Federal workers tell us what should be cut from the budget

April 14, 2011

With the budget for the rest of the fiscal year finally passed and more cuts to spending on the way, we asked federal workers, contractors and others with in-depth knowledge of the workings of federal government to answer a simple question: What needs to be trimmed from the budget?

Here are some suggestions from online responses. We have identified only the employees’ departments.

 

Treasury Department

Social Security: The retirement age should be adjusted every five years based on updated life-expectancy rates. If the average life expectancy in the 1930s was 73 and the retirement age was 64, then the retirement age for Social Security going forward should be the 2011 average life expectancy less nine years. To the extent there is a large disparity in the retirement age under current law and the “new” retirement age, the spread should be phased in over the same number of years as the difference (add one year longer per year of disparity).

Social Security payments received by individuals with adjusted gross income greater than $500,000 (or $1 million jointly) should be subject to 100 percent tax. If a recipient knows he will be above the threshold, he could make an irrevocable election with SSA to forgo payments for the balance for the next year (or permanently) — thus not taking them into income. The election would not affect survivor benefits.

 

Agriculture Department

I would reduce the Paperwork Reduction Act. Making sure the government doesn’t impose excessive paperwork and information-collecting on the public is laudable, but there should be a threshold for reporting. What constitutes information collection and a “burden” is ridiculous. . . . The government is spending much more time and money justifying the collection of information than the public is spending actually providing the information.

 

Defense across the board. The food-stamp program needs major overhaul. Way too many people are just plain living off of it now. It accounts for over 75 percent of the USDA budget.

 

Interior Department

All subsidies to oil and coal industry, agricultural subsidies in most cases, and defense should be cut by 25 percent. Bush tax cuts should be eliminated. Corporations should be taxed at 15 percent.

 

Social Security Administration

Corporate subsidies, foreign aid to some countries, U.S. defense of foreign countries, tax cuts to the very wealthy, tax concessions/subsidies to churches, congressional perks, subsidies to private schools and colleges.

Internal Revenue Service

Bottom line, there are way too many levels of management, too many executives, too much duplication of effort, too many meetings, etc. We simply have too much “managing” going on: meetings about meetings, time spent fine-tuning the administration of the organization and so on. We could greatly reduce our budget by simplifying the management areas of responsibility, thereby reducing the executive and upper-level management ranks. We also have too many employees (many of them in higher pay brackets) in the administrative areas and too few in the field, assisting taxpayers. (By the way, I work in headquarters, so I don’t say this out of malice but based on firsthand observation.)

National Institutes of Health

I think the workforce needs to be
looked at. There are a lot of workers who are not doing 100 percent of what they should be doing. Due to such things as the misuse of EEO (equal employment opportunity), there are a lot of employees who are able to hold onto their positions, collect paychecks and not do what they were hired to do. This creates more work for those who do their jobs, as well as a waste of taxpayers’ money. A really good way to accomplish this is to do an overhaul of the PMAP system, that is, the performance-based system that the grade-scaled federal employees are on. Under this system, most employees receive a “fully successful,” even if they are not performing their duties, due to their supervisor’s fear of backlash from that employee. If the PMAP system can be redone in order to have it more based on performance, employees who are not performing can be let go easier, and this will cut costs.

Environmental Protection Agency

Management. The layers of management are insane. . . . It takes 13 steps and five layers to get a signature from our office director, more to get a signature to the assistant secretary/administrator.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Most middle mangers; many have old-time skills and non-innovative processes. . . . Redundant training, which has nothing to do with real-world skills.

Lisa Rein covers the federal workforce and issues that concern the management of government.
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