You know government is too big when Toronto’s baseball team is forced to play its home game in Philadelphia just so G-20 leaders can use the Metro Toronto Conference Center, located just down the street from the Blue Jay’s home field. Do 20 presidents and prime ministers really need an entire conference center? How many aides, assistants, and hangers-on does each of them need to carry their baggage and calculate the size of their debts?
In my recently released book, Saving Schools, I point out that in the United States the number of school professionals per 100 students has doubled since 1960, as has the number of non-professional staff per 100 students. With government employees doubling in number, per pupil expenditures tripled in real dollar terms over the course of the past half century. Inasmuch as federal dollars are now pouring into state and local coffers, we are poised for another leap forward in costs and personnel just as soon as the economy rebounds.
And should the economy continue to falter, monies needed to cover employee pensions will drive the cost escalator forward nonetheless, leaving states and cities ever deeper in debt. A few weeks ago two mayors, Richard Daley of Chicago and Mike Bloomberg of New York, spoke to students at the Harvard Kennedy School. They both agreed that the public employee pension costs were rising at a pace that would soon leave American cities fiscally bereft. Even the New York Times is alarmed at the upward spiral in the cost of government. Unless action is taken, it is said, the U. S. government debt to GDP ratio will in twenty years far exceed the current Greek debt/GDP ratio.
None of all that is as scary, however, as the fact that big, fat government can take the home field advantage away from a professional sports team and its fans. The last times that happened were when Hurricanes Ike and Katrina swept the Astros out of Houston and the Saints out of New Orleans.