‘Just the facts’ presented about Mesa County’s jobs and economy
Once again, repeat after me: “The government doesn’t create jobs. Only the private sector creates jobs.”
Now, go finish your red Kool-Aid.
There it was last weekend, the subscript to a front-page headline in your Saturday Daily Sentinel once again debunking the mythology that seems to permeate much current politically-correct thinking.
“Most employees receive paychecks from government, health care, retail,” it said, filling in some blanks under the banner headline “Mesa County’s largest employers.”
I can hardly wait to hear the responses from my friends who use only the far right side of their brains.
It seems that six of our top 10 employers are purely government entities. School District 51, Mesa County, the state of Colorado, the city of Grand Junction, the Veterans Administration Hospital and Colorado Mesa University combined provide nearly 7,100 total jobs, according to figures provided to Sentinel reporter Emily Shockley.
Throw in area nonprofits such as Mesa Developmental Services, Hilltop, Hospice and Palliative Care of Western Colorado and health care providers such as St. Mary’s Hospital, Community Hospital, Family Health West, Colorado West Mental Health, Primary Care Partners and Rocky Mountain Health Plans, which rely on government programs for much of their revenues, and you add nearly 5,200 additional jobs.
And you also have 15 of Mesa County’s top 25 paycheck providers.
In the purely private sector, only City Market cracks the top 10. It and the remaining nine private-sector employers in the top 25, add 2,644 jobs to the mix. And that’s assuming United Companies would employ all of its 264 workers if it had no government work to do and that SM Stoller would be around without its work for the federal government. Together Stoller and the U.S. Department of Energy provide 168 jobs.
This is not to place any value judgments on government versus private-sector employment. It’s “just the facts,” as Sgt. Joe Friday used to say on “Dragnet.”
Nor should we ignore the fact that those government jobs are funded by taxpaying workers and businesses. But it’s also readily apparent that a good chunk of those taxes are being withheld from the paychecks of government workers. Many of the jobs they and their counterparts in the private sector hold wouldn’t be around without those government programs reviled by some around here.
Let’s also explore another bit of popular political mythology — that private-sector experience is the best preparation for governing. It’s a popular line in local, state and national campaigns, one I used myself a time or two in my own efforts to get elected, but it mostly ignores some significant differences between the public and private endeavors.
When you gather your private-sector team around the conference table or countertop, you’re dealing mostly with folks you selected (or have the power to de-select.) On the public side, many on your team are selected for you by voters. They may not have the same goals and might have a very different view of their responsibilities to their constituents.
When you’re managing a private business, you’re able to select your target markets and/or the demographic groups you intend to serve. On the public side, your “market” is, or should be 100 percent of the population, regardless of age, income or (and sometimes this seems lost on our representatives in Congress) political affiliation.
In government, a surplus is seen as unreasonable and a reason to cut revenues. That’s not likely the case at City Market, West Star, McDonalds, United Companies, Star Tek, Choice Hotels, Union Pacific, Capco, Stoller or The Daily Sentinel — the private sector firms that cracked the list of top 25 job employers in Mesa County. Their surplus, called profit, is a cause for celebration and a justifiable reward for good management and a job well done.
Again, no value judgments. I’ve managed employees and businesses for others, signed plenty of private paychecks in my own enterprise, still operate a small business and have occasionally collected some government paychecks along the way. I’ve worked hard to generate a profit in the private sector and been forced to return some surpluses while in office.
But I do like to sip my Kool-Aid with a side of reality such as the one provided to all of us in Shockley’s front-page Sentinel story a few days ago.