public employee unions are one of the most powerful force in state government and one of the loudest voices for expanding state government. Every new government employee means more union dues which can be spent lobbying to hire even more government employees.
More money and more effort will be spent trying to make sure that their jobs will be secure, and ultimately, they will vote to raise taxes on the private sector to protect their jobs. The Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of these institutional forces. California will too.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company