July 15, 2024

Why Bother Voting When Unelected Bureaucrats With Lifetime Jobs Run The Country?

Courtesy: sayitaintsoalready.com

Courtesy: sayitaintsoalready.com

Nothing is more aggravating, self defeating and humiliating than dealing with government bureaucrats.  This vast army of government bureaucrats has become a fourth unelected branch of government with life time employment and zero accountability, pouring sand into the gears of commerce, free enterprise and human freedoms.  One scandal after another hits the news with the latest one involving our beloved Internal Revenue Service and no repercussions – nothing changes.

As explained in a brilliant article at American.com,  on How Bureaucrats Captured Government, the problem has been growing for years and is only likely to get worse.  The author concludes that reform for dealing with “incompetent, lazy, and corrupt employees” is easier said than done.  Expect the problem to only get worse.

Like reforming the spoils system of the 19th century, dealing with today’s incompetent, lazy, and corrupt public employees is a good deal easier said than done. As always with human affairs, self-interest rules.

For instance, take the federal civil service, that vast army of government workers (in 2011 there were 2,756,000 employees in the executive branch). It has been much in the news lately, thanks to burgeoning scandals at the IRS and elsewhere.

The Civil Service Commission was abolished in 1978 and replaced with a number of often-overlapping successor agencies, such as the Federal Labor Relations Authority, the United States Merit Systems Protection Board, and the Office of Personnel Management.

But by taking away from politicians the power to hire and fire federal employees and giving it to a commission, a different set of self-interests — those of federal employees — began to cause new problems.

It was, after all, the employees of that Civil Service Commission who had to write the specific rules and regulations regarding hiring and firing. Being themselves bureaucrats, they naturally protected the interests of bureaucrats with ever-more elaborate procedures for termination. Under President Kennedy, many federal employees were allowed to unionize, adding still another layer of protection against being fired.

The number of procedures and appeals in place today means that it can take 18 months to fire a federal employee for cause, if it is possible to fire him at all. Thus, in 2011, only about one-half of 1 percent of federal employees were fired, about one-fifth the private-sector rate.

And the higher up the civil service ladder the employee is, the less likely he or she is to be fired. Of the government’s 35,000 lawyers, for instance, only 27 got canned in 2011, less than one-tenth of 1 percent. Thirty-three federal lawyers died on the job that year, six more than got fired.

Often it is a lot easier for managers to simply transfer an employee or even promote him so that he becomes someone else’s problem.

The inevitable result of employees who cannot be fired is, of course, a federal workforce that, feeling safe in their jobs, is not likely to overexert itself and is more prone to fall into corruption — as some employees of the IRS clearly have. More than a few master the art of skirting the edge of trouble. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma estimates that over a seven-year period, the federal government lost 9,000 man-years of work due to employees who simply failed to show up to the office some days. That is not very different from the situation under the spoils system — although smoking, at least, has been banned from federal office buildings.

The solution, obviously, is a much reformed, simplified, and faster process for dealing with incompetent, lazy, and corrupt employees. But like reforming the spoils system of the 19th century, that is a good deal easier said than done. As always with human affairs, self-interest rules.

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