Photo: The U.S. Army / Flickr
Federal employees are about to find out how much protection their union dues buy. The answer will probably be: not very much.
The supercommittee is under pressure to deliver big savings without touching the programs voters love. The easiest way out?
Cut the civil servants. Cue the Washington Post:
“…however you slice the numbers, federal agencies will take a hit.
And when agencies take a hit, it’s the federal workforce that feels the pain more than anyone. When budgets are cut, measures to cap or cut the workforce, including layoffs, aren’t far behind…
Expect the committee also to consider other budget-reduction tools aimed specifically at federal employees: extending the two-year pay freeze, reducing retirement payments and charging employees more for health insurance are among proposals previously suggested.”
I am all for saving money, but management by supercommittee is a bad way to do important business. What we really need is a much smaller federal government. Some functions should be devolved to the states, some should be bid out to contractors, some should be eliminated completely, and the government like all big bureaucratic institutions needs to be reshaped and re-engineered to take advantage of the productivity improvements that better management and better use of IT can bring.
When all that is done, I think we should pay federal employees reasonably well. Good employees save money in a well managed organisation, and a smaller, better focused federal government will need strong staff to get the job done. We now have a crazy system in which relatively poorly paid, unskilled and unmotivated federal workers hire consultants to figure out how to do their actual jobs. It might be smarter and cheaper to attract better workers into the government, reward them for performance, cut the insane levels of bureaucratic red tape and tell the beltway bandits to take a hike.
What is likely to happen instead is a dismal nickel and dime approach that creates more paperwork and more bureaucratic positions (Offices of Austerity Compliance and Bureaus of Cheeseparing) and drives competent federal workers out of the system, leaving the drones in place.
Short of term limits that fill the halls of Congress with experienced businesspeople rather than professional blowhards, it is hard to see how this can change, but until it does, Americans are going to pay too much for a government that doesn’t work.
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