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Words from Winterbilt

A time to be thankful – for some of us

Shannon Bohrer

(12/2014) Its fall, the holidays are here, the election is over, and somebody won. I do not live in Syria or the Middle East, or Ukraine, Ebola has not infected anyone in Emmitsburg and yes, life can be good. As my mother used to say, be thankful for what you have, not what you think you should have. Sometimes we get wrapped up with so many things like which one of the 200 television channels should I watch. We can forget what is good and even more so what is important. I have good health, I enjoy my family, I live in a great country, I eat well, and I have great friends and neighbors.

However, not everyone feels the way I do. I was recently in the company of a friend and he began to complain about my optimism, he complained about the economy, the wars in the Middle East, the cost of everything, taxes and the federal government. After he was finished, I said that during this festive holiday season, he must have something for which to be thankful for. He thought for a while, but said nothing. I then said that some people would complain even if you hung them with a new rope. His expression told me that he did not think it was funny. I somewhat apologized for the remark and he then went on a rant about the federal government being too large with too many give away programs, one being Obama care. He basically did not think it is right that his tax dollars were subsidizing someone’s health care. I thought about asking how his thanksgiving went – but then thought better of it, maybe it would be too much rope.

Believe it or not, I did feel sorry for him. Like me, he is semi-retired, he has a retirement income, a good family and neighbors, and he has good health insurance. He has a good life and you would think he would be happy. After a moment of thought, I had a good argument about one of his complaints. I mentioned that he, just like me, also enjoyed subsidized health care, as we are both retired government workers. We both receive the subsidies when working and even in retirement, which means that other tax payers are subsidizing our health care. I also added that he and I do not pay any taxes on the subsidies, in that way it’s like an extra pay check. The argument did not work, he said that our situation was different, it was not a government handout and we worked for it, so we deserved it. He then went on to say how the government has doubled in size since Obama became president and that was the real problem. Too much rope…..spoiled, too invested in his position, won’t admit that one can be wrong, all thoughts with logic - from my perspective. I guess how you view it depends upon your perspective. I did say that I agreed with him that the government is too large. But I added that I would not like any reductions in government that would affect me and/or the services I am receiving. Either I annoyed him or he was having a medical problem, as his face became flushed and started to twitch, he appeared physically stressed.

After a few more words, we parted company and I thought about how two people with similar backgrounds could have such diverse opinions about the same subject. I also thought about what I had heard, especially during the elections, how Obama had increased the size of government. I knew the government had grown, but I did not think it doubled. So - I thought that before I see my friend again I would do a little research, you know, so I could be prepared.

What I found surprised me. In 2013, the federal work force had 2,723,000 employees. (The numbers are for civilian employees and they do not include the military). Of course that’s just a number, but when I did some more research what I found was not what I expected. THE 2,723,000 IS THE LOWEST NUMBER SINCE 1966, when the federal government employed 2,721,000. The current federal workforce is 2 percent of the individuals that are employed. In 1966, the government work force was 4.3 percent of the people with jobs. The federal work force has shrunk, and we now have a 48 year low.

I was surprised, a little confused and happy all at the same time. I have heard about our bloated and oversized government for so long that I believed it. You hear statements on the talk/news shows on a regular basis that would lead anyone to believe that the government is too large and it’s growing. While I was surprised, I was also a little happy. I thought about the next meeting with my friend and how I would bring this information up in a conversation. And then I thought; he would not believe it. No matter what the facts are – some people just won’t believe them.

When I looked closer, I found some more surprising results. President Jimmy Carter left office with 8,000 fewer employees than he started with. President Regan inherited a work force of 2,875,000 and when he left the work force was 3,113,000, an increase of 238,000. At the end of President George H. Bush’s presidency, the federal work force was reduced by 30,000. President Clinton started with a federal work force of 3,083,000 and when he left the work force was 2,703,000, which is a minus of 380,000, the largest reduction since the end of World War II. When President George W. Bush left office the federal work force had increased by 53,000. And, as we already know, President Obama has decreased the federal work force by 33,000. If we examine the U.S. Military we find that in 1966 we had 3,129,000 service members and in 2012 (the last year I found the numbers for), we had 2,697,000 service members. Another reduction…

I started my research with a statement that I found by Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee. On a web site he made a statement that the federal government has doubled in size under Obama. rated his comments as "pants on fire." You have to question why this information is not the headline news you would think it would be. The information is available from multiple sites. Also, why do the republicans keep saying they are the conservative party when their party is responsible for all of the increases in the last 40 years?

"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence" John Adams (1735-1826)

I would hope my friend would agree with me that if you look around the world, I think we have the best government on earth. Yes, it can be improved, we can complain about it, write about it and offer suggestions for change, and that is a large part of why it is so great.

Happy Holidays

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer