walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Move Over, Feds, There’s a New Provider in Town

The era of big government might already be over, at least as far as employment in the Washington, DC area is concerned. In 2012 the health care industry replaced the federal government and its contractors as the primary driver of job growth in DC:

Major contracting firms Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and Computer Sciences Corp. shed a combined 5,104 local jobs last year as they girded themselves for tighter government spending. The federal government cut 4,200 local positions.

Meanwhile, some of the biggest names in local health care added jobs on a large scale: Northern Virginia’s Inova Health System added about 1,000 positions in 2012. Children’s National Medical Center in the District expanded its workforce by the equivalent of 349 full-time workers. In nursing roles alone, MedStar Washington Hospital Center added 200 positions in the past 18 months.

At first, it might seem like good news that private sector jobs are replacing government ones in the bloated federal bureaucracy. But the new jobs are flowing into the already bloated health care sector. In other words, the new jobs are just a re-shuffling of resources from government services to health care, reflecting the fact that rising health costs are swallowing up all other areas of spending in the U.S. economy.

Today’s health care industry is draining our national purse without increasing our ability to pay for other services or invest in other industries. The growing importance of health care jobs to the DC economy only underlines the fact the rest of the private sector is far from “doing fine.” Productive private sector jobs are what support both government and health care costs in the first place.

A real jobs victory would be to replace government jobs in the Beltway area with private sector jobs in a wide variety of industries, not just unsustainable growth sectors like health care.

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