Return to Busytown: Firemen, Teachers and Policemen

Richard Scarry introduced millions of children to the adult working world through his famously illustrated books of pigs, dogs, foxes, mice, cats and other animals plying their trade in Busytown and surrounding environs. Scarry illustrated various professions through such icons as Mr. Fixit (a clumsy fox), Sergeant Murphy (a motorcycle-riding dog cop), Miss Honey (a school teaching bear), Doctor Lion, and Smokey, Sparkle and Snozzle (firefighting pigs).

Busytown then and now

Today, A Day at the Fire Station means filling out reams of paperwork and reporting to a diversity coordinator. Busytown has gotten a lot busier, but far less productive.

What Scarry failed to illustrate were the multiplying legions of paper-pushing bureaucrats and administrators who would take over the lion’s share of public sector jobs, pushing out public servants like Sergeant Murphy, Miss Honey and Smokey, Sparkle and Snozzle.

Scarry’s oversight is not his fault; he published these books in an era when public sector jobs were primarily geared toward public service. Now, as anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear understands, the public sector is geared more toward public harassment, rule enforcement and protecting make-work nonsense jobs than it is service.

Unfortunately, President Obama and his fellow travelers on the left appear to be stuck in Busytown where the only public sector employees available to hire and fire are those who serve and protect. So, when conservatives call for cuts in spending, liberals immediately decry the inevitable and massive layoffs of our most beloved public servants: teachers, cops (the only time liberals care about cops) and firefighters. Then, when they advocate for more spending, it’s always going toward hiring more of the same.

In other words, liberals claim they’ll make Busytown busier, thereby strengthening Busytown’s economy by adding more characters to help Sergeant Murphy, Miss Honey and the firefighting pigs. The reality, however, is a far cry from the Utopian children’s version of public sector spending, especially on the Federal level.

First, the Federal government does not directly hire this triumvirate of public service paragons; it does so indirectly by sluicing funding through state and local jurisdictions. Increased spending at the Federal level has very little to do with providing citizens with better service. Rather, it is geared toward perpetuating itself and protecting public sector employees from having to do anything remotely productive.

A quick perusal of USAJobs.gov provides us with a better picture of the Federal government’s hiring priorities: Equal Employment Specialist (salary range: $128,758-$150,000 per year), Supervisory Program Analyst in the Chief of Naval Personnel’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion ($89,033-$136,771), Regional Hearing Office Administrator ($119,554-$179,700), and on and on it goes.

The following from the Dec. 11, 2009 edition of USA Today, reinforced by similar articles in other publications like the New York Times, cannot be repeated often enough to illustrate how average productive Americans are footing the bill for the unproductive:

Federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession’s first 18 months — and that’s before overtime pay and bonuses are counted. Federal workers are enjoying an extraordinary boom time — in pay and hiring — during a recession that has cost 7.3 million jobs in the private sector… When the recession started, the Transportation Department had only one person earning a salary of $170,000 or more. Eighteen months later, 1,690 employees had salaries above $170,000.

In other words, the reality is worlds away from the Busytown of Obama’s alternative universe. So, either Obama is obfuscating about what increased Federal spending really means, or he has convinced himself that he’s Mayor of Busytown.

Moreover, most of us would like to believe that our tax dollars are being spent wisely at all levels of government. The facts, however, indicate they are not. It may be true that when government cuts spending (which usually means a decrease in annual growth, not actual cuts) our most important public servants feel the pinch. This is where the public and private sectors have something in common.

When private sector companies suffer, it’s usually the average worker who suffers. Those at the top bringing in the larger salaries rarely lose their jobs. It’s the same in the public sector.

Teachers, for instance, are more likely to be laid off than the six-figure administrators who control the purse strings. While it’s supposed to be about the “children,” it’s really about the adults and maintaining the lifestyles to which they’ve become accustomed: less work for more pay and benefits that private sector employees can only dream about.

So the next time you hear Obama or any other Democrat wax rhapsodically about hiring more firemen, teachers and policemen, look outside. If you see Sergeant Murphy giving chase to that crazy but lovable purloiner of tropical fruit, Bananas Gorilla, then by all means pull the lever for the Democrat. If you see no such thing, you’re probably not in Busytown, and should vote accordingly.

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