Did you even notice? Did anything in your life change? The federal government was partially shut down for 35 days, but was your life at all affected?
According to a Fox News poll, 66 percent of the American people considered themselves unaffected by the shutdown, but you would never have known that from the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments on cable news
The fact most Americans weren’t affected is a good thing; the federal government should not play an omnipresent role in our daily lives. Unfortunately, the massive growth of the bureaucratic deep state, Congress soaking up responsibilities best left to state and local governments, and the ever-expanding role of the presidency have combined to make our federal government an overbearing behemoth.
Rather than 50 laboratories of democracy, running their own states the way those voters think is right, we have in many ways accepted a coastal ruling elite, set on siccing a big, top down, invasive government on the rest of the country. And yes, the blame for this must include many Republicans.
Why Are These People on the Payroll?
It’s time to have a serious conversation about the limits of the federal government. Even during the shutdown, there was almost no talk about how we downsize government and bring it back to more responsible limits; we are well past the Founders’ vision of government and are truly experiencing and living out the old Progressives’ dream of a massive Administrative State.
Consider that during the shutdown we sent home 800,000 nonessential federal government employees. The first question a rational person should ask upon hearing that is in what world does any organization, for profit or even nonprofit, have even one employee considered nonessential, much less nearly 40 percent of its workers? The answer is that world doesn’t exist. Neither a for-profit nor a nonprofit would be in business very long with that many nonessential employees. Yet we taxpayers fund roughly 2 million civilian government employees at a cost of $136 billion every year.
While we should redefine what is essential to include TSA, Secret Service, and the Coast Guard, there remain hundreds of thousands of federal employees that should be categorized as nonessential, meaning that in many ways our federal government is a patronage system, even an entitlement system that we the taxpayer get to fund.
Those who are limited government conservatives clearly want to shrink government and reduce the taxpayers’ burdens: cut the waste and bloat and get back to a government that is not only proper in its size, but its scope as well. Part of that must include reducing in a significant way the number of our federal employees. And now is a perfect time to do that: according to the Department of Labor statistics there are nearly seven million job openings in the private sector right now.
Usher Them Out
Why are we not beginning a short term initiative by which we are migrating out of the federal government, say, 500,000 federal employees defined as nonessential? There are literally more than 10 job openings for every one of those employees.
Granted, there won’t always be a perfect match nor would every one of them be migrated out, but what if we got 200,000 into the private sector? That would be a triumph and would reduce the taxpayers’ burden by tens of billions of dollars every year. Just as importantly, those positions that are vacated inside the federal government should be permanently removed, never to be refilled.
But instead of having debates and conversations like this, it’s as though it never really crossed the minds of many that this was a great opportunity to have it. Two-thirds of the American people barely noticed that 40 percent of the federal workforce wasn’t working.
Add to that statistic the fact that literally no American can list more than a handful of the more than 430 departments, agencies, and sub-agencies that comprise our federal government. Why are we not breaking apart departments and shutting them down? Start with the Department of Energy. Break it apart into Interior, Defense, and Commerce. If President Trump managed to eliminate even one federal department, he would be at the very pinnacle of the pantheon of Republican greats, easily surpassing Ronald Reagan.
Choose to Be Great
Beyond the ideological arguments and political opportunities to shrink government, most Republicans and conservatives should deeply resent what takes place with their tax dollars funding a bloated federal workforce: Their tax dollars are laundered, by force mind you, into political donations for Democrats. Those donations in total are rather limited, but of the $2 million in political donations given by federal employees in 2016, 95 percent went to Democrats; 97 percent of Justice Department employees’ donations went to Democrats. So there are plenty of us who are already overtaxed who deeply resent the insult added to injury of having our tax dollars being used against us.
Washington, D.C., has long been in defiance of common sense. It has been unaccountable, it has exploded the national debt, yet we continue on as though trillion-dollar annual deficits are perfectly normal. Decline is a choice, just as greatness is a choice.
We can continue on the same path we’re on right now, which is most assuredly a path of decline; where it’s not a matter of if our free society collapses but merely a matter of when. Or we can say, forcefully and intentionally, that we choose not to decline, we choose to be great. But that choice to be great will involve some decisions that some won’t like and yet need to be made. The question is whether we as a people possess the moral clarity and fortitude to make those decisions.
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