Ag at Large: Spending cap saves income

By Don Curlee | Contributed

Farmers have been so regulated in their use of everything from pesticides to pocket knives, they may be becoming fans of regulation for others. Starting point: the number of tax-supported public employees.

A group of farmers gathered recently at their favorite coffee shop, and decided to not complain about prices for their crops – actually to not complain about anything for a day. Instead they vowed to offer solutions for the situations and circumstances most troubling to them.

One of them suggested returning the state legislature to meeting every other year. Another wanted to split the state into three entities, carving out as much agricultural production as possible for one of them. A third proposed ironclad water conveyance and distribution systems, including groundwater restoration. Each proposition gained its share of support.

But the suggestion that claimed unanimous and enthusiastic agreement was the proposal that the country impose a limit on the number of people who can be public employees – those who are paid by taxpayers. The group agreed unanimously that public employees are at the front of any effort that regulates anybody doing anything. So, cynically suggested, shouldn’t they favor regulation of their own job numbers?

After considerable discussion about police, fire and emergency personnel and other public employees at the local level, the focus turned to the federal government. Eventually it was agreed that the limitation should first be applied there.

All present agreed that imposing a salary cap on public employees outright is too drastic and too controversial to even gain attention in Congress. After all, elected representatives become public employees themselves the minute they are sworn in.

Several methods of initiating a creeping salary cap were voiced. One proposed using national health insurance. To qualify, a person or family must receive a salary (or salaries) only reaching a certain level. Since this method originates with federal officials, tons of qualifying language needs to be developed about the size of the family, length of commute to work, educational achievement, appetite, pets in the household, vaccination dates and more.

It might even ask whether the head of household prefers catsup or mayonnaise on his (or her) strawberries. Strawberries? So much for a questionnaire designed by a federal public employee, the people we used to refer to as civil servants.

Finally one of the participants leaned back in his chair and suggested a strict quota.

“Employees whose salaries are paid from public funds should be limited to a certain percentage – say 10 – of the country’s population,” he said. “If that involves layoffs, begin with the lowest salaries and work upward until the goal is met.”

“Wow! What a concept,” one of the others said.

Convinced that they had arrived at the ultimate solution to the country’s overpopulation of public employees, members of the group leaned back in their chairs to enjoy the last sips of their morning coffee, willing to leave the details of activating their plan to an unspecified committee.

“But what about those who are unionized?,” one member of the breakfast club asked with a gasp.

A little more head scratching over one more coffee refill and the solution materialized.  

“Just allow the federal government to subsidize the union the amount of the dues lost from reduced membership,” one of the brain-stormers offered.  

If some (perhaps millions) of public workers are encouraged to find gainful employment in the  private sector, their income tax payments will easily offset the amount they paid their union in dues. 

Enthusiasm for the idea grew as it was discussed further around the table. The group agreed to share the check of the one who proposed that concept, a real winner.  Finally, smiling broadly, they dismissed to their separate pickups and the day’s work, one of the country’s major problems solved.