More than 3 years ago the Administration proposed that Congress grant the President authority to reorganize government agencies. The plan intended the authority to be used for “rethinking, reforming and remaking our government so that it can meet the challenges of our time.” When the proposal was made, the plan was to begin with 6 trade-related agencies (U.S. Department of Commerce’s core business and trade functions, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency) and consolidate them into a single Department focused on helping American business succeed. The proposal went nowhere. The President revived the proposal in his 2016 budget plan.
The idea of restructuring the government is not partisan – it is simply good management. The federal government, like any large bureaucracy, has developed over many decades. Agencies have lost aspects of their missions and gained others. Like any good bureaucracy, agencies tend to focus a lot on self-preservation. When anyone proposes cutting their budget or diminishing their scope in any way, they respond by justifying their existence as though the world would end if they did not exist exactly the way they are now. So what we end up with is a collection of Departments and Agencies that are not quite what they were intended to be and that have evolved over time to be something that perhaps was never intended. The trade proposal was a great example of the overlap that exists in agencies today. Overlapping and conflicting missions generate more bureaucracy and more cost, but rarely result in anything that is better for the taxpayers.
If we are going to continue reducing the deficit, we have to find ways to cut costs that do not require cutting services. Even though most Americans agree we should cut federal spending, there is no agreement on what to cut. In fact, the majority of Americans polled on the subject did not want to cut any major programs other than foreign aid. When we get down from the macro whole-of-government level to the agency level, there is still little agreement. For example, when we talk about saving money on Defense spending, it appears the majority of people do not want to close bases or cut weapons systems. That does not leave much room to find the billions of dollars that need to be saved. The same thing happens across government.
If we really want to cut spending, we need to substantially rethink how government is organized. Every Department has bureaus, agencies, administrations or components that each have their own management and support structures that generate overhead costs. The more organizations we have, the higher the cost. Giving this or the next President the authority to restructure and combine programs and agencies has the potential to generate better results of the taxpayers, lower costs, generate a wealth of new ideas and give us a government that works better for fewer dollars. It is not a Republican idea, a Democratic idea or any other party’s idea. It just makes sense.
3 thoughts on “Remaking Government”
I love your blog, Jeff; I almost always agree with you, which makes you a very smart person.
The only thing you wrote this time that I might quibble with is that “we have to cut costs without cutting services”. No, we have to cut services, too. We need to re-perceive our expectations of government to fit what we can afford to pay for. You’ll never find enough savings in wasteful duplication to pay off the national debt, though searching out waste and duplication is noble and needed.
We need to rethink our global military presence abroad and government’s footprint in our economy at home. If the present level of spending can’t be paid for with the taxes people are willing to pay, then we can’t afford it– stealing from children through the intergenerational theft of deficit spending should stop being an option.
We need to expect less of government at the same time we’re trying to improve its efficiency. What that means in practice will depend on the messiness and noise of the democratic process. Guns vs butter, tax income or tax consumption, reform this, tweak that– robust debate about what government should do and who should pay is as old as the Republic itself. But whatever priorities we prefer, we should at least agree that we ourselves have to pay for them, not future generations.
That said, I’m all for weeding out wasteful duplication, and hope the right people are reading your blog.
Federal mission is Defense, Diplomacy, Postal Service, Navigation, such. Butter, welfare, etc is a STATE function. Should get the FEDS out of the business they shouldn’t be doing.
They are always looking to stick it to the Federal worker.
Money we paid in now comes out at 1/30th deduction per year, NOT the full amount we paid taxes on, for no income tax for about 1½years like before. If the retiree dies before 30 years, the govt does NOT seek out the heirs and give them the money that’s left; they STEAL it.
When times were good, people laughed at civil servants for accepting lower wages. When times got tight, they wanted to take benefits AWAY from them because they were jealous. They didn’t give a raise for about 3 years, to pander to the voters.
We made less than the contractors we supervised.
They hired contractors at 110% of our salaries + a vig to the company. This saves money? NO, it panders to the rabble who vote for the narcissist toads who make careers out of slobbering at the public trough in the congress.
People complain that the fed workers have a gold-plated medical plan. That is what was part of the deal when we signed up for a career. NOW, they wanna change it AFTER THE FACT, and screw us again.
The CSRS was fine. However, they instituted FERS because it would “save money”. Translation: workers get scrood. I did an analysis to compare staying put and switching. I’d have lost $10,000 / year by switching. They had 2 open seasons, and some flack wrote that they couldn’t understand why people didn’t switch; “We explained it to them.” Yeah, and we understood, and we saw that it was a shafting. If I put in the max to TSP under BOTH systems, I would have broken even [projected back in the 80s] So I’d be out another 5% just to come out even?
Part of this deal is the National Socialistic Security PONZI scheme. The gubmint went to the insurance industry, and asked for the average life span. Answer: age 62. SO, they set the age for collecting SS benefits at 65. [Note: NOT a pension plan; a supplement to keep you from starving. Many don’t save otherwise, then bleat that they can’t live on SS. Weren’t supposed to, but if Congress hadn’t STOLEN the money in the fund, it’d be solvent.] NOW SS goes to you at 66, and they TAX THE “BENEFITS” even though you paid in all your life. So, they combined the PONZI scheme into the FERS, along with the market [which, as we have seen, is NOT guaranteed to rise forever]. Yup, good government for the people.
They strong-arm pushed savings bonds. “They are an inexpensive way to finance the government.” Newton’s laws says it has to come from somewhere. Yeah, low interest rates, and they tax you on the interest [which is supposed to offset inflation + a bit more] so that they confiscate your wealth. Nice government we have, shafting the workers. Lawsuit ended that.
Give to charity via CFC. You can designate YOUR charity. Yep, but they always skimmed some of YOUR money to support charities YOU didn’t like. Lawsuit stopped that strong-arm.
I hit 30, and out the door. I’m not getting an “entitlement” program; I EARNED what I get, unlike many who get government payments for no deserved reason. I put up with working for stupids who couldn’t pass the PACE exam, so they killed it off. They gave preferential treatment [discrimination] to people whose ancestors suffered wrongs perpetrated by other people long before my ancestors came to this country, and they discriminated against ME, an innocent party, to appease those mental midgets. We had to work IN SPITE of some of them, and CARRY THEM also. Defined benefits are becoming rare, so kill it in the Government? Yeah, and everybody is jumping off the Empire State Building, so do that also. Invalid argument.
I’m sure that any changes proffered will be to the detriment of the workers, just as was FERS.
I’ve been getting my check every first of the month like clockwork. I spend some of it on girls and booze, and squander the rest. Keep it coming; I’m gonna get it for another 30 years. All my forebears checked out in their 90s. I hope I do also.
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