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Ebenezer Scrooge
Dear Congress: there are too many states these days,
please eliminate three. P.S: I am not a crackpot.

Unemployment is currently above nine percent. I mention this in passing because it is a number that we only a few years ago believed to be catastrophic, but that was before we discovered this terrifying-looking beast called the deficit, a world-devouring, ocean-boiling, toilet-seat-leave-upping monster that the entire body of government had plum forgotten about for years and years. Where did the deficit go? We don't know. But the precise moment the presidency switched from Guy Conservatives Like to Guy Conservatives Didn't Like, it came leaping out from under Republicans' beds, screaming like a banshee and making the whole lot of them wet their collective pants. You know... legislatively speaking.

So if we were in the middle of a long, deep recession notable primarily for truly shocking levels of unemployment, what would be the worst possible thing you could do? Oh, let's say... go on a binge to reduce employment.

Three leading House Republicans on Monday unveiled the details of plans to replace every three federal employees that depart with only one new hire, in hopes of trimming the workforce by 10 percent by 2015 and fulfilling a key element of the House GOP’s 2012 budget plans. [...]

If passed, the legislation would require the Office of Management and Budget to track the size of the federal workforce on a quarterly basis and report to Congress in writing if the number of employees exceeds 90 percent of its size in fiscal 2011. No agency would be permitted to fill job vacancies once the limit was exceeded. Agency employees would be tallied on a full-time equivalent basis, according to the legislation.

The president would be able to permit hiring above the legal limit in cases of war, national security concerns, or other national emergencies, according to the bill.

Now, if I were a fatheaded Republican congressman intent on truly screwing up American government — not some petty personal boondoggle, mind you, or merely some arbitrarily inserted demand that some government agency start putting at least ten references to Jesus per page in all past and future government reports — I can't imagine a better way to do it than to give myself an arbitrary rule under which I had the unilateral power to filibuster every single damn hire the American government made, for any reason, in any corner of the nation, all under the banner of supposed "fiscal responsibility". Now that's power. You could screw up a country for a good long stretches at a time with that one.

Suppose we're in a recession, and government services are more needed than during an average time? Oh, wait, they are, and we don't care. Cut more services! Those unemployed and uninsured people have it too easy!

Suppose a hiring ban would result in insufficient access to our court systems, for both criminal and civil cases? Oh, right. We have that already; we don't give a damn.

Suppose a hiring ban would result in an inability to conduct food inspections or track emerging strains of flu or other outbreaks, leading to an increase in tainted food, food borne illnesses, or simply unpreparedness? FEMA and other disaster preparedness? Don't care.

Suppose the federal workforce is, and the article itself notes, "at its lowest level since [about 40 years ago] as a percentage of the U.S. population", thus removing the entire impetus for this supposed crisis? Well, showboating is never constrained by facts now, is it?

This bit is especially delicious, as an exercise in cynicism:

[I]n a key concession to federal worker unions concerned that curtailing federal hires would lead to a new wave of government service contracts, the bill would prohibit agencies from signing new service contracts because of the workforce limitations unless cost comparisons demonstrate the government would save money.

Yes, that's it. Those federal workers would not have their jobs privatized unless someone, somewhere claimed that it would save the government money. You know, like happens now. With everything.

All and all, this is the sort of ridiculous nonsense that anti-government politicians love, because it allows them to devastate government services while claiming they had no hand in it. Paul Ryan, especially, is a fan of this "enforced future poverty" approach to government. He'll be very sorry, but the new "rules" dictate that government won't help certain wide swaths of Americans anymore; there's just nothing he can do about it.

We're still waiting for the part where jobs get created by this Congress, but I suppose sometimes you have to burn down the village in order to, er... save Paul Revere from a slight tax increase? I admit I'm not actually sure what we're going for, here. Only that every action of this Congress seems to be an attempt to actively make Americans' lives worse.

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