Govt's 4-Day Work Week Doesn't Work

     “Welcome to the four-day working week,” with apologies to Elvis Costello. That’s right, the four-day work week has arrived – at least according to the media and assorted politicians.

     High gas prices have given way to a new kind of highway robbery as taxpayers are left with no real choice. They either get a 25-percent increase in taxes or a 20-percent cut in services.
     That’s not how it’s being presented. Instead, we’re told the intersection of long commutes and nearly $4-gallon gas has produced a working revolution. Governments and businesses are switching to four-day work weeks to minimize travel costs.
     It’s not exactly the “innovation” that ABC’s John Berman made it out to be. But we’re increasingly stuck with it. All across the nation, local governments are cutting back on hours and giving state or local employees far more flexibility than many private workers enjoy. Utah sends home 17,000 workers. Birmingham, Ala., 4,000.
     At taxpayer expense.
     It’s simple math. If you pay to use government services five days a week and you only get four, that’s 20 percent less government for the same amount of money. (Or even more money if they raise your taxes at the same time.) While there is a strong case to cut government by 20 percent, it should include a 20-percent reduction in taxes.
     Not likely. Instead, government continues to grow and what we get for our money continues to shrink. CBS brought us the story of Mid-South Community College in Arkansas that is saving “gas money for students and employees” by cutting school to four days.
     According to Parade magazine, “more than 100 schools in at least 16 states currently operate on a four-day schedule.” And you wondered about the causes for the decline in basic literacy.
     What about taxpayers who support those schools? They don’t matter. Not to politicians and certainly not to the media. The networks did raise a few objections to the idea. Working parents, for instance, might not like it because 10-hour days keep them away from their children. But network journalists ignored the taxpayer impact.
     ABC’s Bianna Golodryga naively claimed: “Most people appear to be onboard with the plan, saving 20 percent a week on $4 gas.” By “most people,” Golodryga only meant the people who work for us. Not taxpayers. Taxpayers get fewer days they can find unfortunately necessary government bureaucrats.
     Golodryga’s June 3 report made one key point that didn’t get much network coverage. Ohio has actually eliminated its four-day work week and returned to a normal one with five days. Reason? “The only problem was, people didn’t show up to work on Friday,” she explained.
     That sounds like a problem journalists might want to look into. Instead we get touchy-feely stories about how government is helping its workers and helping Mother Nature at the same time.
     NBC even delivered the requisite member of the wacky eco group Natural Resources Defense Council supporting less government for the same cost – all in the name of the environment and stopping global warming pollution.
     Governments aren’t the only ones making the switch. It makes more sense for businesses that are able to do it because they still have to make a profit. Keeping employees happy in a competitive environment usually pays. When businesses choose to do that, they still have to ensure their operations function when employees have taken off.
     Replacements, Ltd. In North Carolina is one such company giving employees the option to work four days. Atlanta-based Lathem Tire Corp. is doing it as well. But Lathem’s Grace Perry explained the upside and downside for companies. “Ninety-five percent of our production force shut down on Friday, so we do have cost savings on that.”
     That assumes Lathem and other companies want to shut down one day a week. If they do, that’s a bottom-line decision and management must explain it to owners/stockholders. But government only answers to the rest of us in theory. In practice, politicians do what they please.
     Thankfully, the era of even-more-inefficient government isn’t settled.  Employment consultant John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, told NBC that the change in our daily labor isn’t a given – yet. “But, the jury’s still out on the four-day work week,” he explained.
     That’s a more rational view than the one you get on TV news. As CBS’s Harry Smith told us: “Maybe it’s time to seriously consider a four-day work week” during the June 18 “Early Show.”
     Maybe not. Sure, let’s cut government 20 percent or more, but give the taxpayers their money back.