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Monday, December 20, 2021

The True Size of Government

 Paul Light at TheGovLab:

Presidents rarely miss an opportunity to celebrate the new jobs they create through contracts and grants, but seldom call a press conference to talk about the true size of the federal government’s blended workforce that the spending supports. A bigger government that delivers more services may be back in fashion at the White House, but the true size of government is largely hidden from review.

As Figure 3 shows, most year-to-year changes in the number of active-duty military, civil service, and Postal Service employees are relatively small, but the number of contractors and grantees can rise by thousands during economic crises. Even as the jobs provide desperately needed help to hard-hit communities, they can spark stories about federal handouts and provoke presidential promises to shrink the workforce lest a public interest group such as Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) name another Biden cabinet secretary as its “Porker of the Month.” (Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was named Porker of the Month in October.)