178 comments

Can We All Stop This Fucking Complaining About our Government?

“Obama knows nothing about economics. He’s driving us into a hole”

“The Politicians are all sold to the highest bidder. It’s all a ruse and I can’t believe the voters think they have any say”

“Our whole economic system is a conspiracy, controlled by just a few elites who hold secret meetings. The US Federal Reserve is in on it. The rest of us are slaves to them and we are all so screwed.”

BULLSHIT!!!

Reading comment like these, I feel like I’m alternately tuning into Fox News while dancing naked at a Tea Party rally, or reading George Orwell’s 1984 while hiding in an underground cave. I’ve got a better solution for people who like to make statements like those above: try a little bit of OPTIMISM!!

I’m a new citizen of this great country. I sat in the big room with the flags and recited my oath with 99 other people from other countries just 410 days ago. Since then, I’ve been on a crash course reading books on US history and the politics of the past and present, as well as that of the rest of the developed world.

Want to know what I learned? The US political system is really not that bad. Want some more evidence? Go and learn a few things about OTHER COUNTRIES. Of course, most people never do this, because they don’t show things like that on the television, but the information is out there waiting for you.

If our government was really that shitty, and the system really so rigged, would we really have such a free, open, and prosperous country when ranked among the over 200 other nations on Earth? True, we’re not the very best, but we are still pretty fucking high up the scale.

Visit a national park and talk to the rangers, and notice their peaceful respect for the land. Those are government employees! Visit the atmospheric research center or NASA and talk to the scientists. They’re brilliant, humble and valuable citizens acting out the will of the people – you and I. If you’re really feeling bold, go commit a crime and get yourself arrested. Observe the treatment you get, and the trial and punishment. Then go commit the same crime in Iran and compare the results.

Learn about Afghanistan and Pakistan, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Why are these places such a living hell? It’s because their governments are FAR MORE CORRUPT! Even Mexico, blessed with immediate proximity and free trade to the world’s biggest economy, is absolutely crippled and dysfunctional compared to the country sitting just on the other US border: Canada.

All of these countries have the same species of being living in them. Their intelligence levels are very similar. The biggest difference: the quality of their governments!

The US government is made up of MOSTLY REASONABLY HONEST, REASONABLY COMPETENT public servants. There are a few assholes and a few power addicts, just as there are in any private company. This is a natural byproduct of the fact that the human race doesn’t function perfectly in large groups (observe the history of tribal and later world wars). But you can get an idea of how well the government functions by looking at their work: the country.

I give the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia very high marks in good government. They’re near the top of the world.

So please stop the fucking complaining and conspiracy theories. These guys are not as bad as you think. Read what the most honest among business leaders are saying about the politicians – these people actually have personal relationships with the president and congress. They’re just like you and me.

I’ve noticed that politics and big business are almost like becoming financially independent and this blog. The majority of the country whines about how the odds are stacked against us and only the already-rich can get ahead because the world is not fair. If you ignore the complaints and conspiracy theories and just get to work, you can get as rich as you want. At this point, everyone will accuse you of lying and make excuses for why your story is not representative of real possibility in the world.

Similarly you (yes YOU!) can become a corporate CEO, you can have meetings with the president, you can BE the president, or you can work in government to try to help out with public policy. At this point, everyone beneath you will accuse you of being corrupt and being paid off by corporations and other bullshit that is true at the margins but very inaccurate when applied to government as a whole. Even if you’re the best and most honest leader the world has ever known.

Life works better with optimism. Put that shit on your mirror and repeat it until you are no longer tempted to write shit like the complaints you see on yesterdays’s post about house and stock prices.. or.. update.. some of the shit you see in today’s comments as well. If you want change, go out and make it yourself. But focusing on what you want to DO, rather than how you don’t like what others have DONE, is the only way to do it.

  • Jaswisco May 10, 2012, 3:16 pm

    Wow – this column might challenge MMM’s ability to read all the comments. I come here for financial stuff rather than politics, but I agree with MMM.

    We live in an incredibly free country with amazing opportunities (economic and otherwise) for everyone who lives here. Some things could be improved on, but to me the whole notion of complaining about the government, corruption, unfairness just gives one a sense of being a victim of powers beyond their control, which is the opposite of the path to empowerment.

    If you feel like something should change, then work towards that change, but if you feel oppressed and powerless in the USA in the 21st Century and you want to know who to blame, look in the mirror.

    Reply
  • Ano May 10, 2012, 3:35 pm

    Cutting to the heart of the message – about being optimistic and focusing on what I want to do – thanks for this much-needed swift kick to the rear, MMM.

    Reply
  • Lars May 10, 2012, 3:53 pm

    I respected you so much, MMM, and then you go and post something like this and completely raise my level of respect for you! I’m loving the face punches to political whiners. Keep speaking your mind, brother.

    Reply
  • Ed May 10, 2012, 3:59 pm

    Ignorance and blind optimism with exclamation points. Yes, America is much nicer than countries it has bombed, conquered, fought proxy wars in and exploited.

    Even with ignoring the reasons and the history of why the US is a nicer place to live than the world’s slums and battlefields, there is still value in understanding the opportunities and advantages one has in being there than those alternatives. Blind optimism is not the best way, especially when that medical problem that should have been covered by your insurance bankrupts your family, or when your major clients move to China, or your military clients close up shop because the unnecessary wars have slowed, or maybe you get fired one day because your company doesn’t need a valid reason to do so.

    Blaming Obama for all your problems is just as infantile as exclaiming that “you can BE the president!”

    tl;dr: Yes you’d be better off in the US than in Laos, Iraq, Mexico or Chile but that’s because of what the US has done to the other nations and their people. Even still, you’d probably be better off in Canada.

    Reply
  • Joy May 10, 2012, 4:15 pm

    MMM isn’t our Government’s debt an EMERGENCY?

    Do you feel optimistic about the national debt?

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  • Stevie G May 10, 2012, 4:28 pm

    love the Llama

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  • C40 May 10, 2012, 5:36 pm

    You’re correct. Why not write these posts in a bit more of a positive way? They’re coming off as a bit negative and a bit oxymoronic.

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  • andrew May 10, 2012, 5:53 pm

    I hope you at least take the blinders off when riding your bike. I wouldn’t want you to get hurt.

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  • Dragline May 10, 2012, 6:12 pm

    Depends on what you mean by “EMERGENCY.” If you mean, will life as we know it end tomorrow, next month, next year or five years hence, the answer is clearly no.

    So its not an EMERGENCY, but it is a big problem. Although not even a new kind of problem. Its an old, banal kind of problem that has happened over and over again throughout history and takes years to resolve every time it happens. Read “This Time Its Different” for the history of these things.

    And historically it only gets solved in one of three ways (or a combination): (1) Pay the debts by raising net revenue (taxes – spending) or finding a magic horde of treasure (unlikely); (2) default on some or all of the debt; and/or (3) inflate the debt away through devaluations and plain old money-printing. All of them involve pain to somebody. Note that this process usually takes up to a decade or more. Another clue that its not an “EMERGENCY”.

    Politicians and their surrogate lackey economists want to tell you there’s a fourth way — ‘”grow the economy to pay the debts”. But don’t believe economists with their endless theories based on unreasonable assumptions. Economics is not science — its really a modern quasi-religion with numbers. Trust real historical data instead. History tells us that the only time the “growth option” worked was in Britain in the decades following the end of the Napoleonic wars when they essentially had a monopoly on the industrial revolution. And it took several decades. That’s not going to happen again, although both parties cling to this magic growth option because they don’t want to admit the truth about the pain to come. It conflicts with the desire to be re-elected.

    So if you believe the debt is an EMERGENCY that needs fixing, what you really need to do is tell your politician which pain scenarios you prefer. And if you want the problem solved quickly you need to be willing to accept a solution that causes you pain and spreads it around. That’s how we get to a consensus in a system like ours. Last time we chose devaluation of the currency and higher net revenue, mostly through taxes.

    But right now we’re not ready to accept the reality of the coming pain and so cannot really have the conversation. I expect we’ll need another crisis before any real conversation will be had. Democratic systems have a very difficult time taking any decisive actions without the impetus of a another crisis.

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  • Patrick May 10, 2012, 7:04 pm

    So we aren’t allowed to complain about our government because other governments are worse? MMM – that’s some messed up logic.

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  • smedleyb May 10, 2012, 9:28 pm

    Let’s agree on a few things:

    1) We are the freest planet on the nation. The fact that we’re having this conversation proves it.

    2) The US is filthy rich. When we complain about the quality of our lives, 85% of the world responds “Really? Wanna swap?”

    3) We each control our own destinies. In spite of systemic forces, we can forge good lives through hard work and honesty. Those who dispute this have been feasting at the trough of cynicism far too long.

    4) The future is replete with possibilities: I see the rise of amazing social groups like MMM exchanging information, to an alternative energy revolution in the incipient stages, not to mention that ours is a culture of innovation, technological savvy, and intense entrepreneurial drive which will fuel this huge economy for decades to come.

    That said, I see tremendous obstacles ahead as we navigate our way through these treacherous times:

    1) a huge chunk of the population have lost their way in a fog of debt and unchecked consumerism.

    2) the preoccupation with bling in all it’s forms has blinded (numbed) the citizenry and allowed our political system to be corrupted and slanted by corporate interests who place quarterly profits over the public good.

    3) the revolving door between public service and private enrichment has turned our representatives into greedy, self-serving puppets for the special interest groups that fill their election coffers.

    4) our republic has been perverted in some inexplicable quest to “police” the globe. We spend more on military outlays than nearly the rest of the world combined. As a corollary to this, we have the largest prison population in the world, both in absolute terms and in % terms. Why is Freedom so well armed both internationally and domestically?

    5) as a student of history, I can tell you that western democracies can be nominally democratic at home, but abroad they adopt policies and strategies which can only be described as cruel and inhumane. “They” hate us because we do some nasty shit abroad. It’s called blowback, and this is one area when Anarcho-syndicalist like Chomsky and Libertarians like Ron Paul can find tremendous common ground — in addition to their mutual disdain for centralized states/governments.

    The thing is, be an optimist, but also keep your head on a swivel, because not all is right in the world.

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  • Gregg May 10, 2012, 9:49 pm

    Tweet of the year:

    “This just in: Obviously we can’t, judging by the comments :-)”

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  • Joe @ Retire By 40 May 10, 2012, 11:59 pm

    I think the government did ok with the recession. It could have been a lot worse.
    I went through the citizenship ceremony too and it was quite moving. A lot of people don’t appreciate the privilege they were born with.

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    • Cocolaka May 11, 2012, 1:18 am

      I like to add the point of view of a Franco-American point of view where the good and the evil of the 2 systems have been lived.
      First, both my wife and I have an expertise that made us switch to be independent in our work and demand our employers to accept that we work from home. The next step is to slowly work less and less and finally live from our passive income mainly and maybe doing some freelancing for our liking to work.
      MMM is right on the money (funny to use this expression), by saying that it is good to be independent financially. This is where we aimed to be but I have to disagree about not demand our government to improve the overall quality of life of the residents of the country.
      The reason we are in France and not in the States is because we like to be in a country that understands that having children is good for the country (free and good education, aid to take care of the children, serious reduction for public transportation and tax break, very cheap daycare), that understands that you should care about your health but should not care about how you should pay it (MMM: how do you finance your Health bill if you have a cancer or have a nurse for the time remaining in your life while your health care provider does not provide you what you need financially).
      I think you can always find a way to leave with less revenues, way to have a serious racket from the government with all the taxes if at least you do not have to foresee a huge debt due to some foreclosure ( oh yes, no way there could have been home loans not covered by insurance in France) or credit card large debt and therefore bankruptcy or some chronic illness that made you broke.
      So funny as it sounds, my hourly fees are better with French companies and I have great Health care for my kids!
      So is capitalism such a good deal? And yes we should care about politics because this is also part of our choices!
      I am proud to be French and as many expatriates, being US citizen is a burden lately. Way of being independent financially is much easier in France!
      My parents-in-law leave with us due to all of the above in the US.
      I like the US to change and really care about people before caring about corporation.
      After all half of my family is American and I care About them. I can see that my French family has a much better life and this is a pity.

      Another thing matters: eat, act and work local! Never being so true with our Energy crisis!

      And yes, two things should change:
      – companies are not people and do not have the same rights like freedom of speech
      – no limited liabilities for shareholders so they can take full responsibilities of stupid investments!

      The end of the capitalism we know of is near hopefully…. If people want so… Cannot believe there is not much demonstrations in the US… Pretty sad.

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  • Joy Host May 11, 2012, 1:19 am

    I flagrantly disregarded the new comment guidelines just to say: THANK YOU!!! I ABHOR political complaints/fights/conspiracy theories OR constant criticism because they’re so divisive, and because I hate the victim mentality of either political party or ANYONE, for that matter. Thus, I LOVED today’s post.

    Also: buying a bike this weekend! Traumatized as a kid, but I am taking the plunge. Too much good NOT to do it!

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  • Jeff May 11, 2012, 7:22 am

    “The US political system is really not that bad.”

    Know how it got that way? We never stop complaining.

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  • Brian West May 11, 2012, 9:10 am

    The Founding Fathers, slaves, women, and Dr. King should have just looked on the bright side.

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    • Mr. Money Mustache May 11, 2012, 9:48 am

      They DID – believing that change was possible and working towards it, rather than focusing on complaints. When you read interviews with any of those great change agents, they talk more about what they are doing and what needs to be done.. and less about how shitty things currently are.

      You’ve just misunderstood the point of this article. And the whole blog! This shit I’m writing is all about change – MASSIVE change! I want to change the whole consumption pattern of the entire rich world – do you really think I’m advocating contentment with the status quo and inaction for all??

      It’s just the complaining that I’m complaining about (yes, I realize the irony of that). But I’m also proposing some sort of positive action and change in almost every post.

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      • Aaron May 12, 2012, 8:48 am

        “They DID”

        Boom! Love that comment, MMM. Most concise follow up to the initial post possible. In fact, you should make that an actual follow up post to everybody who doesn’t seem to get it. They got up and DID something. It seems like people here are too often conflating “using your words” with “complaining”.

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      • Brian West May 13, 2012, 10:30 am

        No, I get the point of your blog entry and, I’d like to think, your blog. But I think you’re building a false dichotomy between talk and action. They’re rarely mutually exclusive and often symbiotic.

        It’s not always that clear cut, either. Is the guy speaking out about budget cuts at a PTA meeting taking action, or just complaining? Is the editorial in a local paper (or on a finance blog) meaningful action, or just talk?

        You want to change the consumption patterns of the 1st world? Voicing discontent with the status quo is part of the process.

        Yes, yes, we need action. But when people complain in the comments section of a blog, don’t assume those folks never take any action as a next step. The comments you’re bashing might have been made by the very “do-ers” you’re lauding.

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        • Aaron May 15, 2012, 5:30 am

          “When you read interviews with any of those great change agents, they talk more about what they are doing and what needs to be done.. and less about how shitty things currently are.”

          THAT is the other side of the very real dichotomy that MMM is building.

          Is the guy speaking out against budget cuts at a PTA meeting complaining? That depends. Is he saying “these budget cuts are too deep/shallow” or is he saying “rather than cutting school lunches, I think we can reduce the varsity sports budget by 20%”. Same issue, different response- in one he has offered a potential solution and moved the discussion forward and in the other he has just complained.

          So if MMM says “Stop all this fucking complaining”, he is complaining. If MMM says “Stop all this fucking complaining because you could be focusing on A,B and C to help better your station”, he’s moving the discussion forward.

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  • Cocolaka May 11, 2012, 12:43 pm

    I do agree with the fact that people can change the way a society works by just changing their way of life. Consuming local produce, biking, living close to the school, work from home are many ways of reducing the society’s needs for consumption of useless stuff.
    So positively reacting instead of complaining is definitely the way to go.
    For this I agree 100%.
    government support the use of petroleum but if people do not want to drive, I guess petroleum will not be a problem. Of course o
    It is simplifying things but at the end, if people do not consume the useless needs companies try to create, we shut down the useless products market.

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  • Entity325 May 11, 2012, 6:01 pm

    I started reading this post resolving not to reply, because I was sure I knew what it was about, and that it would put my blood on edge again.

    Nope, I predicted wrong. MMM is, once again, entirely right. The United States are the greatest nation on the face of the planet, in spite of(or perhaps as indicated by?) what everyone else wants to say about us. Nowhere else in the world can you be born an orphan in a slum and grow up to be a powerful and wealthy politician by naught but your own merits.

    I think what people argue about is how best to make the US better. Is it better to hand everyone who’s hungry a sandwich whether they’ve done anything to earn it or not, or is it better to hand them a shovel, and say “You can dig this irrigation ditch for me and I’ll give you ten dollars, or you can sit there and do nothing, and I won’t give you anything.”

    And the funny thing is, there’s going to be a 50/50 split among the readers of this very blog about which of the options in the above paragraph, at face value, is the best way to help someone out.

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    • Cocolaka May 12, 2012, 12:59 am

      I disagree with the statement. You can grow be successfull in a lot of other countries. The problem is that you think money or power is what characterize success? I believe it is quality of life. No need for a large amount of money or power to achieve this. All comes with reasonable amount, that is all.

      In the US, we can have issues such as letting someone dying on the street because he is diabetic and nobody gives him work after working 30 years and be laid-off?

      Not sure I agree with you.

      Reply
  • Rich M. May 11, 2012, 9:12 pm

    BTW, That would be the atmospheric research by NOAA, not NASA, NOAA is just south of you here in Boulder in case you didn’t know MMM.

    NASA is a great govt org, but we at NOAA do all the great research on the atmosphere! ;)….and and the ocean…for future consideration.

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    • Mr. Money Mustache May 12, 2012, 7:17 am

      Thanks Rich.. But I know that, silly! That’s why I wrote the atmospheric research center OR NASA. They both take some bad press, especially the bigger NASA.. But when you talk to the people at either, you realize “hmm, maybe this IS research worth investing a tiny fraction of our GDP in!”

      Reply
  • Mr. Risky Startup May 12, 2012, 3:22 pm

    Awesome post!

    Agree completely. My wife and in-laws are Americans (wife Democrat, parents staunch Tea-party Republicans). All they ever do is bitch about their government, presidents, taxes…

    My point is all the same – Bush and Obama were democratically elected by American voters. Yes, there are questions about election in 2000, and I am not sure I like electoral college business, but that is constitution that Americans chose to have.

    So, if you don’t like the government, vote for someone else and hope most Americans do the same. If you really do not like them, then get involved – run for the office or help someone else whom you like run for the office. In any case, it is YOUR government, regardless if you voted for the person in the office today.

    Most Americans whine about it, but do NOTHING about it. In fact, huge number of people do not even vote! How can you complain about something when you could not even be bothered to spend 10 minutes and make your voice heard?

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  • Roger T May 13, 2012, 9:14 am

    I apologize if someone has already posted this, but I am reminded of the great Churchill quote that goes something like “democracy is the worst form of Government ever invented…except for all the others…”

    The gridlock we see in our Government is a planned result of the checks and balances of our system — I have no problem with that!

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  • GE Miller May 14, 2012, 6:01 pm

    Can we separate government workers and our political system?

    Most non-politician government employees are some of the finest people in the world. They have selflessly turned down higher incomes and career opportunities to publicly serve their country in jobs that were created out of necessity.

    We need to fix our political system though. MMM, there are two things about U.S. politics that you must admit are inferior to Canadian politics:

    1. 2-Party system. Two results in too much dysfunction. Your either pro choice (democrat) or pro life (republican), etc., etc. Unfortunately, the voting bases have come down to evangelical Christians/pro-business rights/anti-Union vs. everyone else. It pits one side against the other on every major political issue and there is no room for middle ground or thinking differently than your party. 3 or more functional parties, as Canada has, breaks up a lot of that us vs. them mentality.

    2. PAC/SuperPAC/501C4’a used to create lies and misinformation through advertising, paid for by big dirty money, to influence elections. This is not allowed in Canada, for damn good reason.

    Being vocal about disdain for the system and voting for things that you think might impact them are really the only two things you can do. Is that complaining? Should we say nothing and let the system further divide our country and drive it into the ground?

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    • John May 14, 2012, 6:48 pm

      To be accurate, government workers are paid more in 41 states. And Federal Employees are paid more than their private counterparts. It’s a common misconception that public employees are paid less for not being in the private sector.

      http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-03-01/politics/30056377_1_public-employees-private-workers-government-employees

      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304724404577295502528869614.html

      I know plenty of awesome, hardworking public workers. But your statement is not borne out by the facts.

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      • GE Miller May 14, 2012, 8:50 pm

        Of the two links you sent, the first is a blog opinion piece on the WSJ, which is owned by News Corp., which also owns Fox News, and is owned and run by Republican Rupert Murdoch. In 2010 News Corporation gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association and $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – so no conflict of interest there….

        The second says “The analysis included full and part-time workers and did not adjust for specific jobs, age, education or experience.”

        All of those highly educated private sector jobs – McDonalds, Wal Mart, Target, Burger King, Subway, Taco Bell, Kroger, Best Buy, Sears, JCPenney – must have really inflated the private sector averages. What was I thinking?

        Please give it a little more effort than cutting and pasting the first two links that pop up in a Google search for “public sector employees paid more”.

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        • John May 14, 2012, 10:25 pm

          No problem, here’s an article from ABC (not a conservative bastion for the news) and it directly quotes the CBO report:

          http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/01/federal-government-pay-tops-businesses-cbo-report/

          “Compared with private sector employees, federal workers are paid about 16 percent more when benefits including health insurance, retirement plans and paid vacation are taken into account, according to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office.”

          Yes, there are some exceptions, but in general Federal Workers are paid more than their private counterparts. So your comment about the “sacrifices” these public employees are making in salary is a fallacy.

          Your welcome.

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          • GE Miller May 15, 2012, 6:11 am

            This is still not an apples to apples comparison, and you know it.

            The article you linked to said, “51 percent – have at least a bachelor’s degree compared with 31 percent of non-government workers.” Consider that there are less than 3 million federal employees, more than half with advanced degrees, yet there are tens of millions of minimum wage “private sector” workers who work fast food, retail, agriculture, other low paying jobs.

            They SHOULD make more on average. If they didn’t, it would be a fucking crime. The fact that their pay is roughly equivalent, as the article states, tells me that federal workers are underpaid for their education level, not overpaid. The articles goes on to state, “Government workers with advanced degrees, like a graduate degree or Ph.D, earned about $15 per hour less working for the federal government than their counterparts in private businesses.”

            I’m reading these articles you’re linking to. Are you? You’re only further proving my point.

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            • Cortney May 15, 2012, 7:48 am

              You don’t know me, but I love you, haha. Nice rebuttals and solid evidence backing your position. I find myself doing similar things on FB when my crazy friends/family post things without researching.

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            • Steve May 15, 2012, 11:45 am

              He just supplied you with information from the link you sited. 51% of federal workers have at least of bachelor’s degree compared to 31% in private industry. They are on average 4 years older. You’d expect them to be paid more.

              As a former local government employee, I can say without a doubt, that the pay in private industry is much higher than the government.

              The average pay for high school educated worker is 30K. The average for 4 year degree is 52K. If you normalize these numbers for college education percentage, you’ll find that federal workers are being shorted 3%, not even taking into account they are 4 years older.

              I think you’ll find that this issue that you are inflamed over…simply does not exist.

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            • john May 15, 2012, 2:58 pm

              I’m not inflamed, I’m just taking issue with his statement that federal/government workers selflessly sacrifice a higher salary for the public good. The CBO’s numbers simply do not bear this out:

              http://www.cbo.gov/publication/42921

              These are directly from the CBO. Yes, those with PhD’s and similar advanced degrees receive less. However, all the way up to a Master’s Degree, the government employee receives a higher salary and benefits. At most it could be considered a wash.

              But the whole self-sacrificing a salary to help the public is bunk. Their wages are often more and at the very least comparable.

              Also, I don’t think government workers should have a higher relative salary to those with similar jobs in the private sector, who are paying their salaries. I think working for the public sector should result in a sacrifice in salary, but in most cases it simply does not. And I have a problem with people who keep distorting the truth on this issue.

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            • Steve May 15, 2012, 3:18 pm

              You see the wages are very close between the two and for college degree up through doctorate private industry begins to come out ahead.

              If you remove VA, GI Bill, Military Pension I bet these benefits will be much closer to private industry.

              I was a government employee, and I couldn’t afford it. It sucked. Now there are exceptions. I know some middle management in government with 3-6 employees that are compensated much higher than they should be. But by the same token, private industry has folks that will never earn the 15 million dollar bonuses they’ve voted themselves.

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            • GE Miller May 15, 2012, 4:14 pm

              “Don’t let your liberal talking points get in the way of the facts”

              ~ says the conservative who links to conservative media articles with data that inconveniently proves his conservative talking points mute if he had actually READ THE ARTICLES BEYOND THE HEADLINE.

              All I’m doing is reading the actual #’s in the article you shared to make your points and you fall back to “liberal talking points”.

              Do you honestly think that given an equal education/role comparison that you could consistently get paid more in government jobs than the equivalent private sector jobs? Why don’t you set aside your Union-busting hatred for one moment and do some actual research. Better yet, prove us wrong. Go apply for a few of those lavish, high-paying government jobs and let us know what kind of salary offers you get. The truth shall set you free.

              I don’t hear any retail, food service, hotel/travel, migrant, agricultural employees exactly bragging about their benefits. Why? Because they don’t have any benefits. Their minimum wage salaries won’t allow them to pay for basics like health insurance or make retirement contributions and their employees don’t pay for that. Who wants those jobs that drag down the private sector averages? Do you? I suppose we should strip govt. workers of their benefits so that they can race to the bottom as well?

              For the record, I’m a highly paid private sector, non-unionized employee who doesn’t like seeing hard-working govt. employees get dumped on by bustas. I have no further agenda than that.

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  • Cortney May 15, 2012, 7:52 am

    “Go and learn a few things about OTHER COUNTRIES. Of course, most people never do this, because they don’t show things like that on the television, but the information is out there waiting for you.”

    You hit the nail on the head right there. When people talk about how we’re living under a fascist dictator and have no freedom and are being exploited by our own government, I find it incredibly insulting and ignorant. I’m pretty sure the citizens in many of the corrupt countries you listed would be gobsmacked that we used such words when we’re not experiencing such atrocities. It’s disgusting hyperbole and diminishes the horrors of life for many of the people on this planet when we co-opt such terms and use it to describe what is really just “I don’t like the president/this law/the tax structure”. But I guess having a well reasoned, logical argument isn’t as fun as saying the government is trying to rape, kill, and steal.

    Reply
    • john May 15, 2012, 2:21 pm

      Just because other third world countries treat their citizens horribly does not mean that our country is exempt from introspection.

      Many of us think that, although it is the greatest country in the world, that it is heading in the wrong direction with: redistribution of wealth, profligate spending with no end in sight and the creation of a culture dependent upon the state. We have freedom of speech in this country and that is exactly the right we are exercising.

      Comparing us to third world countries is simply setting up a straw man (which is a tactic our current President loves to do). Horrible behavior does not justify bad behavior. Horrible policies do not justify bad/corrupt policies.

      This President has demonized almost every American industry: Tobacco, Oil, Health Care Companies, Banks & Insurance Companies. I’m not sure what’s left, although he did also put a tax on tanning salons and medical device makers. Also, his energy policy is killing jobs and preventing us from extracting the hundreds of years of resources within the U.S. that we could be using (natural gas, oil, shale & coal). His answer is: Algae. Good luck with that and tilting at windmills.

      Reply
      • Steve May 15, 2012, 3:25 pm

        Agreed on the strawmen, but that’s about it. You wouldn’t want me to be president. I would limit extraction of any non-renewable resource based upon how much we have left.

        Reply
  • Baughman May 15, 2012, 8:50 pm

    My favorite article on government failure is written by harvard economist Greg Mankiw. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/27/business/27view.html?_r=1

    I think frustration with government is our civic duty when appropriate, especially when frustration is accompanied by solutions such as those provided in the article. Frustration with government is warranted when government fails to perform the simple act of balancing a budget, which when repeated over decades, can lead our country off a cliff and towards the scenarios being played out in Europe right now.

    There doesn’t exist enough political courage (or economic/rational reasoning by the public) in the US right now to revamp the problem of entitlements. It’s long overdue.

    My current tax rate is negative 100%. That is, for every dollar I earn, I get a dollar BACK from the government. I have 3.5 kids and a temporarily low income, but I’m not even close destitute without the government transfers (or even independent of my current savings because I know now to live well on little). Yet the government throws money my way because I look poor, because the proxy the government uses for “poorness” is current income.

    Rather than spend billions of dollars on the “poor” (defined on a relative basis, not absolute), we need to educate them on how to live well on less (send them to MMM)! The same could be said of the elderly. Welfare reform would certainly help in reducing the problem described here: http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2009/11/poverty-trap.html

    And death panels have to become a reality. So much of health care costs goes into prolonging the life (albeit unconscious) of the elderly by a few days. Is it politically incorrect to say that we should let sick old people die? Yes. Is it fiscally responsible? Yes. Does this mean that the rich old people who can afford to extend their lives by a few days should have the right to live longer than poor old people? Yes.

    These are politically incorrect things to say, but they have to be said. Spending other people’s money is way too easy. We should do less of it and stop destroying the incentives to hard work and prosperity, with the associated positive externalities created by the best and brightest members of society.

    Reply
  • Frans May 22, 2012, 8:27 am

    Not a US citizen, but man was this post depressing.

    “Want to know what I learned? The US political system is really not that bad. Want some more evidence? Go and learn a few things about OTHER COUNTRIES”

    I think that basically says it all. With some paraphrasing:

    “Drinking soda isn’t that bad. Go try some cocaine and get back to me!”

    Or technically “learn about cocaine”, but that didn’t really have the same ring to it…

    Reply
  • Babesummy March 17, 2014, 3:51 am

    Ok I had to comment here. I am from Nigeria and it is not a living hell! I am quite sure you have never been there. Don’t believe everything you see on tv!

    Reply
  • Ishabaka August 30, 2015, 10:28 am

    Whiners might want to take a little trip to Cambodia, where the Prime Minister for life is an ex-Khmer Rouge buddy of Pol Pot, 20% of children are malnourished, average monthly wage is around $200, health care is atrocious, and only available if you pay cash – in advance. And Cambodia is a kind, gentle country compared to Burma (Myanmar).

    P.S. – Falciparum malaria, dengue fever, and dysentery are provided free of charge, as are the unmapped land mines sprinkled about the countryside (stay on the marked paths!).

    Reply
  • seyes October 1, 2015, 6:34 am

    I will just like to know, is there a difference between surviving and prospering?
    To say that people living in Mexico are doing well despite their government is pushing the truth a little bit. That is why I asked the above qiestion. I will like to ask the author why he left Canada to the U.S.Could it be that it was because the U.S was slightly better?

    Reply
  • Duke March 10, 2016, 10:04 am

    Hey MMM, how can you preach frugality and not expect it from the government. Shouldn’t people riding mass transit actually be biking and saving taxpayer money? Shouldn’t they shop Craigslist for new office furniture or better yet realize they don’t need it at all. Government works on a budget that they don’t even keep to and keep adding debt which you should oppose to. They have no incentive to save money.

    In my personal situation, high taxes are my biggest impediment to being FI. We live a fairly frugal life but pay over 50% of our income in various taxes.

    Reply
  • ThriftyChemist November 16, 2016, 3:59 pm

    Wow. How could so many people just fail to catch the whole point of this article?

    Complaints are useless, barren things. If you aren’t offering any potential resolution, you’re just getting yourself down and trying to pull others down with you. If, on the other hand, you view things realistically and with optimism, you’ll see where there is room for growth and improvement, so instead of complaining, you’re firmly grounded and can work from a position of strength.

    It’s like a crappy house – if you just point out the flaws on that shithole down the street, you’re not doing anything useful. If you buy the place, rip out the rotted drywall, raise ceilings, add windows, and modernize the place, you’re making the whole thing better. You had to recognize what was wrong with it in the first place to improve it, but you also had to view its potential and work to achieve it. The optimism MMM talks about here is the vision of a better world, built on the strengths and achievements of the world we’ve got. And DAMN if we don’t have an amazing world to live and be hopeful in.

    Reply
  • Aeyz January 5, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Off topic & breathing life into an old post but…

    One of the first things that render when you open this webpage is the capital letters “BULLSHIT”.

    Made me chuckle!

    Reply
  • Kevin March 24, 2017, 8:41 pm

    looking back on this post in 2017, it’s pretty obvious that the appeals to sanity went unheard. i agree with MMM. too many people watch the news or their facebook/twitter feed and come away all angry with the idea that things are going to shit. the reminders that actually things are better than ever are few and far between, cause they dont capture the emotions like death and destruction and hatred and fear do. there’s a total absence of context in the way we report on issues and events, and it just feeds the partisan monster that is American politics. here we sit at the pinnacle of our civilization, discussing issues like what bathrooms 0.3% of the population uses, and the handful of questionable cop shootings, terrorism – responsible for something like 3000 deaths since 19-freaking-75, how middle class people (~$50K annual income) need government help (which as this blog has already refuted over and over again), and how we can slow the earth’s warming over the next several decades, and yet there are millions of people trying to convince us that actually we live in a 3rd world country on the verge of collapse. that’s the kind of mentality that leads an electorate to do something seriously stupid. and don’t get me wrong, those are all important issues worthy of discussion, but good lord, it is only cause things are so damn good that we can even talk about them.

    2016, the year that was so good, people couldn’t believe it.

    Reply
  • Christian April 30, 2017, 12:31 pm

    People do really have very little voice right now, due to corporate influence, as a recent Stanford study has proven. However, giving up and wallowing means giving up the last shred of influence we have.

    So…as with many things, it’s best to act as if this post is true, even while some parts of it really aren’t.

    Reply
  • Mark July 31, 2018, 5:45 pm

    This could be a fun repost for 2018 to trigger half of the folks who weren’t triggered the first time around.

    6 years of progress and growth since the original publishing, but also 6 years full of complaints (and more to come I’m sure).

    Reply

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