Trump's Federal Hiring Freeze Plan Won't Work — Unless the Point Is Damaging the Government

This idea has major problems.

Photo Credit: Michael Vadon / Flickr

Donald Trump has pledged a federal hiring freeze, because … uh, corruption. Yeah, that’s it. Reducing federal employment through attrition will reduce corruption, aside from how, as the Washington Post’s Joe Davidson points out:

To the extent there is corruption, it certainly is not the fault of those who have not yet been hired by the government. Yet that’s the main group a freeze would affect.

As Davidson goes on to detail, a hiring freeze also wouldn’t necessarily cut jobs. How could that be? When Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan implemented hiring freezes:

In their drive to fulfill their missions, agencies circumvented the freezes, the GAO found. Some agencies hired part-time and temporary workers. Some used contractors and increased overtime. Some simply hired more people than allowed. Furthermore, with the military, public safety and public health agencies exempted, much of the government would be excluded from Trump’s freeze, meaning that whatever impact he foresees would be sharply restricted. The Defense and Homeland Security departments alone account for almost half of federal civilian employees. There are, of course, thousands of public safety and health staffers in other agencies.

In fact, freezing hiring didn’t just fail to reduce staffing levels and get in the way of the government doing its job, it cost money:

Because the Carter and Reagan freezes led to the loss of 445 IRS revenue agent and auditor staff-years, the amount of tax dollars lost to the government was more than 20 times the amount saved in salary and benefits.

Then again, for today’s Republicans, failing to collect taxes and disrupting government operations are good things. Saying “we won’t hire anyone because corruption and savings” may well be an intentional effort that, if they were being honest, they’d describe as “we don’t want the government to be able to do its job.” 

Laura Clawson is the Labor editor at Daily Kos Labor, and a contributing editor at Daily Kos.


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