Without going into causes, the government shutdown has been a fascinating example of why we need to reform the system, possibly by firing with prejudice everyone in the current system.
First, if the essential functions of government can continue with around 380,000 workers (out of about 2.1 million total federal employees) laid off, then are those jobs really needed? It would seem that is a legitimate question, and one that supervisors and agency heads should be asking. As we increase automation, and see more and more jobs at risk because a machine can do it faster, longer, and more accurately, there is no reason to assume federal workers are somehow supposed to be exempt from that risk. I understand that new craft beer labels need approving, I just wonder at the necessity of all 380,000 furloughed positions.
Second, when it comes to the 400,000 or so workers who are not being paid, that needs to be fixed. Yes, keep the non-essential workers on furlough (and again, review their actual necessity), but pay the workers who are on the job. To do otherwise is un-American. To compound the issue, we are paying Congress, who is not addressing the issues at the root of the shutdown. If we can’t pay the workforce, we shouldn’t pay the people responsible for the problem either (President Trump doesn’t, by his own choice, draw a federal paycheck). Out of 20 Illinois Congressional members (18 in the House, 2 in the Senate), only one is refusing to be paid during the shutdown; Brad Schneider (D) of the 10th District. One. To be fair, of the 535 members of Congress, about 70 are refusing or donating their checks to charity. Pay the people working. Seriously.
But back to the first point. Do we really need these people? Does the IRS really need 36,000 people to handle refunds? Especially as more are filed electronically each year? Last year, according to eFile.com, 135,883,000 returns were processed, 126,040,000 of those electronically. That is 92% of all returns! People don’t need to handle those – they can be processed completely electronically. Yes, if a flag is triggered, then a human needs to review it, and yes, that leaves 15,491,000 returns to process by hand (while 135.8M were processed in 2018, 141.5M were sent in). I suspect there are scanners available to speed that up.
Of course, it is the government, and efficiency is not prized.
But it needs to be. The bloating of the bureaucracy continues to be an issue, and we, the people who have to deal with this bloat in so very many ways, need to rise up and say ‘enough’. If a functioning government exists without 380,000 employees present, then those 380,000 employees are probably not needed. At all. They should have their positions reviewed, and if they are not necessary (and we should be very narrow in what is ‘necessary’), then they should be let go. Full stop. With a reported average salary in 2014 of $84,153 (before benefits are applied), cutting loose those 380,000 would save the taxpayers $31,978,140,000 per year ($45,574,920,000 with benefits). How much more could $45 billion do injected into the US economy?
So, Congress, pay the people working, look seriously into firing the ones not, and stop paying yourselves first. You are supposed to be servants, not self-aggrandizing masters. Get it right for a change.