Joe Biden’s ‘Permanent Jobs’
It’s Governmentland vs. the Real World


Lee Habeeb

It was the kind of speech politicians make every day at ribbon-cutting ceremonies. It was Sept. 04, 2009, and Vice President Biden was doing the honors via a video chat for one of those cool new green companies being touted as the engine of modern job creation — Solyndra.

Here’s what Biden had to say: “Once your facility opens, there will be about 1,000 permanent new jobs here at Solyndra and in the surrounding business community, and hundreds more to install your solar panels around this country. It’s important. It’s important because these are permanent jobs.” 

“Permanent jobs”? By this, Biden probably meant that these weren’t intentionally temporary jobs — they weren’t seasonal work, or freelance projects. At some level, he no doubt realized that no job in the private sector is guaranteed to be permanent.

But if Biden did realize this, it obviously wasn’t toward the front of his mind. And while he’s known for his verbal slipups, he emphasized the “permanent jobs” point a second time. The fact that he did not choose his words more carefully is a window into the mind of Joe Biden, and a clue as to how he thinks about jobs and the economy.

But it is also a window into the mind of a political and academic class that has far too little real-life experience in the private sector. And far too little experience with real-life job creation — and job destruction.

It is a window into the mind of someone who has never worried that his job might not be around one day because his employer lost out to a competitor. Or a shift in the economy. Or a change in consumer taste. Or a breakthrough in technology.

It is a window into the mind of someone who knows far too many people who actually have permanent jobs.

Indeed, it is reflective of life in Governmentland, where jobs are permanent, benefits are a given, and pensions are subsidized by total strangers.

In Governmentland, residents mostly know about job growth and pay increases; they know little about downturns and disruption.

In Governmentland, the landscape is littered with folks who have never heard the words that many of us in the private sector know all too well, and fear — “You’re fired.” Or worse, “We’re going out of business.”

The 106,000 people who work for the IRS never fear those words.

The 17,000 people who work at the EPA never fear those words.

The 16,000 workers in the Department of Energy never fear those words.

I could go on and on.

It is a tale of two mindsets: the permanent-jobs mindset of Governmentland vs. the mindset of the Real World.

And those of us inhabiting the latter have been on a decades-long losing streak. In 1960, 8.7 million Americans worked in Governmentland on the federal, state, or local level. Today, the number is 22.5 million — an increase of more than 150 percent, during a time period when the American population grew by less than 75 percent. Talk about a growth industry!

In 2007, the number of government jobs exceeded the number of goods-producing jobs for the first time in U.S. history. Under the Obama administration, the federal government has about 2 million employees this year.