Menckens Ghost

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The endangered American beast of burden

By Mencken’s Ghost
Dec. 4, 2012
In rounded numbers, there are 112 million workers in the private sector.  Of these, only 18 million are in such goods-producing industries as manufacturing, mining, and oil and gas production.

These 112 million workers produce the wealth that funds government workers and the people who are dependent on government, as summarized below:


§         22 million government workers, plus


§         66 million welfare recipients (100 million according to some estimates), plus


§         62 million Social Security and Medicare recipients (including those under the age of 65 on Social Security disability), equals


§         150 million in total.


These 150 million, then, are funded from the wealth produced by 112 million private-sector workers.  Stated differently, every private-sector worker has to carry 1.34 people.

That’s not totally accurate, though.  It’s not totally accurate because some large but undeterminable percentage of the 112 million private-sector workers are in jobs that would not exist if it were not for the regulatory state.  They are de facto government workers, because, although they work in the private sector, they do required government paperwork, compliance work, tax reporting, and legal filings.  It is not a stretch to say that 20% of the 112 million, or 22.4 million, are in such jobs.  That would leave only 89.6 million workers to create wealth for everyone else.

As an example of private-sector jobs that exist because of government regulations, there are 179,500 medical records technicians.  This is an occupation that exists for the most part because of 70 years of the government messing up the healthcare industry.  What used to be an uncomplicated business (the patient got treatment and paid the doctor, hospital or pharmacy) has been transformed into a paperwork nightmare, in which the healthcare provider has to jump through hoops of insurance companies and government agencies. 

Sure, some of these 179,500 jobs still would have been necessary if the government had not messed up the healthcare industry, but most exist because of the mess. 

Worse, there are 12 million healthcare workers, and probably half of them are paid with Medicare and Medicaid funds.  Even more will be dependent on the government when ObamaCare is fully enacted.  Correction:  They will be dependent on a shrinking minority of private-sector workers who actually create wealth.

Another example:  there are 515,000 human resources specialists and managers, most of whom spend considerable time complying with labor laws, Erisa regulations, discrimination laws, and other workplace regulations.

Then there are 1.1 million people in law and legal services, and 1.8 million in accounting, bookkeeping and auditing.  How many of these jobs exist because of regulations and the tax code?  The number can’t be determined, but it is bound to be a large number.

Oh, let’s not forget the defense industry, which employs 801,000 civilian employees and 766,000 contractors--jobs that wouldn’t exist without defense spending.  And here are some additional kicks to the groin:  The average annual wage in the defense industry is $80,175, versus $74,817 for the federal workforce, and versus a measly $44,410 for the nation as a whole (source:  January 2013 Reason Magazine).

There are enough other examples to fill a couple of pages, but you get the distressing point:  Private-sector workers who actually create wealth are beasts of burden for everyone else.

They also are a political minority.  Not only don’t they have the votes to stop Leviathan, but they also don’t have the organization and lobbying power of those who want something from the government, such as AARP, which has 35.7 million members; or the American Medical Association, which lobbies on behalf of its 215,000 members for government subsidies.

The beasts of burden will eventually collapse from the load, leaving everyone else to fend for themselves, although they won’t know how.   I hope I’m still around to watch the fun.



Mencken’s Ghost is the nom de plume of an Arizona writer who can be reached at

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