Two things seem certain when politicians want to spend more money: its either for the children or for cops, firefighters and teachers. Well we are once again hearing that we need additional funding for cops, firefighters and teachers. Citing in nationwide layoffs, the president is asking for increased funding to restore these workers jobs. However, gone mostly unsaid is that the federal government is not the funding source for these workers. Rather, they are funded at the state and local levels and have fallen due to the decline in the revenues within the states. Any funding from the federal government will be temporary at best allowing for re-employment for a short period until the funding runs out. Then they will be subject to layoffs again. Remember Bill Clinton and the funding of 100,000 jobs for cops, firefighters and teachers? Well that program was a failure accused of being pork barrel politics that had little impact on crime. Much of the money went into administration and programs such as teaching children how to fish. Indeed, precious few new cops actually ended up walking beats. I am not making this up. Here is a story from Slate (not exactly a right wing journal) published in 2001 condemning the program as mostly wasteful. (see http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2001/11/invisible_cops.html). As one account of the program concluded “The Justice Department's own audits of the program alleged millions of dollars were misspent and thousands of jobs funded by the grants were never filled. In one case, a New Mexico tribe got $728,125 to hire eight extra officers. After the department closed in 2002, auditors said it was unclear where the money went or whether anyone was hired.” Also remember that one tactic commonly used by governments in the face of budgetary cutbacks is to layoff high profile workers. Instead of lowering the number of workers in administrative positions (the classic paper pusher), they will instead lay off cops, firefighters and teachers. My city of Knoxville has over 380 administrators in our school system alone. My bet is that these will be the last fired rather than the first.
Harold A. Black is professor emeritus in the Department of Finance, University of Tennessee, Knoxville having retired after 24 years of service. He has served on the faculties of American University, Howard University, the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Florida. His government service includes the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and as a Board Member of the National Credit Union Administration. He also has served on the boards of directors Home Savings of America and its parent company, H. F. Ahmanson & Co., Irwindale, California prior to its merger with Washington Mutual Savings Bank, on the board of New Century Financial Corporation, Irvine, California, then the nation’s largest real estate investment trust and as director and later chairman of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He writes an occasional article for the Knoxville News-Sentinel at http://www.knoxnews.com/staff/dr-harold-black/. His web page is haroldablackphd.com