February 22, 2019

THAT'S WHAT 36 YEARS OF UNINTERRUPTED REPUBLICAN PRESIDENCIES GAVE US:

Think Government Is Big? You Shoulda Seen It in 1984 (Justin Fox, February 4, 2019, Bloomberg)

The federal government had 2.8 million civilian employees in January. That number includes the 800,000 or so people who weren't getting paid because of the partial government shutdown, plus 606,900 postal workers. It doesn't include 1.3 million active-duty military or those employed via government contracts and grants, estimated to be 5.2 million full-time-equivalent positions in 2017 by Paul Light of the NYU Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

That adds up to about 9.3 million people who get their paychecks--when they get them--directly or indirectly from the federal government. That sounds like a lot, but it represents a much smaller share of the U.S. workforce than it used to. The chart below shows only civilian federal workers, but Light's estimates, which go back to 1984, don't change the overall trajectory other than to show a big rise in contract employment during the 2000s that has since mostly reversed. In 1984 there were almost 9.8 million federal workers of all stripes.

Meanwhile, even though federal spending has more than doubled since 1984, adjusted for inflation, it's declined slightly as a share of gross domestic product. And with most federal dollars now going to Social Security, Medicare, and other programs in which money is transferred from one set of Americans to another, spending on everything else--infrastructure investment, the military, government agencies--is down sharply as a percentage of GDP.

Posted by at February 22, 2019 7:05 PM

  

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