Will Congress cut the size of the federal workforce?

(Editor’s Note: This column was originally posted June 14, 2011. It has been edited for timeliness only. New columns from Mike Causey resume tomorrow!)

Before removing a limb, surgeons (and master carpenters) often mark the offending appendage and, when possible, check with the client to be sure everybody is on the same page. But Congress is made up of lawyers, not doctors or arborists. This may explain why the proposed cut on the federal workforce is aimed at one of Uncle Sam’s most vital (and one of his few money-making) organs – the IRS.

So what do feds in the trenches, who are also substantial taxpayers, think about the upcoming surgery? Is it too much or not enough? Is it about show or dough? Should it be across-the-board or surgical? Will it save money or simply be the unkindest political cut of all? Here’s how some see it:

  • “Reading about these staffing cuts, one has to wonder if any of our elected representatives ever had any business training or education. One key component you learn is that if budget cuts are necessary, the LAST people you cut are your revenue producers. The IRS budget makes up the majority of the $2 billion cut proposed by the House. If IRS collects $200 for every $1 invested, you do the math. Does it make sense to cut $1.75 billion in order to lose $350 billion in potential revenue? IRS collected $2.345 trillion in gross revenue, which is roughly 93 percent of all federal receipts. If the House Oversight Committee on the Federal Workforce also cuts 10 percent of staffing, what will that do to IRS revenue production? What are our elected representatives thinking? Or, are they thinking at all?” — A Federal Employee with Something Other than a Box of Rocks for Brains
  • “In regard to cutting the workforce by 10 percent. Here we go again with the same old shell game. The workforce will be reduced but the demand for services will not. Because no member of Congress wants an unhappy constituency, services will be ‘enhanced’ via privatization ‘initiatives’ because ‘small businesses’ can be found on ‘Google’ that can perform the services. In the end, instead of having, for example, 10 government workers making an average of $50,000 performing a service, there will be 10 private sector workers performing the same service. The private sector workers will average $20,000 with the remaining $300,000 going to the ‘small business’ owner who will contribute an appropriate amount to his representative. Then, when there is poor service, the same representatives will say ‘see how ineffective government programs are?'” — L.P., IRS
  • “In my humble opinion the RIGHT way to make reductions in the federal workforce is for Congress to identify and eliminate functions (and the associated statutes and regulations) and the people that perform those functions. For example, if Congress thinks meat inspection is not a priority they should eliminate the requirement for meat inspection and RIF all meat inspectors and their management. (Please understand I have no intent to pick on meat inspectors – this is just an example.) However I doubt that Congress has the political will to reduce the federal workforce this way.”

    “I suspect Congress will take the politically expedient way by eliminating 10 percent of the federal workforce by some shortsighted mechanism, like the proposed 10 percent reduction. The net result will be such things as more uncompensated overtime (isn’t this illegal?) for those remaining, slower output, less quality work, hiring more contractors to do the (unreduced) work, and the list goes on.” — Just Plain Bill

  • “Although you sort of touched on it in your column (Doing Lots More With Lots Less), one big issue that I have not seen anything substantive about….make the 10 percent cuts across the board… not just surgically depending on department or organization. ALL agencies must bear their fair share of cuts, including defense, homeland security, and intelligence…not just ‘civilian’ departments like Interior, Commerce, HHS, etc. Make it ‘fair and balanced’…(sort of like Fox News, I think(?)” — Brad S.

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