We should set a goal of reducing the federal civilian workforce by 5% to start with, and then freeze it there and not fill empty non-essential positions as workers retire.
Remember how I told you how a third of doctors will be retiring over the next 10 years? Roughly the same is true for federal workers. We can ratchet down the size of the federal bureaucracy through attrition rather quickly. There have to be exceptions, obviously: I don’t want to reduce the number of Border Control officers at a time of an immigration crisis, for instance.
What Else Would You Cut Spending On?
I want to unwind the vast maze of federal subsidies, where we’re all subsidizing each other! For instance, it makes no sense for taxpayers in Huron County to subsidize mass transit in the City of Detroit every time they put gas in their car. But it also makes no sense for cell phone customers in Detroit to subsidize telephone users in Huron County with their monthly phone bill. All this money washes through Washington, DC, where armies of lawyers and bureaucrats skim a huge percentage off the top.
What About Welfare?
Now is the perfect time to completely overhaul how we provide for those who can’t provide for themselves. With the economy strong, unemployment low and jobs going unfilled, we need to renew our commitment to requiring those who are able-bodied to work for their assistance. But we need to think about more than just work requirements.
Currently, there are federal programs that provide food assistance, Medicaid for healthcare, child care assistance, housing assistance, job training assistance, free cell phone service, help to pay energy bills, cash assistance, plus the Earned Income Tax Credit, which reimburses the working poor for the Social Security and Medicare taxes they pay for the benefits they’ll receive in the future. Certainly, no one designing a system to help able-bodied adults who are going through economic trouble would create a system like this. It’s a hot mess! We should redesign it from scratch, setting a maximum amount of assistance and strict time limits as well. The most successful social experiment of my lifetime was the bipartisan effort on welfare reform in the 1990s. It worked well and we need to get back to work on that.