In The Washington Post (February 24, 2017), conservative columnist George F. Will explained that the federal civilian workforce of is about the same size it was in 1952, when Dwight Eisenhower was elected president. Federal spending, however, has increased exponentially—and it’s not because federal employees are being paid that much more.
Will points to a report by the Brookings Institution, which notes that the government’s growth is due to the amount of money funneled to state and local government employees and to contractors. Many government programs, including HUD’s, that are federally funded are administered by state and local government employees; an estimated 3 million state and local workers are funded by federal dollars.
There are about 7.5 million for-profit contractors; the nonprofit contractors might number at least another 2.2 million. Together, they add up to almost five times the 2 million federal employees. And yes, contractors do cost more than feds: According to Will’s information, the government spends $100 billion more on just the defense contractors than on all federal employees. Add all the numbers up, and we 2 million employees federal employees account for less than 14% of the true federally supported workforce.
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