The TEN BIG LIES of State and Local Government


Over the course of the years, we’ve repeatedly heard a series of mantras about the reality of state and local government. We’ve heard them from people at all levels of government and sometimes from established authorities. We’ve been accumulating a list of such maxims that are — unfortunately — not true. Of course, some of the ten items that follow are certainly valid  in some places. But we’ve heard them any number of times when the evidence demonstrates that they’re wide of the mark.


We hate to use the word “lies” here. That seems to have become a word widely open to interpretation these days. So, just to be specific, what follows are explanations about the way things work that are frequently NOT the way things work. And the list is based on both our own experience, and the understanding of states and localities we’ve accumulated over the last quarter of a century.


  1.  “We know we are in financially sound shape because we have to pass a balanced budget.” (from states)

  2. “It’s impossible to fire a public sector employee.”

  3. “We’ll solve this problem by setting up a commission. Or a study group.”

  4. “Our transparency website means our government is transparent.”

  5. “Buying new technology will be the key.”

  6. “Merit pay is pay based on merit.”

  7. “The key reason we have a huge unfunded liability in our pensions, is that our benefits are too rich.”

  8. “You should just look at the general fund in order to analyze our city or state’s financial condition.”

  9. “You can always trust our data.”

  10. “Our government can be run like a business.”

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