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August 09, 2011

"Not Much Further We Can Cut" & The Dog That Didn't Bark

Kaus writes about almost exactly what I've been thinking about.

Regarding Obama's statement yesterday that, in both the area of defense and non-defense domestic spending, there is "not much further we can cut."


Kaus actually writes more (including on Medicaid cuts) so make sure you click over. Then maybe the DC won't mind a lengthier excerpt.

“Not much further we can cut” seems like a hanging curve ball, an open invitation for ongoing ridicule–the sort of naive assertion that might come easily to someone who had never worked in the federal government, who only realized after promoting his half-trillion-dollar public works-based stimulus plan that there was “no such thing as shovel-ready projects.” Or someone who doesn’t want to know. Or who wants to act as if he doesn’t know.

Here is the official list of federal job openings. [Link omitted; find it at the original article-- ace.] They are still hiring. Sure, big enterprises keep hiring essential employees even in tough times. But these aren’t essential jobs. Many of them seem like the sort of job a private firm, in a financial crisis like the feds are in, would consolidate with another job or leave unfilled. (The first one that jumps out is the “Associate Administrator for Administration” at the Department of Transportation, which pays $119,554 to $179,700. It seems that this person will do administrative work to maintain the layer of bureaucracy that “coordinates” the DOTs research programs. The new hire will also give “advice and assistance in directing, coordinating, controlling” etc. this little fiefdom. You don’t have to be Peter Drucker to realize that this position does not have to exist.)

Part of the problem, of course, is that since it is virtually impossible to fire an actual underperforming federal employee, conscientious administrators have to hire new people (or consultants) to actually do the work the unfireable employees aren’t doing.

But there’s no sense, reading through this list, that the federal bureaucracy knows it is in crisis–a crisis that might one day cause a GS-12 or GS-15 somewhere in the D.C. metro area to actually lose his or her job in the sort of streamlining layoff private firms routinely go through. ... In any case, a politician who says “there’s not much further we can cut” is blundering into trouble. Don’t voters want a President who spends a year or two at least trying to wring the fat out of government before he jumps to the conclusion that he needs to extract more in taxes? …

Exactly. Exactly.


Let me note the dog that didn't bark.

Have you heard any stories of older, more expensive federal employees losing their jobs during this budget crisis -- as corporations typically do when they are hemorrhaging money?

Have you read any stories about departments drastically cutting back and looking for money-saving solutions -- doing more with less, as they say, or "working smarter, not harder"?

Has the media been full of stories by weary bureaucrats complaining, like teachers are apparently instructed by their unions to claim, that they have to buy their own supplies to properly do their jobs?

Has there been any grousing that federal employees are missing expected pay raises and promotions, being forced to work at their old salaries through this crisis?

The answer is no.

While the country is teeters on the verge of a Depression (if it has not tottered over already), the federal bureaucracy remains gold-plated and immune to cutbacks.

They have plenty. They have enough money to hire "Associate Administrators for Administration" (Good God All Might!). There is no change from business as usual. When they want a new bureaucrat, to make sure the workloads of the already-serving bureaucrats are not unduly increased, they hire a new bureaucrat.

There are no consolidations, no reorganizations, no firings of redundant or little-needed middle managers.

There are no firings of long-serving bureaucrats -- this always sucks, and I'm not loving doing this as a general matter, but the fact is that the older workers make higher salaries than younger ones, and stressed corporations often find this to be a sad but necessary area for saving money.

No wave of negotiated/ordered early retirements?

Where is the evidence -- even the anecdotal evidence -- that the federal bureaucracy (and the domestic spending it oversees) is in any manner part of this "balanced approach" in which we "all" are expected to "sacrifice" for the good of the nation?

Medicaid: Medicare is available to all seniors; they qualify when they're 65.

Medicaid, on the other hand, is available to the qualifying poor.

Any time there's a system in which benefits accrue to anyone who simply avers the right things on an application, it's open to abuse and gaming.

Now, have we heard of the federal bureaucracy making a concerted effort to block fraudulent Medicaid claims? Or uncover false billing?

No, we haven't. In fact, James O'Keefe's gang just stung state-level Medicaid intake bureaucrats, catching them advising clearly-criminal fraudulent applicants on how to defraud the government.

Any effort to reduce this form of stolen tax money? Are administrative judges who rule on denials of application being accused of tightening up their standards for overruling a denial?

Is there any evidence whatsoever that the government is actually trying to save money in any account?

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posted by Ace at 03:59 PM

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