How Government Spending Cuts Will Lead to Job Losses

09.18.08 | Work | 0 Comments | by Fred Siegmund

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Recently the two presidential candidates and their two parties started arguing about a government project called "The Bridge to Nowhere."

From Wikipedia:

The Gravina Island Bridge, also known as the "Bridge to Nowhere", was a proposed bridge to replace the ferry that currently connects Ketchikan, Alaska, to the Ketchikan International Airport on Gravina Island. The bridge was projected to cost $398 million. Members of the Alaskan congressional delegation, particularly Rep. Don Young and Sen. Ted Stevens, were the bridge's biggest advocates in Congress, and helped push for federal funding. The project encountered fierce opposition outside of Alaska as a symbol of pork barrel spending and is labeled as one of the more prominent "bridges to nowhere".

Both sides now agree the project was wasteful government spending, but both sides claim their opposition to the project shows their commitment to save the taxpayer's money and cut government spending. It is easy to be against wasteful government spending, but neither side has much to say about the role of government in America's jobs or what might happen if government starts saving instead of spending.

Starting in December 2007, seasonally adjusted national establishment employment is down 605,000 jobs. The decline was a mixture of

  • 590,000 jobs gone in manufacturing, construction and mining
  • a 168,000 decrease in private sector service jobs
  • a 153,000 increase in government services employment, including education

If we back up a whole year to August 2007 and look at change over the last 12 months, national employment is down 283,000 jobs but government employment is up 274,000 jobs.

If we back up two years to August 2006 and look at change for the last 24 months, then national employment is up 1.1 million jobs, but government employment is up 476,000. The government increase in jobs is offsetting losses in manufacturing and construction that are not made up by new jobs in private services.

Actually, 22.5 million people work on government payrolls in local, state and federal governments, but many more work on private payrolls as part of government sponsored and government funded projects like the Bridge to Nowhere. The terms "government contractor," "outsourcing" and "privatization" all signify private businesses, but they are private businesses doing government funded and government sponsored work.

Government employment added to government sponsored employment is more than a mere 22 million: much more.

America puts a heavy burden on its jobs by funding social security, Medicare, workman's compensation, unemployment insurance, and health insurance as a cost of employment. The personal income tax requires a higher rate on wages than on corporate dividends.

Both candidates say they will create jobs and we hope they do. It would be a better campaign if the candidates would suggest some new policies toward work and pay.

Right now, and for the foreseeable future, cuts in government spending will cause an unacceptable loss of jobs. The candidates want us to think they can manage the government to save, but without some new attitudes and new policies our government cannot save, it must spend.

Fred Siegmund covers America's jobs as part of work doing labor market analysis and projections for a client base of recruiters, trainers and counselors. Visit him at

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