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Federal workforce budget cuts would mean customer service cuts for taxpayers

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 24, 2011; 10:21 PM

If you thought the two-year pay freeze President Obama and Congress imposed on federal employees would mollify Republican calls for harsher worker sacrifices, you would be wrong.

The Republican Study Committee, a group that makes up almost 70 percent of the Republicans in the House, wants more.

Cutting spending to 2008 levels, as House Republicans proposed last year, would be just the start for the committee members.

Under the committee's Spending Reduction Act of 2011, "at the beginning of the next fiscal year on October 1, 2011, [non-defense] spending is further reduced to 2006 levels and frozen there for the next decade," the committee said last week. "To help achieve these savings, the bill shrinks the size and cost of the civilian federal workforce and specifically targets over 100 budget items and spending reforms."

But what the committee doesn't readily address is what their cuts would mean for the many services Uncle Sam provides his customers.

For example, would waits for Social Security, veterans and discrimination claims grow? Would there be fewer workplace inspections? Would it take longer to approve drugs?

Committee Republicans would shrink the cost of the federal workforce through a five-year pay freeze and reduce the workforce by 15 percent through attrition. That would be reached by hiring one worker for every two who left government.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) stood with his House colleagues in a news release issued by the committee, against what he called "the wave of wasteful Washington spending. The Spending Reduction Act begins the difficult task of shrinking the federal bureaucracy that threatens our future prosperity."

The federal bureaucracy and those who staff it always are an easy target. But the release fails to mention anything about the impact the proposed cuts would have on service. If cutting federal spending, the federal payroll and staffing levels are necessary, then those who push those policies also should be willing to say what services they are willing to cut to save money.

While the committee's news release and fact sheet ignored the impact of its proposal on customers, others did not.

Bennie G. Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said many of the projects to enhance domestic security - along the border, at airports and in cyberspace - were paid for through the discretionary budget.

Going back to 2006 levels would place homeland security "potentially at risk if this goes through," Thompson said. An overview of the legislation issued by the committee makes no mention of excluding homeland security and veterans' spending from the proposed discretionary limits.


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