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  • w.heinlein w.heinlein Feb 4, 2013 1:45 PM Flag

    Who grows the government? Rhetoric and reality.

    For as long as I can recall, Republican politicians in their campaign platforms, speeches, op-eds, and the mouths of their compliant shills in the media have made attacks on "bloated bureaucrats" in the federal government a staple item. On this board, the usual suspects repeat this line ad nauseum. So I thought it would be interesting to see what has happened to the federal payroll over the past 50 years under both Republican and Democratic administrations. As it happens, the federal Office of Personnel Management keeps exact count of those numbers and posts them on its website. Since Yahoo will automatically scrub any post that contains a link, I can't simply direct you there. But here's what you will find if you go there on your own. The BIGGEST INCREASE in executive branch employment (which is 97% of federal non-military employment) came under Ronald Reagan, from 2,821,000 when he took office to 3,054,000 when he left office. The BIGGEST DECLINE in executive branch employment came under Bill Clinton, from 2,947,000 when he took office to 2,637,000 when he left office. Under Dubya, employment rose again from 2,640,000 to 2,692,000. Under Obama, it rose to 2,774,000 in his first year, then declined to 2,756,000 through the end of 2011, which is the latest date for which OPM posts numbers.

    A more meaningful analysis looks at federal employment as a percentage of total population. During Reagan's term in office, executive branch employment rose from 1.24% to 1.26% of the population. Under Clinton, executive branch employment declined from 1.14% of population to 1.07% of the population. By year end 2011, it had fallen to 0.88 % of the population.

    To sum up, Ronald Reagan, the man who got elected by proclaiming "government is the problem" is the only President in the past 50 years who grew the federal bureaucracy in both absolute and percentage terms. Obama, the supposed "big government liberal" is operating with a federal bureaucracy that is both smaller absolutely and much smaller in percentage terms than the government under the "small government conservative" Reagan.

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    • heilein,

      Yahoo keeled my reply to you with data from Forbes recent article on federal employees. You can search the key words for the data:

      The Growth Of Government: 1980 To 2012 - Forbes
      The federal government exists to serve the population. The number of federal employees needed, should keep pace with the growth in population. However, during the ...

      • 1 Reply to unclefulbert
      • Hi Unc,

        I calcuated federal executive branch employees as a percentage of total population. I deliberately omitted the armed forces, although soldiers, sailors etc. are technically federal employees, because I wanted to address the right-wing complaint about a supposedly bloated federal bureaucracy. And that's also why I omitted state and local government employees.

        I get tired of hearing the same old crapola from the GOP about how "government is the problem" when by their actions they make it completely clear they don't believe their own rhetoric. "Government" is not their problem: government policies that threaten their ability to make money any way they want without any form of oversight and with low or non-existent taxation: THAT is their problem.

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