Sunday, May 16, 2010

Here's one to throw under the bus...

For farm program fans who are getting nervous about where to cut the USDA budget other than their payments, how about the USDA Office of Communications?

Here’s an example: the Department of Agriculture’s $10 million Office of Communications. Of the total, $9 million is spent on wages and benefits for its 77 employees, which equals $116,333 per employee. This almost matches perfectly the overall average annual federal employee compensation of $120,000, which is twice the average in the private sector
So federal workers in a PR office are worth twice the average worker in the private sector? And I’m sure they’re all nice people, but do they really add anything to the nation’s GDP?
This program can be summed up in one word: propaganda. The program’s mission statement makes this clear: 
The mission of the Office of Communications is to provide leadership, expertise, counsel and coordination for the development of communications strategies which are vital to the overall formulation, awareness and acceptance of U.S. Department of Agriculture programs and policies, and serves as the principal USDA contact point for the dissemination of consistent, timely information. 
The operative phrase is “awareness and acceptance” of USDA programs and policies. Taxpayers are being forced to pay for a not-so-subtle effort by the USDA to get them to “accept” a $116 billion bureaucracy that subsidizes wealthy farmers and promotes government dependency through food subsidies.  [More]
This may seem like just a cheap shot at a relatively tiny piece of government, but until it dawns on us how we will really have to reduce spending - i.e. eliminate thousands of tiny bureaucracies/programs for penny-by-penny savings - we won't make any progress at all.

[Update:  Wes Mills the producer for USFR and AgDay reminds me we routinely use releases from the USDA OC for the shows. This illustrates another aspect of cutting the budget - almost every program/activity funded by tax dollars has constituents who do not want to see it cut. There are very few easy spending cuts.]


Anonymous said...

The wage differentials are the result of our Wal Mart economy. Private industry has been going backwards. Unions have been broken, good jobs and industries have been sent overseas, and benefits have been reduced or eliminated. Whats left is a service economy with lower wages. Welcome to the world of globalization that the titans of industry have pushed upon America. Sounds like Cato endorses a wage race to the bottom. Well we are well on our way.

John Phipps said...


Wage levels should reflect value of labor. In this case I don't think there is much.

You are right about the race to the bottom, although I believe it to be driven by the elimination of many types of work due to technology - not off-shoring.

Anonymous said...

Yep I agree I should have listed technology as a factor too.

Only problem I have with your value of labor comment is that the theory falls apart when you look at the compensation rates paid to CEOs.

Overall, declining wages are also the price we are paying for companies finding markets overseas to fuel continued expansion. Our economic system is essentially a Ponzi scheme and continued growth is necessary to keep the scheme working even if it does leave a lot of people in the ditch here at home.

From Virginia said...

John, while PR is a tiny piece of government as you say, it is bigger than you think. The data you cite is just from the Secretary's Office of Communication. On top of that, each of the 26 agencies within USDA also have their own PR shops. Multiply this across government and it adds up.