Gov Career

By Phil Piemonte

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We're getting a bad feeling about this

Ever feel like you're being waterboarded by the federal government?

Certainly the people who work for the U.S. Postal Service must feel that way, faced as they are with a proposal to reduce the size of the USPS workforce by 220,000 employees by 2015.

And now — only days after USPS announced that plan — certainly all feds must be getting a similar sensation creeping up on them in the wake of the recent announcement from the Office of Management and Budget.

We’re referring to the OMB directive instructing agencies to get ready to trim their budgets back by as much as 10 percent in fiscal 2013.

Federal financial officers have been told to turn in agency budgets for fiscal 2013 that are 5 percent lower than the current level. Agencies also have to suggest additional cuts of another 5 percent — or, in the words of OMB Director Jacob Lew: “Your 2013 budget submission should also identify additional discretionary funding reductions that would bring your request to a level that is at least 10 percent below your 2011 enacted discretionary appropriation.”

Yikes. That’s a bunch of cash.

Up to now, the pressure to cut, cut, cut has come from Congress, more specifically, the House. But now that the other house — the White House — has entered the fray, things are going to get even dicier in the federal workplace.

Unions already are warning that cutting back resources means fewer folks on the job to do the things that need to be done. In good PR fashion — and for perfectly valid reasons — they start by listing the people whose jobs affect everyone: the people who inspect the food supply, patrol the borders, enforce clean water and air regulations, do medical research, and so on.

The federal government does provide a lot of services to its citizens, and citizens are used to receiving them. That’s why a lot of people would argue that downsizing the machine that provides those services — especially in a very uncertain economy — does not seem like an especially timely move.

There’s another factor, too. Though a few advocates for feds have touched on it, we generally don’t see too much emphasis on what would seem to be a key question: How can you shrink a government when the population it governs is growing — and growing fast?

Let’s take a look.

In 2000, according the Census Bureau’s numbers, the nation’s population was 282 million people. Today (and we really mean today, this is according the bureau’s “population clock”) the U.S. population, as of Aug. 19, is 312,023,982.

That’s 30 million more people in 10 years.

For scale, the population of Scandinavia, according to some numbers we quickly retrieved online, is 19.8 million. That’s Sweden, Denmark and Norway together. Add those other sort-of-Scandinavian countries, Finland and Iceland, and you’re only up to 25.4 million — which is also about the population of Texas.

So, one wonders: How we can trim back the size of the federal government in an era in which the U.S. population grows each decade by more people than live in the state of Texas?

We don’t know. Maybe you have the answer.

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Aug 19, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Reader comments

Wed, Aug 31, 2011 bucky

Where else can you get the kind of service that the USPS provides at such a low price.

Tue, Aug 30, 2011 Dorothy E. Ingram Norfolk, Va.

I still think we should start a recall petition and throw everybody in Congress out, and tell the next group that goes in to grow up, act like adults, and do your jobs the way you're suppossed to - or you'll be out the door, too. Lee

Tue, Aug 30, 2011 jbd Maryland

I may be the only one that feels this way, but the United States Postal Service (USPS) delivers a commodity that gives a lot of bang for the buck. It seems that most of the respondents to this article live in an urban area, but the majority of the good ole USA is rural. According to Wikipedia, "84 percent of the United States' inhabitants live in suburban and urban areas, but cities occupy only 10 percent of the country. Rural areas occupy the remaining 90 percent." This means that the internet and email are not available, and if they are, they are not the high-speed FIOS or X-Finity type. The USPS provides vital communication and community services to the largest total geographical area in the U.S. and FedEx (I don't know about DHL, UPS, etc.) does NOT deliver to a P.O. Box. I believe FORTY-ODD CENTS A LETTER IS THE BEST BARGAIN AROUND - geez, you can't even buy a pack of gum for that price!!! Furthermore, the USPS is the only Federal Govt. agency commissioned to make a profit, if possible; only health and retirement benefits are subsidized by our tax dollars. I'm 50 years old now and live just outside of Washington, D.C. During my youth, my father was Post Master in a rural area in Virginia for over 20 years. He knew almost every one of the approximately 2,000 residents by first name, was a Navy corpsman and participated in the invasion of Okinawa during WWII before becoming Post Master, and the ONLY time he missed a day of work was when he broke his leg or when my mother was in the hospital. So while some people think of U.S. Postal workers as lazy or replaceable with technology, just as the residents of Richfield, Utah or Adair, TN or Livingston County, MO or anyone in the thousands of other rural areas what they will do if the "obselete" USPS no longer serves them?

Thu, Aug 25, 2011 Dot so md

Wait til this downsizing personally affects the lives of our Congressmen -trying to get Social Security for their mom - wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone paid their fair taxes - instead of puttinng it on the middle man?? - Our education is about 26th in the world - very alarming state of affairs -

Wed, Aug 24, 2011 dp dc

There are two things wrong with the premise of this article: 1) it assumes that everything the Govt is doing it should be doing, and 2) It assumes that every Govt employee is doing good work or work that the Govt should be doing. Read through these comments; many great examples. Redundancy is one of the biggest wastes of money in the Fed Govt. Why isn't there a single personnel security clearance system? Why do agencies refuse to share information? Why do so many agencies have their own contracting offices? Why isn't there a single repository of past performance rather than having to bug Govt employees constantly for reviews? The list goes on.

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