Trump's 'drain the swamp' pledge will face toughest test in reducing federal workforce

As hard as it will be to pass health insurance reform, tax reform, and infrastructure legislation, President Trump's toughest challenge will come in trying to cut the numbers of federal workers.

Hard numbers are difficult to come by, but budget and government experts are calling the planned reductions in the federal workforce a "historic contraction" not seen since the drawdown after World War II. 

Cabinet secretaries will have some leeway in how they reduce their departments' workforces.  Some may rely on the normal attrition that occurs in any workforce with retirements and vacancies created by promotions being responsible for most reductions.  Others may seek to eliminate entire departments with the subsequent layoff of government workers.

Other presidents have tried and mostly failed to cut the Leviathan that is the federal workforce.  But there is no doubt President Trump has a historic opportunity to actually make that promise a reality.

Washington Post:

Still, budget experts said it was unclear what the precise impact on many agencies might be because the departments could choose to implement reductions in a variety of ways.

Administration officials have also stressed that discussions are ongoing between budget officials and agencies, and that the size of the budget cuts remains fluid. Moreover, the cuts cannot take effect unless they are authorized by Congress, which could prove difficult. Lawmakers routinely rebuffed budget requests from President Barack Obama, leading instead to protracted negotiations between both sides.

Already, Democrats have vowed to fight Trump's proposals, and some Republicans have also expressed unease at the size of the reductions.

The White House declined to comment publicly, but administration officials have signaled for weeks that large cuts will be part of the budget.

"Unfortunately, we have no alternative but to reinvest in our military and make ourselves a military power once again," National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said on "Fox News Sunday."

"If you're doing that in an area where you have to balance the budget and you cannot create a further deficit, you have to make cuts. It's no different than every other family in America that has to make the tough decisions when they need to spend money somewhere, they have to cut it from somewhere else."

The federal government is projected to spend $4.091 trillion next year, with roughly two-thirds of that going mostly toward Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, poverty assistance and interest payments on the government debt. This spending is expected to be left untouched in the budget proposal next week.

What Trump will propose changing is the rest of the budget, known as discretionary spending, which is authorized each year by Congress. Slightly more than half of this remaining money goes to the military, and the rest is spread across agencies that operate things like education, diplomacy, housing, transportation and law enforcement.

Trump's power of persuasion will be tapped to get most of these cuts through Congress.  He is going to have to convince the GOP that there will be no shrinking of government without pain to the voters.  Although this is self-evident, many conservatives in Congress over the years have talked a good game when it comes to shrinking the size and influence of Washington on people's lives but, in the end, voted to increase the size of government.  In effect, Trump will be telling Republicans who call themselves "budget hawks" to put up or shut up.

As for the rest of the Republican caucus, the pressure from interest groups not to cut certain programs will be enormous.  As usual, the media will portray any cuts in the budget as (choose one) 1) the war on the poor, 2) the war on science, 3) the war on women, or 4) the war on sanity.

Because only a crazy person believes that the government is too big and spends too much money.

How to measure success?  If Trump can get 50% of the budget cuts he's asking for, he will be doing well – far better than any president since Reagan.  He should do better in shrinking the size of the federal workforce.  Department heads who refuse to fill vacancies could result in a substantial reduction in federal workers.

"Draining the swamp" represented by the permanent bureaucracy will prove more difficult than the president imagines.  But the rewards will be great.  Thousands of federal workers will no longer be forced to justify their existence by expanding their powers at the expense of the people and the states.

If that happens, a historic reversal in the growing power of government will be stopped in its tracks.

As hard as it will be to pass health insurance reform, tax reform, and infrastructure legislation, President Trump's toughest challenge will come in trying to cut the numbers of federal workers.

Hard numbers are difficult to come by, but budget and government experts are calling the planned reductions in the federal workforce a "historic contraction" not seen since the drawdown after World War II. 

Cabinet secretaries will have some leeway in how they reduce their departments' workforces.  Some may rely on the normal attrition that occurs in any workforce with retirements and vacancies created by promotions being responsible for most reductions.  Others may seek to eliminate entire departments with the subsequent layoff of government workers.

Other presidents have tried and mostly failed to cut the Leviathan that is the federal workforce.  But there is no doubt President Trump has a historic opportunity to actually make that promise a reality.

Washington Post:

Still, budget experts said it was unclear what the precise impact on many agencies might be because the departments could choose to implement reductions in a variety of ways.

Administration officials have also stressed that discussions are ongoing between budget officials and agencies, and that the size of the budget cuts remains fluid. Moreover, the cuts cannot take effect unless they are authorized by Congress, which could prove difficult. Lawmakers routinely rebuffed budget requests from President Barack Obama, leading instead to protracted negotiations between both sides.

Already, Democrats have vowed to fight Trump's proposals, and some Republicans have also expressed unease at the size of the reductions.

The White House declined to comment publicly, but administration officials have signaled for weeks that large cuts will be part of the budget.

"Unfortunately, we have no alternative but to reinvest in our military and make ourselves a military power once again," National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said on "Fox News Sunday."

"If you're doing that in an area where you have to balance the budget and you cannot create a further deficit, you have to make cuts. It's no different than every other family in America that has to make the tough decisions when they need to spend money somewhere, they have to cut it from somewhere else."

The federal government is projected to spend $4.091 trillion next year, with roughly two-thirds of that going mostly toward Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, poverty assistance and interest payments on the government debt. This spending is expected to be left untouched in the budget proposal next week.

What Trump will propose changing is the rest of the budget, known as discretionary spending, which is authorized each year by Congress. Slightly more than half of this remaining money goes to the military, and the rest is spread across agencies that operate things like education, diplomacy, housing, transportation and law enforcement.

Trump's power of persuasion will be tapped to get most of these cuts through Congress.  He is going to have to convince the GOP that there will be no shrinking of government without pain to the voters.  Although this is self-evident, many conservatives in Congress over the years have talked a good game when it comes to shrinking the size and influence of Washington on people's lives but, in the end, voted to increase the size of government.  In effect, Trump will be telling Republicans who call themselves "budget hawks" to put up or shut up.

As for the rest of the Republican caucus, the pressure from interest groups not to cut certain programs will be enormous.  As usual, the media will portray any cuts in the budget as (choose one) 1) the war on the poor, 2) the war on science, 3) the war on women, or 4) the war on sanity.

Because only a crazy person believes that the government is too big and spends too much money.

How to measure success?  If Trump can get 50% of the budget cuts he's asking for, he will be doing well – far better than any president since Reagan.  He should do better in shrinking the size of the federal workforce.  Department heads who refuse to fill vacancies could result in a substantial reduction in federal workers.

"Draining the swamp" represented by the permanent bureaucracy will prove more difficult than the president imagines.  But the rewards will be great.  Thousands of federal workers will no longer be forced to justify their existence by expanding their powers at the expense of the people and the states.

If that happens, a historic reversal in the growing power of government will be stopped in its tracks.

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