Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Trump moves to correct weaknesses in federal employment situation

American workers have the option to belong to a labor union if they so choose. A spirited debate exists over the good and bad things that result from union activity, and there are valid arguments on each side.

One area where the bad side of labor unions can be seen is in the poor performance of some federal employees, who are protected from disciplinary action or discharge from employment by their union. This essentially makes it easy for federal workers to behave contrary to the best interests of their employers – the American people – with impunity. The difficulty and length of time required to dismiss a federal employee is the stuff of legend.

“While the original civil service reforms in the late 19th century were meant to increase merit hiring and move away from the politicized ‘spoils system’ of earlier eras,” Jarrett Stepman writes in The Daily Signal, “the current system locks workers into government jobs for life, regardless of merit.”

Such a system is inexcusable for people working at taxpayer expense, and given the size of the federal workforce of nearly 3 million public servants, this has widespread effects. Stepman asserts “unaccountable agencies guided by a permanent class of federal workers have been given free rein in this country.”

One of a basket of deplorable performance examples is Lois Lerner, the former Internal Revenue Service employee who, as director of the Exempt Organizations Unit, allowed her political bias to control how she ran her unit, resulting in the inappropriate over-scrutinizing of tea party and conservative groups applying for tax exempt status, and ridiculously long delays in their approval. 

A probe conducted by the Department of Justice found "substantial evidence of mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia leading to the belief by many tax-exempt applicants that the IRS targeted them based on their political viewpoints,” according to then-Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik. “But poor management is not a crime," he concluded, inasmuch saying, “so what,” and allowing Lerner to retire with full benefits and no punishment for her misfeasance. Actually, this story demonstrates two examples of poor performance.

But this is about to change.

President Donald Trump has adjusted rules governing federal employees that will make holding them accountable for misbehaving easier, so federal employment will be more like that of non-government employees. This will enable federal departments and agencies to fire bad employees more quickly and with less red tape. It will also limit the time employees may engage in union organizing while at work.

Predictably, the unions, whose members now have the ability to gum up the wheels of government, oppose these improvements. “This is more than union busting — It’s democracy busting,” said J. David Cox, head of the largest federal employee union, the American Federation of Government Employees.

Unions cite three areas where Trump’s action goes awry:
1. Making it easier to fire bad workers is an attack on democracy
2. Federal employees are ‘nonpartisan’
3. Federal employees acting badly is uncommon

Please recall the description of the civil service system and the non-partisan behavior of Lois Lerner. And, Lerner is not nearly alone in her misbehavior.

Stepman notes that in the 2016 presidential race, the non-partisan federal workforce gave 95 percent of its donations to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Addressing Trump’s proposed changes, Clinton said: “If [Democrats] can take back one or both houses of Congress in 2018, you will have people you can talk to again.”

No supporter of President Trump, The Washington Post published a story on how “nonpartisan” civil servants colluded with former Obama staffers to thwart the new president’s agenda: “Less than two weeks into Trump’s administration, federal workers are in regular consultation with recently departed Obama-era political appointees about what they can do to push back against the new president’s initiatives.

“Some federal employees have set up social media accounts to anonymously leak word of changes that Trump appointees are trying to make,” The Post reported, and said they used encrypted messaging apps to hide their activities from the administration.

Stepman also reported “many clearly criminal acts go unpunished,” and said that workers who would have been fired in most workplaces only received a slap on the wrist for their behavior. He cites a 2017 NBC News story saying “hundreds of federal employees were caught watching porn for hours a day while on the job, but few paid serious consequences.”

Another instance tells of a post office employee convicted of using cocaine on a lunch break who had her firing reversed by the Merit Systems Protection Board, the internal judicial power in the federal bureaucracy, and wound up with only a 90-day suspension.

Add to all of this the treasonous behavior of some high-level employees in the FBI working against Donald Trump during and after the election.

Such is the nature of employment in the swamp for some number of public servants.

No government employee should be given what too often is a job for life with little or no accountability. American taxpayers deserve nothing less than the best and most efficient government workers possible, and Trump is trying to move in that direction.

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