By Natalia Castro
Americans were ignited to head to the polls when President Donald Trump traveled the country in 2016 promising to “drain the swamp,” but the only group that can truly do this is the swamp itself in Congress. Civil service reform rarely gets the media attention that health care, immigration, or other issues receive; Washington D.C. politicians know that and use it to prevent real change from coming. To fix our broken bureaucracy, the American people must demand a more efficient and effective federal workforce.
During the Obama administration, news broke of poor performing Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) employees placing veterans on extensive waiting lists, causing hundreds to die without receiving care. The story continued to turn heads when after two years several senior VA officials identified as causing the veteran deaths were still on the job.
Americans rallied behind the news in support of our veterans and, as a result, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) led the passage of the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act through Congress to increase management’s ability to remove poor performing employees.
According to data retrieved from the Office of Personnel Management’s FedScope, the VA has maintained a firing rate of less than 1 percent since 2005; however, in the three months following the legislation’s passage, firings increased by 26 percent.
Unfortunately, the VA is not the only department that has struggled to remove poor performing employees. FedScope data reveals that the federal workforce termination rate is only 3.37 percent, versus a termination rate of 17.27 in the private sector. But that includes layoffs, or reductions in force. Once removed, only 0.53 percent of federal employees are terminated for cause.
Every few years, stories circulate of employees stealing from their offices, threatening and harassing coworkers, diverting medical supplies, and other grotesque abuses of power but rarely are these employees fired. Instead, many are transferred to new offices in the same departments or are able to retire with their benefits intact. Despite the rampant abuse, federal employees have a 99.5 percent chance of never being fired for cause.
While these stories are common, many Americans do not realize this — the administrative state that cannot be held accountable — is the swamp.
The impact of inefficiency within the VA was the death of veterans, while agencies like the Department of Labor and the Environmental Protection Agency might not have such clear consequences, they do waste taxpayer money and prevent our government from fully serving the people.
The only way to truly solve this problem is through legislation that makes removing poor performing employees simpler, but Congress is rarely inclined to limit the size and scope of the federal government. So the American people must demand it.
U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) has introduced the MERIT Act of 2017, which aims at expanding the VA Accountability reforms to the entire federal workforce. While 55 cosponsors have jumped on board, the American people must be the driving voice for change.
To help place pressure on Congress to act and bring attention to this issue, weather permitting, Americans for Limited Government (ALG) will be flying a banner on June 27 saying FIRE THE SWAMP directly outside Washington D.C. while federal workers drive into work on their morning commute.
ALG President Rick Manning explains, “Federal employees work for taxpayers, and the least taxpayers should be able to expect are those employees doing their jobs. Those who either refuse or are unable to do their jobs are the definition of government waste, and the heads of every department and agency should have the capacity to fire them through a fair but expedited process…The only way President Trump will be able to drain the swamp is if he can fire the swamp.”
The American people must send Congress the same message they sent following stories of VA abuse — the time to drain the swamp is now. Just because veterans are not still dying on wait lists does not mean the issue has gone away or become less important. The American people must get involved to show Congress government waste is unacceptable and must be reformed.
– – –
Natalia Castro is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.
To contribute to Americans for Limited Government’s FIRE THE SWAMP
campaign, visit firetheswamp.com.