Shrinking the Federal Government

…is more than just reducing spending; although that’s a major component of the necessary shrinkage.  Shrinking also must include reducing the physical size of the government, reducing its payroll.  To that end, the moves by President Donald Trump and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney will prove valuable if Congress will cooperate.

The hiring freeze of the last 11 weeks was an important first step, but it produced no actual shrinkage.  Its value consisted in halting the growth in payroll and in demonstrating over the last 11 weeks the lack of need of additional hiring.  In this latter regard, it’s much like the government shutdown of 2013, during which many Departments and Agencies were forced to furlough many of their employees—and still functioned.  The EPA, for instance, furloughed nearly 95% of its employees and ran just fine.  Treasury, Labor, and Interior furloughed over 80% each and those Departments did just as well as before.

Now the broad-based hiring freeze is about to be lifted, but all Departments and Agencies are being required to form plans to do targeted reductions in their work forces in expectation of seeing actually reduced budgets, with effect FY2019, which begins in October 2018.

This is all on the right track.  Now, it’s certainly true that the hiring freeze didn’t reduce the number of folks actually working these last several weeks, as I noted above.  It’s also true that the agencies during the government “shutdown” were on emergency manning and only so for roughly the same number of weeks.  But domestic matters should be handled, in the very large main, by the States.  The Federal government should be involved in domestic matters, in the very large main, only in emergencies.  Thus, the Departments and Agencies, in the very large main, don’t need employee complements much larger (but some larger) than emergency levels.

There are a couple of exceptions to these planned reductions.  Budget increases coupled with commensurate hiring increases will be proposed for Defense and Veterans Affairs.  The VA’s planned increases are from the best of intentions—the nearby backlog of veterans’ claims has exceeded 100,000, and so more bodies added to the payroll would seem to be needed in order to reduce this additional VA wait list fiasco, for instance—but the VA’s long-term, broad, and resolutely uncorrected failure to perform, too often with lethal results, mandates a different outcome.

Eliminating the VA and using its budget for veterans’ vouchers would be entirely consistent with shrinking the government’s payroll, even if spending associated with the VA would not shrink.  But in this case, at least the spending could be known to be going to the purpose for which it was passed originally—our veterans’ well-being, both now and, since the VA manages our military cemeteries, post mortem.

Veteranos Administratio delende est.

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