“Throw ‘em all out!”
How many times have we heard someone say this? Or shout it, more likely. It might’ve been at a bar or a professional sporting event -- or even from parents at a little league game berating the umpires (which is becoming more and more frequent, I’ve observed). Or just as easily it could’ve been a disgruntled American citizen voicing displeasure with the latest actions of the political class and the government.
The desire to label elected leaders as corrupt, self-possessed and subject to influence when they go wrong is insatiable. After all, these folks are sent to far off capitals or local city halls or school boards to represent us, yet so much of what they execute seems contrary to what they promised to do on the campaign trail. One oft-mentioned solution is term limits, yet at the federal level, the only one who’s constitutionally under time restriction is the president of the United States.
But hard as it is to believe, the policymakers are only the tip of the proverbial spear when it comes to making bad and unpopular decisions. Whereas there are mere hundreds of congressmen, senators and a president (and vice president), there are millions of federal employees taking the laws and executive orders and (supposedly) implementing them. In addition, statutes require endless interpretation, so that’s how volumes on top of volumes of administrative rules are made. They impact everyone’s quality of life, but we rarely hear about them until they kick us in the rear.
A perfect example was CHQ Editor George’s Rasley’s treatment on a disastrous proposed ATF rule last week. Liberty-squelching bad stuff. It’s more common than you’d think, too.
Federal employees aren’t mindless worker bee drones who implement with disinterested impartiality, either. They’re human like everyone else, with their own prejudices and biases and aren’t subject to much accountability at all. It’s hard to fire one for underperformance or incompetence. They’re provided significant incentives to stay on the job indefinitely; the pay is more than competitive; there’s substantial job security, and there are friendly lawmakers who will go to the mat to defend them. And their pension benefits are at least as good if not superior to those of private companies.
Therein lies the problem. The federal government has become a competitor for the best and brightest performers in every generation. Why not term limit the bureaucracy?
“[More important than term limits for politicians], I would argue, are term limits for the government bureaucracy. At least politicians can be voted out. Unelected bureaucrats go on and on and on and, in many ways, end up running our country…
“But little has been done about it. All the while, the bureaucracy, aka the Deep State, has been reaching new heights (or lows), in essence taking over the country, as for example, with Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“Excessive? Well, who has more power? President Biden? Someone behind Biden whispering in his ear? Possibly. But whoever it or they are, they all bow their heads during this endless pandemic to the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Otherwise, they risk the withering contempt of ‘he who represents science’ with attendant career-ending consequences.”
Simon’s is an excellent point. Looking back to last year and the beginning of the pandemic caused by the Chinese Communist Party (or Wuhan, if you prefer) virus, the federal response appeared to be streamlined with the “science” people working alongside President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to send resources to the places that needed them.
It was only when the almost 80-year-old Fauci and 64-year-old Dr. Deborah Birx started separating themselves (through statements) from the elected leaders’ policies that there was trouble. The diminutive man with a bulbous nose and teddy bear face became a national celebrity and receiver of much praise from the liberal establishment media when he publicly broke with Trump, even if he didn’t always fire back at the former president’s social media assertions.
All along, a previously unknown fact was exposed, namely that Fauci was the federal government’s highest paid employee, a pampered bureaucrat through and through. Calls for him to be fired or resign have gone unheeded. Some claim Trump’s biggest mistake as president was his failure to kick Fauci out the door early in the pandemic, which may have staved off or avoided the dreaded consequences of the man’s unelected policymaking. Think of how many dollars have been wasted chasing Fauci’s “solutions” to COVID-19 that didn’t do anything to help anyone.
Fauci is the figurehead for America’s bureaucracy problem. But imagine millions more Faucis at every level of government assessing issues on a daily basis and sending out orders and penalties and, and… you know. It’s bad.
Term limits for government employees should be a no-brainer. The military has them, right? They’re called enlistments, and they must be renewed every so often (at least as I understand it). Bureaucrats who can’t or aren’t doing the jobs they’re hired to do should be cast out on the dust heap like a fighter pilot who can’t see any longer or an infantryman who can’t pass a fitness test. Why sugarcoat it? Everyone else in the working world receives regular performance evaluations, even if it’s simply by not being fired by the boss.
My father spent 45 years as a private sector civil engineer, having served many of them working with government entities to plan and implement public works projects. That’s the “infrastructure” that we use every day, be it flushing a toilet, driving on a road or taking off from an airport runway. If he didn’t perform, he wouldn’t have lasted long in his capacity. The company doesn’t care if you’re a nice guy or you were an asset 20 years ago. It’s survival of the fittest every day.
The government should be the same way.
Expanding on Simon’s ideas above, my dad suggested that rather than seeing government employment as a career-length provider, it should be considered a training ground for employees instead. Public servants starting their careers should be limited to a single 10-year term (although a 7-year limit may actually work better). After 10 years and they’re limited out, the individual could not get another government job until they’d obtained 15 years (or perhaps double the initial limited term) in private sector work.
Because they would view government service as a simple stepping stone to better things, many people would not stay in their start-up jobs for their full initial employment terms. But they could still be hired in supervisory and management government positions after 15 years in private sector employment. Government agencies could only rehire senior people who have had a minimum of 15 years private sector experience (employment) to manage their agencies.
Unrealistic, you say? Think about it. There would be no need for government pensions for the masses of government employees who never return to government employment. Only those who are rehired to supervisory or management positions would be eligible for government pensions. To be rehired to government positions would require demonstrated success in supervisory or management roles in private sector employment.
This would negate the need for huge, unfunded and ever-growing obligations that public agencies accumulate for government pensions. Rehired supervisory and management personnel would be required to perform as though they were in the private sector (with performance goals set yearly) and if unable to accomplish them, their employment would be terminated just as they do in the private sector. Pensions of terminated supervisory and management personnel would be prorated (on a 16-year base) based upon the number of years that they held government employment.
The burden of continuously raising taxes to keep up with the exploding obligations to fund government pensions would be severely curtailed. This would eliminate the need for civil service protections and regulations and most likely serve to eliminate government sector unions. Boom! Ca-ching! It’d be like 2011 Wisconsin all over again, but on the national level!
Lastly, government should be able to terminate employees, even in their initial term of employment, if they do not or cannot perform.
Such revolutionary reforms would change not only government employment, but society in general, for the better. A system like my dad proposed would deter some folks from entering government service at the outset, but would ultimately demand that interested applicants develop the same service mentality and accountability that every private sector employee demonstrates.
Traits like working hard. Being creative. Thinking outside the box. Recognizing that performance and achievement are the most important aspects of the job. And, to not take the time for granted. Most Americans recognize that government bureaucracy has gotten fat and lazy, even if there are many, many, many good people in service today.
Roger L. Simon was right -- we need term limits for bureaucrats at least as much as restrictions on politicians’ tenures. If Republicans are gifted by the voters with power after the 2022 elections, bureaucracy reform should be at or near the top of their agenda. The people would most certainly support it, and who knows, government might actually work for us again.
Dr. Anthony Fauci
Dr. Deborah Birx