Federal Bureaucracy Much Worse than Devine Outlines

He points to the growth of government spending, but the relatively constant size of the federal workforce. He should give government employees more credit. In the private sector, U.S. manufacturers now produce three and a half times more output per worker hour than they did in the peak manufacturing employment year of 1979. Federal bureaucrats have similarly increased productivity through information technology, computerization, automation, we sites and other improvement that are far less labor intensive as workflows of decades past. There are better benchmarks to measure the effectiveness of the federal workforce than number of employees.

Devine uses data, often cited by government employee unions to protect their special interests, to criticize the number of private sector workers employed by contractors. However, he fails to mention that some 1.2 million federal employees — 53 percent of the non-postal, non-uniformed military Federal workforce — are in positions that are commercial nature.

Congress, the federal government, and the American people have lost sight of what “government means. When 1.2 million bureaucrats (a number that grew from 850,000 in 1999) are in positions that meet the Yellow Pages test (jobs that are commercial in nature and can be carried out by employees of firms found in the Yellow Pages of the phone book), it is no wonder we have episodes like Katrina, the VA scandal, and a government regulators asleep while a mortgage crisis causes the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Simply put, we have a government that’s too big to succeed.

Growing the bureaucracy is not a Ronald Reagan principle. Indeed, it was Reagan who created an Office of Privatization in his White House, convened a Commission on Privatization, and issued an Executive Order that put limits on Federal agency performance of commercial activities. It was Ronald Reagan who said in his landmark 1964 speech, “A Time for Choosing”, that “They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.”

By advocating another 1 million new Federal employees, Mr. Devine is hardly upholding pro-free market Reagan principles. It fails to recognize the average career cost each Federal employee is $4.27 million, according to the Americans for Tax Reform.

Mr. Devine laments the fact that the government cannot conduct an accurate accounting of how many private sector employees work as contractors to the Federal government. To quote the infamous remark of Hillary Clinton, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

Capturing data on how many employees work as contractors for the Federal government serves only one purpose. It is so the government employee unions can use the number to complain about what they view as the evil, sinister, nefarious “shadow government” in order to advocate for more insourcing and less contracting out, which of course expands the pool of government employees who can become dues-paying members of the union (from whom they can raise PAC money to elect more Democrats)!

Collection of contractor employee data is difficult to implement because not every contractor employee is a 40 hour per week on-site cafeteria worker at the Labor Department. Many employees work for firms that are serving the government one day and a commercial client the next day.  How to count that employee, or a full time equivalent (FTE) is not an easy task. Nor is such data useful or necessary.

Instead of adding another 1 million Federal employees, there are market-oriented reforms that should be implemented. Among these are:

Enact the Freedom from Government Competition Act to apply the “’Yellow Pages’ Test” to every Federal activity, keep in-house those that are inherently governmental in nature, and subject commercial activities of the government (government monopolies) to market competition. This bill will not only make government smaller and more efficient, but it can save annually up to $27 billion.

Implement the recommendations of Reagan’s privatization commission and otherwise rid the federal government of programs, agencies and activities where service can be improved and cost to the taxpayer can be reduced by some $800 billion.

Peg Federal pay and benefits to comparable positions in the private sector. The Congressional Budget Office reports Federal employees enjoy better pay and benefits than their counterparts in the private sector. Putting Federal compensation at parity with the private sector would save $47 billion, according to the Heritage Foundation analyst James Sherk.

The Federal government has become too big to succeed. The reason? Government, in an effort to be all things to all people, cannot provide the basic services fundamental to its core mission and the Constitution. Above all, the Federal government is spread too thin, attempting to carry our activities best left to private enterprise.

Mr. Devine would benefit by pulling out his old copy of Barry Goldwater’s 1960 book, “The Conscience of a Conservative” where he would find these quotes.

“The federal government is now the biggest land owner, property manager, renter, mover and hauler, medical clinician, lender, insurer, mortgage broker, employer, debtor, taxer and spender in all of history”

“The businessman is hampered by a maze of government regulations, and often by direct government competition”

“The root evil is that the government is engaged in activities in which it has no legitimate business”

“The government must begin to withdraw from a whole series of programs that are outside its constitutional mandate … activities that can be better performed by lower levels of government or by private institutions or by individuals.”

Mr. Devine would find these are still an unfortunate reality today. And he should pay attention to the American people, who told the exit poll in last November’s election, where just 41 percent said Government should do more to solve problems, while a clear majority of 54 percent said Government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.

Rather than siding with conservative stalwarts like Reagan and Goldwater, Mr. Devine seems now aligned with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who when commenting at the National Press Club after his party’s defeat in last year’s election said, “Democrats must embrace government. It’s what we believe in; it’s what unites our party.” With an annual deficit of almost $500 billion and a national debt of $18 trillion, we cannot afford to perpetuate, feed and grow inefficient bureaucracies and have government doing things better left to private enterprise.

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About John Palatiello

John Palatiello ispresident of the firm of John M. Palatiello & Associates, Inc., a public affairs consulting firm located in Reston, Virginia, providing association management and public affairs services to firms and organizations. He has been Executive Director of MAPPS, a national association of private geospatial firms, since 1987, is Administrator of the Council on Federal Procurement of Architectural-Engineering Services, a coalition of the nation’s leading design professional societies and President of the Business Coalition for Fair Competition (link to www.governmentcompetition.org), a coalition of firms, organizations and individuals fighting unfair government-sponsored competition with private enterprise. He is the former Executive Director of America Moving Forward , a non-profit association of firms engaged in public-private partnerships in transportation. Mr. Palatiello served on the Fairfax County Planning Commission, 1993-2002, the Fairfax County Dulles Corridor Task Force, and numerous other state and local land use planning and transportation commissions and task forces.
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One Response to Federal Bureaucracy Much Worse than Devine Outlines

  1. Donald Devine says:

    I must admit I simply do not understand Mr. Palatiello’s criticism. He criticizes me for not agreeing with President Reagan on the necessity of cutting government? I was Reagan’s Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management when we cut 100,000 non-defense employees and wrote a whole book defending it. Indeed the book title “Reagan’s Terrible Swift Sword of the Civil Service” is taken from what the Washington Post called me to criticize what I did. I still write regularly saying the same things. How anyone can read this article to be advocating more Federal employees is beyond me. I specifically say “Under these conditions, how would adding more civil servants help?” He must have been reading something else.

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