Night Owls is a themed open thread appearing at Daily Kos seven days a week.
Eleanor Eagen of the Revolving Door Project writes at The American Prospect—Why Recent American Governments Have Fumbled Crises. While our population has doubled in the past 70 years, the number of federal employees hasn’t increased (in case you wonder why our pandemic response has lagged).
In the nearly seven decades since 1952, the U.S. population has more than doubled. The size of the country’s economy, as measured in real GDP, has increased by ten times. In contrast, the size of the federal government’s civilian workforce has stayed remarkably constant at about two million employees. While not every part of government needs to grow in line with these other metrics, many very clearly should. The same number of workplace inspectors, for example, should not be responsible for ensuring the safety of twice as many workers. The same goes for environmental inspectors, financial watchdogs, tax auditors, and more.
This should seem obvious to most, and yet the thrust of federal HR policy has tended in exactly the opposite direction for years. Lawmakers subject to the past few decades’ austerity fever found federal workers to be an easy target. Drawing heavily on racist tropes, they framed a highly integrated federal workforce as “lazy,” “inefficient,” and “undeserving,” and then joined together across the aisle to deny it resources, slash its functions, and push its jobs into the hands of federal contractors. Any discussion of the federal workforce’s degradation must start with this long-running trend.
Few leaders, however, were as unabashed—indeed, zealous—in their hatred of the federal workforce as President Donald Trump. He berated federal employees writ large as agents of the deep state and sought to deny resources for all but those carrying out the federal government’s most odious activities. (His administration issued a mandate that ICE hire an additional 10,000 employees that the agency hadn’t even asked for.) Unsurprisingly, faced with the threat, and sometimes the reality, of budget cuts, retaliation, and reorganizations, many federal employees walked out the door, leaving struggling agencies even weaker than before.
For all the media attention that attrition has received during the Trump years, it’s important to note that many agencies saw their staffing numbers plummet even more following the Obama administration’s ill-advised sequestration deal with the Republican Congress. Still, the particularly flashy, cruel nature of Trump’s attacks has drawn attention to the federal workforce’s plight in a new way.
This awareness was greatly heightened over the past year as the nation experienced just how ill-prepared the federal government is to tackle the challenges of our time. To be sure, Trump actively interfered with significant portions of the COVID-19 response, but examples of crumbling governing infrastructure that were largely independent of Trump also abounded. Consider, for instance, the Treasury Department’s slow distribution of stimulus checks to millions, or the mess that was the Small Business Administration’s handling of aid to genuinely desperate small businesses. Many have come away with the sense that the nation’s government, once capable of astounding feats, simply was no longer up to the tasks before it.
With more widespread recognition of both the problem and the stakes, the time is now right for President Biden to make the case for a hiring spree. [...]
THREE OTHER ARTICLES WORTH READING
TOP COMMENTS • RESCUED DIARIES
TWEET OF THE DAY
“It’s better to err on the side of too much rather than too little. Interest rates are at zero, inflation is low, unemployment is high. You don’t need a textbook to know this is when you push on the fiscal accelerator. Let’s go.” ~~Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics on stimulus/survival legislation (1/31/2021)
BLAST FROM THE PAST
On this date at Daily Kos in 2011—O'Keefe copycat who targeted Planned Parenthood faceplants out of the gate:
So another weirdo wingnut James O'Keefe wannabe has released a hoax video targeting "the left." This one was created by an anti-choice activist named Lila Rose and it targets Planned Parenthood. Rose, who collaborated with O'Keefe in the past, aimed to produce a carbon copy of his ACORN/pimp hoax videos, this time substituting ACORN with Planned Parenthood and O'Keefe's pimp outfit with actors and actresses claiming to be part of an underage prostitution ring.
Rose is just now releasing the videos in which she claims that Planned Parenthood conspired to cover up the prostitution ring. She only leaves out one detail: Planned Parenthood officials, who instantly realized they were probably being punked, nonetheless went to federal authorities on the off-chance that Rose's actors weren't part of another O'Keefe style hoax.