During the debate last night the brilliant mind of Newt Gingrich, which seems a fact free, vacuous space filled with platitudes and inanities, gave us his solution to the deficit problem: fire every military and civilian employee and don't hire replacements. Specifically he said,
I think that if we were prepared to repeal the 130-year-old civil service laws and go to a modern management system, we could save a minimum of $500 billion a year with a better system.$500 Billion and not a penny less.
What Mr. Newt doesn't seem to understand is that the entire cost of salary and benefits of all Federal employees, military and civilian is about $430 Billion (p.122) So when Newt eliminates the entire Federal Government, including Congress, the Judicial branch and the entire military he'll still be $70 Billion short. Of course since Newt is eliminating all employees, he's also eliminating is own position, but that's another subject.
Looking closely at what Newt said, maybe he was only talking about eliminating the civilian workforce, leaving the guys in uniform untouched. He started with,
if we were prepared to repeal the 130-year-old civil service laws and go to a modern management system
That 130 year old law he refers to can only be the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act which eliminated the spoils/patronage system and established the competitive Civil Service. That law does not apply to military personnel, but does apply to civilian workers in the Pentagon.
Of course if Newt only meant to eliminate the civilian workers, including the Postal Service and all the civilians working at the Defense Department, that would only save about $300 Billion, well short of his $500 Billion promise.
Putting Newt's inanities aside there are several important points here. People love to rail against Federal workers and complain about the money "wasted" on high salaries and excessive benefits. Well, if the truth were told people would know that salaries and benefits represent a relatively small size of the Federal Budget. For instance, in 2010 the Federal Budget was $3.7 Trillion. Of that, less than 4.5% — $160 Billion, went for pay and benefits of what most people refer to as the bureaucracy. The rest of the $287 Billion for compensation and benefits went to pay the uniformed military — $154 Billion, DOD civilian employees — $64 Billion, the Postal Service - $58 Billion, and the legislative and judicial branches — $7 Billion.
And that bureaucracy which people rail against? Those are the doctors, nurses and other folks in the VA who care for veterans, the Justice Department lawyers who prosecute criminals, the food inspectors who keep our food safe, the consumer watchdogs and bank examiners who protect our finances, the people at Health and Human Services who keep the Social Security and Medicare checks coming, the Forest Service and Park Service employees who care for our national heritage, the emergency managers at FEMA who rush to our communities during our time of need and the researchers at the National Institutes of Health who prevent and find cures for diseases, just to name a very, very few of the unsung Federal workers we rely on every day.
It is time to stop making Federal employees scapegoats for the perceived ills of the nation.