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We often tout America as "the land of opportunity" but I started to wonder how many people truly work for a commercial business, be it large or small. You know, the real people responsible for the Gross Domestic Product, our exports, and our quality of life. When you think about it, these are the people who support everyone else, not just in terms of the lion's share of taxes, but without them, there would be no need for government or anything else. Wanting to know the answer, I recently researched some statistics at the U.S. Census Bureau and was struck by the projected 2012 figure for the U.S. population which is now at 313M people, more than double since I was born. It's interesting how the Census Bureau assembles the population data every ten years but you cannot help but wonder how accurate it is. After all, there is allegedly over 13M illegal aliens in this country, and I do not believe they are included in the population total. Nonetheless, I began to wonder how the 313M occupied their time and, consequently, I visited the web sites for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to see what I could find.
First, I wanted to know how many people worked for the government in one capacity or another, be it at the federal state of local level. Here is what I found:
Federal Government Employees - 4.4M
State Government Employees - 5.3M
Local Government Employees - 14.2M
Government Employees Total - 23.2M - 7.4% of the populace.
This struck me as a rather high number, but I was somewhat surprised to see there were more people employed at the local level than both the federal and state levels combined.
Next, I considered the number of people who were not working, either due to unemployment, retirement, disability, or stay-at-home spouses. Finding the number of unemployed was rather easy, finding retirees and disabilities was a little trickier, so I checked on statistics at the U.S. Social Security Administration. As to spouses, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was helpful.
Unemployed - 13.7M
Retired or receiving disability - 61.0M
Families with one spouse working - 9.7M
People not working - 84.4M - 26.9% of the populace
Adding the 23.2M government employees to the 84.4M "not working" comes to a total of 107.6 million or 34.3% of the populace.
When you subtract the 107.6M people from the original 313M number from the U.S. Census Bureau, you arrive at a number of 205.4M people working for private enterprises or 65.6% of the populace. This isn't quite accurate as there are also millions of people working for 501(c) corporations, such as charities, churches, and other non-profit institutions. Of course, there are also those involved with criminal activities, either actively or imprisoned, which the Census Bureau would have trouble keeping track of. Suffice it to say, there is at least 50% of the populace working for a commercial business and is shouldering the tax load for the rest of the country, including the 13M illegal aliens.
I wonder how this number compares to years past? I can't help but believe the percentage of people working in business was higher back in the 1950's when business was booming following the end of WWII, and government was smaller. Since then, federal spending has doubled, as has the federal debt and deficit which have skyrocketed. Regardless, the shrinking rate of people in business also signals a decline in entrepreneurship in this country which should be of concern to all of us as this represents the innovators, inventors, and captains of industry who have traditionally invigorated this country. Without them, the nation would likely become nothing more than a third class country.
No wonder people are getting mad. Like me, they've added up the numbers and don't like what they see; one half of the country is giving, and the other half is taking and not paying taxes. I wonder what will happen when the balance tips from giving to taking?
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.