For the past week I have monitored the comings and goings of Washington (the other Washington, not the state) relative to the budget negotiations and the threat of shutting down government. Talk about scare tactics to gain public support.
Oh woe, small businesses would not get loans (they are not getting loans anyway). Oh woe, homeowners will not get mortgages (big deal, few are getting them now due to bottlenecks and incompetence at the banks, not the Feds). Oh woe, the parks will be closed (okay, that one is not so good). And oh woe, there will be no cost savings because the Federal workplace would get back pay and thus a free two week vacation at taxpayer expense (and we all know that there is a way to prevent the issuance of back pay).
I was out most of Friday evening but when I returned, I saw that both parties were claiming victory at getting the budget approved. What a bunch of jerks. Both parties failed.
And here is why: our congressional representatives could have and should have set aside their individual interests and become street savvy creative. They should have behaved like a business owner trying to save their company from failure. Apparently they need some help in that regard.
Let’s give them some ideas.
1. The cost to taxpayers during the two week shutdown in 1995 is estimated to have been $700 million to $800 million. The primary reason for this cost was the issuance of back pay to the furloughed employees. Yep. The got a two week vacation with pay over and above their existing vacation benefit.
Doing the math, using 1995 numbers, that is approximately $80 million per day so let’s say, the sake of argument, that the current savings is $100 million per day.
Would it be so bad if the Feds learned a lesson from states, cities, counties, and private companies and required employees to take a mandatory two week furlough some time over the next year? This would mean an extra two week vacation albeit without pay. Using the simple and undoubtedly conservative number above, that would result in a $1 billion dollar savings to the taxpayers. Many will say that is a drop in the bucket but the old axiom, watch your pennies and the dollars will take care of the themselves applies.
After all, don’t you clip coupons to save a buck on a box of cereal? Or take public transportation to save parking fees. And why do you do that? Because every dollar counts. Plus, saving money a dollar at a time fosters the frugal mindset.
So what else?
2. While the rest of the folks still employed are working long hours with lunches at their desks and curtailed coffee breaks, a significant number of federal workers clock in exactly on time and, about 10 minutes before the allotted eight hours are up, they start packing up their desks to prepared to leave. Don’t believe me? If you know someone who works for the federal government, just ask. They will be happy to explain this entitlement.
I know. I have asked. A typical response is “Why should I work any longer than everyone else around here?”
Let’s cut that out.
3. Like the teachers, let us begin to evaluate evaluated federal workers based upon performance and not tenure. I don’t really understand that tenure system anyway. Just because you stick around for 10 years does not entitle you to 10 more years. Talk about the Peter Principle at work. What happens in the government is that a non performing employee gets high marks during their annual review specifically so that they well get promoted out of the department where they are not performing. No supervisor or manager wants to get stuck with dead weight so they promote them onward and upward. Don’t say it doesn’t happen it does. Again, just ask your friend, the federal worker.
4. How about this other lesson from the private sector: hire only one employee to replace two that quit or retire. As companies across the country have learned during the current recession, this is a no brainier. They are getting by just fine and making record profits to boot.
5. The days of allowing Federal employees to retire at age 55 are over. If Social Security requires you to wait until you are 62, why not Federal workers – regardless of time on the job? Sure, they can leave federal service at 55 if they choose but there should be no pension payments until they are at least 62 and even then, a reduced pension until they reach the full retirement age of 65 plus as defined by current Social Security Administration rules.
6. And what about congressional members that travel back to their home states weekly? Some will argue that this comes out of the congressional expense budget and not the taxpayer’s budget. Well duh! The congressional expense budget comes from the taxpayers. Let’s cut those expense budgets and earmark how those budgets can be spent. Want to go to Washington? Fine. Go. But don’t expect the taxpayers to pay for that weekly trip home.
7. My last suggestion for now is one that is near and dear to all of us. Throw out the tax code, eliminate 50% of the IRS employees, and charge a flat tax to everyone, fair and square. If the rich elites paid as much as the working class did, on a percentage of income basis, we would not need complicated tax rules and guess what, our representatives in Washington would have a lot more time on their hands since they would not have to spend an iota of their time working on tax loopholes for their rich supporters back home.
It would seem that many of us out in the blogosphere are having similar thoughts. I suggest you go read the article “Shut it down” from The Economic Collapse. Good stuff (although I think the article was written before the late hour approval of the budget).
I didn’t mean to rant about this timely topic and for that, I apologize. But I want to do one more thing. I would like to issue the universal single finger salute to our pals in Washington. You deserve it.
Enjoy your next adventure, wherever it takes you!
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