Our friend Stephen Moore had an interesting article about the reluctance of federal employees to return to the office in the weekend edition of his must-read Committee to
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Steve reported that while corporate America is having trouble getting its workers to come back to the office, that’s nothing compared to the federal government.
The Government Accountability Office reports federal office utilization ranges from a shocking low of 9 percent occupancy at USDA, HUD, GSA, OPM, SBA, and SSA up to a still-not-very-high high of 35 percent occupancy at Commerce, Homeland Security, DOJ, State, and Treasury, said Mr. Moore.
Steve observes the federal bureaucracy is easily twice as large as it needs to be. The federal payrolls are roughly $300 billion a year. Is it asking so much for these workers to get back on the job?
Steve’s article put me in mind of some wisdom from my late friend and mentor former Indiana state Senator Jim Biddinger. “Biddy” had an amusingly cynical attitude toward those who came before the legislature claiming that new expenditures where for “good government,” observing that he couldn’t afford “good government,” but he might be able to afford “pretty good government.” Likewise, Sen. Biddinger was the first person I heard speak favorably about unambitious bureaucrats, remarking with a twinkle in his eye that he was pleased they were not giving us all the government we were paying for.
Unfortunately, at the federal level it appears that we are getting a lot more government than we are paying for these days.
With the federal payroll standing at around $300 billion, federal regulation is estimated to cost the American economy as much as $1.9 trillion per year in direct costs, lost productivity, and higher prices. That means that every dollar spent on a federal employee results in 6.333 dollars of regulatory burden. Factor in the fact that somewhere between 90 percent and 65 percent of DC-based federal employees are not showing up for work, but still getting paid, and that ratio increases dramatically.
Federal absenteeism has gotten so bad Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser says the empty desks are creating a downtown DC that resembles a ghost town. She is telling the Feds that if they won’t get their employees back to work, they should turn over their building space to the city or any private entities "willing to revitalize it," reported Stephen Moore.
We’re not fans of Mayor Bowser’s demands for federal employees to come back to their DC offices. We like the various Republican proposals to move the FBI to Alabama, the Interior Department to Denver, and the Agriculture Dept. to be relocated to Kansas City, as ways of reducing Uncle Sam’s payroll. Any federal workers would be offered a severance package if they refused to relocate.
The caricature of the listless federal bureaucrat has been a staple of American political commentary since the foundation of the Republic. Relocating federal agencies to the heartland is a great idea, but we’d be fine with feds staying home, and downtown Washington DC remaining a ghost town, as long as the absent feds don’t give us all the government we’re paying for – and then some.
Government Accountability Office
Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser