by Lil Tuttle
In a woe-is-them article at year’s end, the Washington Post lamented the shrinking federal bureaucracy that has occurred since President Trump took office.
By the end of September, all Cabinet departments except Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Interior had fewer permanent staff than when Trump took office in January — with most shedding many hundreds of employees, according to an analysis of federal personnel data by The Washington Post.
The diminishing federal footprint comes after Trump promised in last year’s campaign to “cut so much your head will spin,” and it reverses a boost in hiring under President Barack Obama. The falloff has been driven by an exodus of civil servants, a diminished corps of political appointees and an effective hiring freeze.
The reduction, which includes 71,285 career federal employees who quit or retired, is quite a contrast to the Obama Administration:
Trump already has begun to reverse the growth of the Obama era, when the government added a total of 188,000 permanent employees, according to Office of Personnel Management data.
By the end of September, the federal government had 1.94 million permanent workers, down nearly 16,000 overall since the beginning of the year, according to the most recent OPM data. In the first nine months of 2009, Obama’s first year in office, the government added 68,000 permanent employees, growing to 1.84 million.
“Draining the swamp” was one of candidate Trump’s themes, and it could be “a sure winner with the public” for his administration in 2018, writes Kimberley A. Strassel in the Wall Street Journal.
Let 2018 be the year of civil-service reform—a root-and-branch overhaul of the government itself. Call it Operation Drain the Swamp.
Strassel argues that the real swamp is the “two million members of the federal bureaucracy” known as the civil-servant corp, and it’s been “nearly 40 years since the last civil-service overhaul.”
When Candidate Trump first referred to “the swamp,” he was talking about the bog of Beltway lobbyists and “establishment” politicians. But President Trump’s first year in office has revealed that the real swamp is the unchecked power of those who actually run Washington: the two million members of the federal bureaucracy. That civil-servant corps was turbocharged by the Obama administration’s rule-making binge, and it now has more power—and more media enablers—than ever. We live in an administrative state, run by a left-leaning, self-interested governing class that is actively hostile to any president with a deregulatory or reform agenda.
It’s Lois Lerner, the IRS official who used her powers to silence conservative nonprofits. It’s the “anonymous” officials who leak national-security secrets daily. It’s the General Services Administration officials who turned over Trump transition emails to Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the absence of a warrant. It’s the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Leandra English, who tried to stage an agency coup. It’s the EPA’s “Scientific Integrity Official” who has taken it upon herself to investigate whether Scott Pruitt is fit to serve in the office to which he was duly appointed. It’s the thousands of staffers across the federal government who continue to pump out reports on global warming and banking regulations that undermine administration policy.
More broadly, it is a federal workforce whose pay and benefits are completely out of whack with the private sector. A 2011 American Enterprise Institute study found federal employees receive wages 14% higher than what similar workers in the private sector earn. Factor in benefits and the compensation premium leaps to 61%. Nice, huh?
Not surprising, by the way, that 5 of the 10 richest counties in the U.S., in terms of median annual income, are Washington, DC, suburbs — home to many of those well-paid federal workers: Loudoun Co VA (#1), Falls Church VA (#2), Fairfax Co VA (#3), Howard Co MD (#5), and Fairfax City VA (#8).
Could 2018 be the year of genuine federal government downsizing? Conservatives can only hope.
Update: Fox News reports that “tens of thousands of federal employees earn more money than any U.S. governor,” based on a study, released this month by government watchdog group OpenTheBooks, on the “size, scope and power” of the federal government.
According to the report, the number of federal employees making $200,000 or more increased by 165 percent between fiscal 2010 and 2016. Federal employees making $150,000 or more grew by 60 percent, with the number making more than $100,000 increasing by 37 percent in the same time period.
The group put its figures in context by comparing these plush payment packages with those of America’s governors.
“Nearly 30,000 rank-and-file federal employees who received more than $190,823 out-earned each of the 50 state governors,” the report said. …
The report said the federal government pays its disclosed workforce $1 million per minute and more than a half-billion dollars per day.