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Monday, January 9, 2012

How to Make Leviathan's Growth Understandable

Washington Examiner - By: Tom Elia | 01/03/12 8:05 PM

It is hard to fathom the enormity of the federal government.
With an annual budget of almost $4 trillion, annual deficits of well over $1 trillion, outstanding debt of over $15 trillion, and unfunded future liabilities of well over $50 trillion, Washington has become by far the largest, most expensive organization in the history of human civilization.
The federal government has become so enormous that its growth alone in the last five years measured in the number of employees and the amount of spending dwarfs entire urban populations and other, massive organizations.
An eye-popping example of the immensity of the federal government was recently illustrated by USA Today's Dennis Cauchon, who last week reported U.S. Office of Personnel Management data showing an increase of about 277,500 federal government employees since September 2006.
Every day we see large numbers in reference to the federal budget, the federal deficit, the EU's financial troubles -- you name it. But just how large is this five-year increase of 277,5000 employees in the federal workforce?
To put it into context, the increase in the number of federal government employees hired since September 2006 alone is larger than the populations of all but about the 70 largest cities in the United States.
The number of federal employees added during this period is also larger than the populations of 37 of the nation's state capitals.
How much do these additional employees cost the taxpayers? The average annual federal salary, with benefits, was about $123,000 per civilian employee in 2009, which means that Washington is this year spending about $34 billion more just in the costs associated with net new hires since September 2006.
That additional cost alone is larger than the total FY 2011 budgets of four federal, cabinet-level departments:
* Department of Justice, $31.3 billion
* Department of Energy, $31.2 billion
* Department of the Interior, $13.1 billion
* Department of Commerce, $9.25 billion
The additional cost is also larger than that spent on a number of individual federal agencies and programs in FY 2011:
* NASA, $17.7 billion
* Environmental Protection Agency, $9.2 billion
* National Science Foundation, $6.8 billion
* Army Corps of Engineers, $6 billion
* Small Business Administration, $1.3 billion
In addition, the amount spent this year on these new federal employees will be larger than the entire annual budgets of 36 different states this year.
Many people worry that large corporations wield too much political influence in the U.S.
How does the total annual cost for the more than 277,000 additional federal employees hired in the last five years compare to corporate revenues?
There are only about 270 corporations in the entire world with revenues greater than $34 billion per year, and only 80 of which are in this country, according to Fortune magazine.
Companies such as ($34.2 billion) and FedEx ($34.7 billion) had revenues roughly equivalent to that which will be spent this year just on these new federal employees.
And the amount spent annually on these new federal employees is larger than the revenues generated by huge corporations such as DuPont ($32.7 billion), Sprint ($32.5 billion), General Dynamics ($32.4 billion), American Express ($30.2 billion), Google ($29.3 billion), Time Warner ($26.9 billion), McDonald's ($24.1 billion), Motorola ($22.8 billion), and American Airlines ($22.2 billion).
Of the grievances against King George cited in the Declaration of Independence, one reads:
"He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance."
Compared to the standards being set today, King George was a piker.
Tom Elia edits The New Editor web site and is author of "When Lobsters Take Flight: A skeptic parodies politicians, 'progressives,' potentates, and the press reporting on them all."

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