If you are a federal employee, watching debates among Republican presidential hopefuls is not the best way to boost your morale.
Consider these comments from Wednesday’s debate on CNN:
Carly Fiorina: “We have come to a pivotal point in our nation’s history where this nation’s possibilities and potential are being crushed by a government grown so big, so powerful, so inept, so corrupt, and a political class that refuses to do anything about it…. The truth is 75 percent of the American people think the government is corrupt.” (Her staff referred to a Fox News poll, but neither her press office nor Fox News provided collaborating polling data.)
Chris Christie: “I will be the vessel through which they (the American people) can fix this country, but it’s not about me….It’s about all of you and getting this government off your back and out of your way…”
John Kasich: “It’s really time that the government get out of the way, and let the people be the ones who decide how they want to run their country….”
Ben Carson: “I think that’s one of the things that people so vehemently want to get rid of, big government. You know, we have 4.1 million federal employees.” That includes postal workers and the military. He also mentioned 650 federal agencies and departments, but upon questioning by the Federal Diary, his staff said the actual number is 438. That includes offices within larger departments, such as the Agricultural Research Service within the Agriculture Department.
Scott Walker: “We took on the big government union bosses [in Wisconsin], the big government special interests, many of whom came in from Washington.”
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., provided a dramatic set for the debate in front of Reagan’s Air Force One. But while Republicans consider Reagan the godfather of small government, the number of federal employees increased almost 10 percent during his tenure, according to Office of Personnel Management figures.
Yet, the number of federal employees has not kept pace with the population growth. The country’s population jumped 66 percent since the 1960s, while the federal workforce has grown just 9 percent, says the Office of Management and Budget. That means there are fewer federal workers today, per capita.
It must be disheartening for public servants to hear they are part of an inept, corrupt political class that stifles, rather than serves the public. Walker, the union-busting governor of Wisconsin, thinks he has the cure.
Two days before the debate, he released his plan for “Power to the People – Not the Union Bosses.”
He goes beyond routine Republican proposals to curb the power of federal unions and calls for the complete elimination of them.
It’s always helpful for a conservative to cite a liberal icon when threatening a liberal symbol, so Walker traces his plan to a famous one: “President Franklin D. Roosevelt put it best when he said that union bargaining ‘cannot be transplanted into the public service.’”
Walker promises to “work with Congress to eliminate big-government, federal unions” and says “big-government unions should have no place in the federal workplace.” Not stopping there, Walker said he “will stand in solidarity with any governor, Republican or Democrat, who fights the big-government special interests in their state and takes on collective bargaining reform like I did in Wisconsin.”
One reason for this scorched-earth approach to federal labor organizations is Walker’s view that “the federal government should not be forcing federal employees to fund the big-labor political agenda,” he wrote.
One problem with that logic – it’s wrong.
The federal government does not force federal employees to finance union agendas. Federal union membership is voluntary.
One thing Walker did get right is federal unions overwhelmingly support Democrats. But given the position of the GOP toward the federal workforce, who would blame them? In an article published Monday on the “Hot Air” Web site, Walker noted that the two largest federal unions, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) each gave more than 90 percent of their political donations to Democrats.
Walker thinks that contributes to “big labor’s corrosive influence on the federal government.”
In response, NTEU President Tony Reardon said “NTEU makes contributions to candidates based on their support for federal employees and federal employee issues.”
Don’t expect Walker to be on that list.
He’s also upset that more than 250 people work for unions providing service to employees while being paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This “official time” in agencies is allowed because unions must represent everyone in a bargaining unit, even those who pay no union dues. Furthermore, 250 is a tiny fraction of the 274,500 VA union members, not to mention the total number, 360,565, of VA staffers.
AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. said Walker’s union-killing proposal is the mark of a “desperate candidate… going nowhere in the polls.”
The “cry of big government,” he said, is “not ringing the bell. More and more people understand it is code for contracting out the workforce.”