Keeping spending in check is vital
Cutting the size and, therefore, the cost of government is a promise politicians at all levels make. Reducing the number of people employed by government is a key to the process.
But the powerful federal bureaucracy, aided and abetted by Congress and presidents of both parties, has found ways to cope with campaigns to reduce employment.
It is true that for about a decade, federal government employment has remained fairly steady, at about 2.7 million. But that number does not cover people in the private sector who are government employees, in effect, through the contracting process.
Told to cut their payrolls, federal agencies sometimes comply – then use contract workers to handle tasks formerly shouldered by government employees.
In 2012, the last year for which detailed figures are available, the federal government spent a whopping $515 billion on contracts with private companies. That makes up for a lot of payroll cuts.
And as the bureaucrats got used to the process, they made more use of it. From 2000 to 2008, amounts spent on contracts increased by an average of 12 percent a year.
To his credit, President Barack Obama has attempted to keep a promise to cut contracting expenses. They have decreased noticeably since he took office.
Clearly, however, more needs to be done. Holding the line on government employees is meaningless as federal budgets continue to increase, year by year -courtesy of runaway deficit spending.