One thing the government shutdown has done is to remind us how big government is today and how many government employees there are. When just a quarter of the government shuts down and thousands of “non-essential” employees are sent home, you realize how large the federal government has grown.
Many years ago, I had an opportunity to interview Senator Jim DeMint about his book that warned how the “BIGS” were taking away our liberty. Those would be big government, big business, and big labor. Let’s look at the federal government.
The federal budget last year was $4 trillion dollars. The president and Congress are supposed to manage a bureaucracy with more than 4.8 million employees (if you count military, civilian, and contract employees). No one in history has ever managed such a large organization. Yes, the current president has managed a large company, but it pales in comparison to these numbers. And remember that the previous president had never really managed anything and his previous experience was as a junior senator.
To put this in comparison, let’s look at the two largest companies in the Fortune 500. WalMart employs 2.1 million people worldwide, and about 1.4 million of them are in the United States. Its annual revenue is $482 billion. Amazon employs just over a half million worldwide with annual revenue around $177 billion. If WalMart or Amazon were part of the federal government, they wouldn’t even be the largest federal programs.
Perhaps the difference in scale between the federal government and major U.S. corporations helps illustrate why so many people believe it is too big and too inefficient. When we see “non-essential” federal employees sent home, you can’t blame some of us for wondering whether some of them should stay home permanently.