There's an advert doing the rounds on ITV right now - as with a lot of adverts I can not tell you what it is advertising or for which company (not because it is illegal - I genuinely can not remember) - during which the narrator refers to kids as "drains on resources".
As anyone who has kids will tell you this is a largely accurate description of children. Yes, we love them to bits and we wouldn't want to be without them, but they cost an awful lot of money. Most parents are openly honest about this both to themselves and to their own children, but for some reason we're less likely to be so honest about public sector employees.
To be honest, I don't love public sector employees to bits. If the truth be told they are often pompous, officious jobsworths with an over-inflated self-importance which, more and more these days, is often linked to the most sanctimonious self-righteousness. While we're being truthful, the other fact of the matter is that I, like many other people, could quite easily do without the vast majority of public services which are not actually there to serve the public at all - just niche groups.
And yet, for some reason, when it comes to the massive cost of public sector employees we're supposed to treat these people with kid gloves which we don't even reserve for our own children. In The Telegraph today, Janet Daley reminds us of how the Tories are currently trying to perform a high wire balancing act as they juggle tax revenue with public sector costs and the prospect of having to form the next government.
While Cameron, Osborne and Hague are only too willing to be "straight and honest" with the private individual and private enterprise, they increasingly fudge the issues relating to the single area which, whoever does form the next government is really and truly going to have to get to grips with; public sector spending. The reason for this, as Daley points out, is the worry that if they are "straight and honest" with the public sector then the public sector will behave like children and throw a major tantrum.
Even the usually reliable Daley falls into the trap - calling public sector employees "taxpayers". They aren't taxpayers - they are tax recylcers. The government takes a big fat lump of money from the pockets of private sector employees and businesses then hands it to public sector employees and "businesses" - and they give a small proportion of it back to the government. For the vast majority of public sector employees, the chances are that they will get every bit of what they pay in tax back with their pension - and then some. And who picks up the tab for all this - the private sector.
The Tories are only too happy to be straight and honest with those of us in the private sector. We're the ones bearing the brunt of unemployment, we're the ones whose pay is falling (average earnings in the public sector are now higher than in the private sector) and we're the ones whose hard-earned pensions are being plundered to pay for the pensions of those in the public sector.
We treat the public sector more softly than we treat children. Telling them what a great job they do, how they are so invaluable to society and so on - boosting their esteem in the same way the "all must have prizes" education system does to badly behaved children.
The truth is that the public sector is a massive drain on resources. They aren't using the money well, they mostly aren't doing a great job - most are crap at whatever job they do (and which the private sector could do a lot better, for less) and they mostly are insulated from the economic reality which those of us in the private sector face.
Some one, at some time is going to have to say enough is enough and start getting tough with the public sector. It doesn't need pruning - it needs cutting down, the roots dug out and replanting.