By Mencken’s Ghost
October 1, 2004
A voracious blob is devouring the nation of its self-reliance, common sense, wealth, competitiveness and freedom. But because it is amorphous and insidious, Americans do not realize how big the blob is and what a threat it is to their standard of living and way of life.
What is the blob, or Blob? The Blob is government bureaucracy and its bureaucratic offspring in the private-sector. Yes, something as boring and seemingly innocuous as bureaucracy is indeed a major threat to the future of the nation.
How big is the Blob? Well, because it is amorphous, its dimensions cannot be determined with accuracy. However, we can discern some of its features.
For example, we know that there are 21 million government employees at the federal, state and local levels. We know that there are 1.4 million words in the Internal Revenue Code, over 100,000 pages of Medicare regulations, and 676 pages to the Medicare reform bill recently signed by President Bush – to identify just a tiny fraction of the Blob.
We know from reliable think tanks that the cost of federal and state regulations is $1.6 trillion, or 17.2 percent of national income. Moreover, we know that Americans have to work until July 11, or 53 percent of the year, to pay the cost of government and the cost of regulations.
We know that the Blob has put American manufacturing at a serious competitive disadvantage in world markets. A recent report released by the National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturers Alliance shows that the United States has higher manufacturing costs than all major competing countries but Germany, largely due to the cost of regulations, lawsuits and health care. Of course, health care costs are high because the Blob destroyed a consumer market in health insurance 60 years ago.
We know that U.S. manufacturing employment has plummeted to a record low of 12 million workers while government employment has skyrocketed to a record high of almost twice as much. We know that private-sector union membership also has plummeted while public-sector union membership has skyrocketed to become one of the largest special-interest groups in local and national politics.
We know that many of the fastest-growing and highest-paying occupations in the private sector have been spawned by the Blob to cater to the Blob, including millions of accountants, lawyers, consultants, administrators and lobbyists.
We know that many of the Blob’s de facto agents in the private sector are Republicans. Because they make a living by catering to the Blob, they have been co-opted politically and no longer support the conservative principle of limited government.
Legislation like the recent Medicare reform bill is manna from heaven to the Blob’s many agents, who will be paid handsomely to interpret the gobbledygook that fills the bill’s 676 pages, including such indecipherable wording as the following:
(a) Exclusion From OPD Fee Schedule – Section 1833(t)(1)(B)(iv) (42 U.S.C. 13951(t)(B)(iv)) is amended by inserting before the period at the end of the following: “and does not include screening mammography (as defined in section 1861 (jj)) and diagnostic mammography.”
We know that interpreting such gobbledygook is make-work, not real work. It is work that does nothing to make the nation more competitive and productive. In fact, it makes the nation less competitive and productive, for it has shifted some of the best and brightest Americans from producing goods and services of value to untangling red tape.
We know that about 25 million Americans are employed either directly by the Blob as government workers or indirectly as private-sector agents. Assuming an average pay and benefits package of $40,000 per worker, the Blob’s payroll totals $1 trillion, a staggering number that excludes the cost of office space, office equipment, travel expenses and other overhead necessary to support all of the Blob’s employees and agents.
We also know that the Blob consumes something more valuable than money, time and talent. It consumes America’s entrepreneurial spirit, self-reliance, freedom and common sense. We cannot measure the loss of these things, but we have plenty of examples to show that the loss is huge.
We are stuck in a vicious cycle. The more bureaucratic that the nation becomes, the more important that make-work becomes. The more important that make-work becomes, the more important that people who do the make-work become. The more important that people who do the make-work become, the more that government and industry are run by lawyers, accountants and bureaucrats. And the more that people in such professions run government and industry, the more bureaucratic that government and industry become.
Can the Blob’s growth be stopped? No, it’s too late. Too many influential people get their power, wealth and status from catering to the Blob.
What’s the answer, then? There are two answers: First, start investing your money in countries with smaller blobs; and second, make sure that your kids become bureaucrats instead of doing real work for a living.
“Mencken’s Ghost” is the nom de plume of an Arizona writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.