Published On: Mon, Jun 17th, 2019

Conservative Vision About Managing State Bureaucracy

As President Donald Trump’s first year in office was coming to a close in late 2017, it became clear that the chief executive had made significant progress on his campaign pledge to shrink the federal bureaucracy – a pruning conservatives feel is long overdue. As we reach the middle of Trump’s third year in the Oval Office, we can see how he has brought the federal workforce down to levels not seen in decades.


By the end of September 2017, all Cabinet agencies except Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Interior had fewer permanent staff than when Trump took office in January, with most shedding many hundreds of employees, according to an analysis of federal personnel data conducted by The Washington Post.


The diminishing federal footprint reverses a boost in hiring that took place during the Obama era.


In truth, decades of ceaseless expansion of the size and scope of the federal government had created a swollen and ineffective national bureaucracy, one replete with agencies and offices with overlapping functions.


The haphazardly crafted works of federal bureaucracy was not only expensive, it thickened the wad of government red tape that slows the process of achievement, made management services less efficient and led to a multiplicity of failed decisions caused by the spreading of simple tasks among complex and varied agencies.


Trump’s plan began with the long process of rearranging the overgrown federal bureaucracy by grafting together agencies that do similar work and pruning offices that have outlived their usefulness.


The administration’s effort to reshape the workforce of nearly two million civil servants has already upset and angered some federal workers who fret that their jobs could be eliminated through buyouts and early retirement offers. However, the White House, in a statement, said Trump “is committed to streamlining government for the 21st century, reducing bloat, duplication and waste and focusing resources on key priorities like public safety and protecting our nation’s homeland.”


Conservatives who have long pushed for smaller government are cheered by the developments. “This is going very well,” said anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.


“Slow and steady – for all the bluster, this is how you downsize government without engendering blowback,” he added.


Trump has already begun to reverse the growth that occurred during the Obama era when the government added a total of 188,000 permanent employees, according to Office of Personnel Management data. By the end of September 2017, the federal government had 1.94 million permanent workers, down nearly 16,000 overall since the beginning of the year, according to the most recent OPM information.


During the first six months of Trump’s presidential entry year, 71,285 career employees quit or retired. That’s up from 50,000 who left during the same period in 2009, Obama’s first year in the chief executive’s chair, according to the most recent OPM data.


“I tell my people, ‘Where you don’t need to fill slots, don’t fill them,’” the President told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham in November 2017.


The Heritage Foundation, in a report, said that a year ago this month, the President introduced an ambitious proposal to realign officialdom on Capitol Hill for the 21st century; that is, to shed the old inefficiencies of a behemoth built for an era that has since passed.


The plan offered an understanding of government’s role in a society suited for contemporary life, one that could have reverberating implications even after this president leaves office — if the White House puts political muscle behind it.

Among the 32 suggestions proffered in the document are:

  • Merge the Departments of Labor and Education into a new “Department of Education and the Workforce” (the idea being that these two departments already serve the same purpose of preparing people for work);
  • Consolidate food-safety programs under the US Department of Agriculture;
  • Privatize the U.S. Postal Service;
  • Merge some entitlement programs currently housed at USDA under the Department of Health and Human Services — which would be renamed the “Department of Health and Public Welfare;”
  • Create a public-private research center that relies on experts, academics and industry to reassess government’s functions in a new economy marked by automation, big data and a new style of “customer” interactions with bureaucracy.

Many of these are well intentioned, but obstacles persist. Only six months into 2019, we have seen how difficult it is for a Congress with a Democratic majority in the House and a GOP edge in the Senate to act in unison on any bill or measure, yet alone on suggested government mergers. With a presidential election looming in 2020, Democratic eyes are on beating or removing Trump.

And while it’s a visionary plan, it might well be suffocated by the system it seeks to fix. Moreover, such a comprehensive proposal, while refreshingly ambitious, necessarily holds weaknesses and remains open to criticism. And the president’s opponents certainly aren’t shy to voice these criticisms in pre-election sound bites and bashes.

About the Author

- My name is Carlo Barbieri, an entrepreneur, civic activist and a leader of many organizations associated with Brazil. A native of Brazil myself, I am currently the CEO of Oxford Group, a firm composed of many international consulting and trading companies. I am also a founding member of the Brazilian Business Group and founding member and Past President of the Brazil Club. In addition, I serve as a Board member of the Deerfield Chamber of Commerce. I have served as a member of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Brazil Partnership. Past President of the Rotary Club – Boca Raton West for the 2014-2015 term, I have also been Vice President and Professor of 2Grow – Human Development. An Ambassador of Barry University in Brazil, I am the former President of the Black Fire Bull Steak House. I have also presided over a number of organizations such as the Brazilian Association of Trading Companies (ABECE), Brazil-China Chamber of Commerce in São Paulo, Brazil-Australia Chamber of Commerce, Brazil-Dominican Republican Chamber of Commerce; director of the Trade Center of the State of São Paulo, Brazilian Association of Freight Forwarders and Brazilian Association of Banks. I was also a local Council member for the Consulate General of Brazil in Miami, for the 2013-2017 term.

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