A Modest Proposal: Cut 15% Of The Federal Government Workforce, Save $1.4 Trillion In Ten Years

Tyler Durden's picture

While Washington is baffling everyone with male cow manure, presenting 7-slide powerpoints full of talking points and empty of actual actionable cost-cutting proposals, while draping the melodrama in ever more evanescent haute couture of "emperor's clothing" du jour, the one true solution to all our problems is so simple that it is perfectly logical that it would have been avoided like the plague by D.C. In a nutshell: do to the government, what the privates sector has done to itself in the past 3 years, and fire 15% of the federal government workforce. After all everyone, even the government, complains about the bloat in the system. Here is the chance to fix it. And the benefits, unlike the back-end loaded and extremely loose "bipartisan plan", which happens to invoke such pseudo-totalitarian constructs as the "Super Congress", can be quantified immediately, with the applicable savings made abundantly clear to all from day one. In this case - slimming the US government ever so modestly, by just 15%, would generate savings of $117.4 billion a year, of $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years. And no, these are not reductions in future spendings: these are real actionable cuts from the day they are enacted, with fungible cash able to be used for any other, much more needed purposes, up to and including economically stimulative projects, which actually generate jobs for the private sector.

John Poehling explains in more detail:

It appears from the Congressional Research Service (http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/RL34685_20110419.pdf) that the Federal Govt has 2.9 million employees with an average all in wage & benefit package that averages $146,100. 


This includes $140.4 billion in retirees costs allocated to the 2.9 mm active workers (adds about $49,500 to the all in cost per employee).


If we cut the size of the federal govt workforce by 15% (as most companies did) & reduced the all in cost per employee by 15% we could save $117.4 billion per year (a reduction from $423.2 bn to $305.7 bn).


Over the next 10 years, this would save $1.4 trillion (assuming an annual COLA of 3%).

Obviously, since this is a sensible, logical proposal, it will never succeed, as it entails actual, real sacrifices from the government sector. And that is impossible -  after all they don't call it a Kabuki for nothing. DC doing something to cut costs, even if it does not impair the private sector, instead of promising to do so in the future, would make a mockery out of all those who made a mockery of the past several weeks on the Hill. Which is impossible.

Last but not least, we should never forget that Congress gets its primary modus operandi from the immortal advice of the Simpsons' Troy McClure: "And now that you know how it's done... don't do it" (except when Fluffy Bunny happens to be America's middle class of course).

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oogs66's picture

can you make sure all of obama's czar's make it to the fired list?

rcintc's picture

Sounds good!

Let's get started!

Fish Gone Bad's picture

Or they could all just take a 15% pay cut and everyone keep their job.  But hey, where's the fun in that?

dlmaniac's picture

If 1.4 T saving over 10 years is barely enough to fill 1 year budget hole you know the outcome of this mess could only be sth in the Modern Day Rome Empire Collapse territory.

CrashisOptimistic's picture

Worse still, the calculation is incompetent.

You don't get all those savings because the people dismissed pay income tax on that money.  The net is lower than the quoted number for savings.

They also pay into the retirement system.  And Social Security.

Yes, cutting them saves money, but the calculation is incompetent.

Clay Hill's picture

My first thought was the UE benefits x 99 weeks.

Then again, some departments should be cut by 85%, leaving only 15% still employed by Uncle Scam.

Popo's picture

$146k average salary?   What's the average salary for a non-government worker in the USA?

$146k average for government employees is more than *double* what private-sector workers make on average.   (Hell, it might even be triple!)  How about fire them *all* and hire them back at wages commensurate with private sector wages.   That'll save you trillions....  and it would be the right thing to do.

snowball777's picture

How many short-order cooks are employed by the government? Take the millions upon millions of unskilled workers in the private sector out of that average and try again.

Apple, kiwis, kumquats...

Makes a great talking point for the utterly innumerate to froth over though.


brandy night rocks's picture

Oh, stop acting like the ubelievable qualifications of the gov't workforce means their salaries should just naturally be high.  Anyone who has ever worked in government knows that it is stuffed to the fucking gills with secretaries.

Those who aren't are generally fatasses who sit around doing nothing.  And despite your derision, just about every single short order cook individually outproduces entire federal bureaus in terms of adding actual value to the economy.  The fact that lower-skill workers completely shame "highly-skilled" federal workers when it comes to production actually supports the argument that fed chair warmers are exorbitantly overpaid.


MisterMousePotato's picture

I read this entire thread, left, and then felt compelled to return and point out something that everyone seems to be overlooking, which is that this is not only about numbers. Namely, there seems to be this underlying acceptance that if it was just that simple (viz., that if all we had to do to right this country was just fire 15% of the Federal Government employees, or keep 'em all but lower their pay and benefits by 15%), well, there's the answer and we should just do so.

Problem solved.

Well, I disagree. I disagree because it is just plain wrong and immoral that the public employees (whether they number one or ten million) should continue to get away with using the police power of the state to take by threat of force money from hardworking people to stuff into their already engorged wallets, especially when their contracts were all acquired through bribery and fraud.

I mean, that's everyone's answer? Instead of having 10000000 pampered, grossly overpaid and underworked, perfumed and powdered rulers/masters/aristocrats/supreme overlords and ladies sucking this nation dry, we should have only 8500000? I mean, the United States, as presently constituted, is starting to make 18th century France look positively egalitarian by comparison.

Jorge Santayana was right: Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. (Actually, if he were writing today, he would probably write: Those who never learned history are doomed to repeat it.) Or have we all forgotten these lines from the Declaration of Independence:

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

I'll bet dollars to donuts that the officials referred to in the above were not nearly so well paid or plentiful as our present 'public servants'.

Some wag (I forget who) recently suggested that we all eat as many hamburgers and drink as many beers as humanly possible this last Fourth of July because ... "next year we may not be celebrating our independence, but instead fighting for it again." Or words to that effect.

Things that go bump's picture

Actually +1000.  They could get rid of 75% of them and there would still be too many pampered, grossly overpaid and underworked, perfumed and powdered rulers/masters/aristocrats/supreme overlords and ladies.

nmewn's picture

"I disagree because it is just plain wrong and immoral that the public employees (whether they number one or ten million) should continue to get away with using the police power of the state to take by threat of force money from hardworking people to stuff into their already engorged wallets, especially when their contracts were all acquired through bribery and fraud."

Plus a million.

When we granted them the power of legal lethal force it came with the expectation that that power would be used in a moral & ethical manner.

Key words..."we granted them" and an expectation of them not using it to enslave any portion of the population. They have done just that with it.

They have bastardized the "commerce clause" of fair trade between individual states beyond recognition and now have "legal highwaymen" roaming the countryside in search of honest tradesmen, merchants and commuters.

There is no end to their meddling.

wisefool's picture

Thats one way to look at it.

I say keep every single one of them. let them keep thier salaries, but under my plan there are only 3 types of federal employees.

1. Enforcers of the federal criminal code. These are the folks who catch kidnappers and prosecute + adjudicate crooked state and local governments.

2. Tax collectors. But here is the trick. you throw out the tax code. flat income, 1% national retail sales tax. you send IRS agents into collect money from shadow economy and you would see a gradual end to some of the major inequities in this country caused by corruption, drugs abuse and greed.

3. The military. Border enforcement.

Thats it. no other job roles or career paths in the federal government. The politicians can use ZH blog threads for legislative research instead of "aides" or czars or paid staffers.

I did it by Occident's picture

Also, they forgot about the federal support contractors.  That's a much bigger piece of the pie.  there is like 4 contractors for every fed employee, but they don't show up in the "Public sector worker" numbers as they are counted as "private sector".  Yeah right, but they still are getting paid by Uncle Sugar.  And then there are the supplier contracts which is for buying things such as billion dollar airplanes. 

Anyways, cutting the federal workforce (11% of the budget) by 15% is a Red Herring, about a 1.6% real cut which is not nearly enough.  The real money is in the contract spending which I believe is 1/3 of the budget, the other gorillas being Social Security and Medicare. 

TruthInSunshine's picture

I've been proposing this for 3 years now.

Many have been proposing it longer.

I've actually said that I think that it's at least possible that the cuts can be extended to the 20% range, across the board, and when this forces the government to adopt productivity boosting measures similar to what the private sector has employed, that 20% may look conservative (i.e. 25% to 30% across the board cuts will seem very plausible).

I went even further, saying the I doubt that 95%+ of Americans would notice no significant difference in any aspect of their life resulting from such cuts.

The government is bloated beyond recognition. It's a basket case and a drain on the private sector.

If car makers can produce entire vehicles at 12 to 14 total units (1 unit = 1 hour) of human labor, when that rate was 55 units back in the 70s, and if major multinationals can produce 30% to 100% more goods and services with literally 50% fewer workers, isn't it time that we expected at least some progress along these lines from the federal government?

If the 30% reduction came into fruition, that would produce 3 trillion dollars in real savings over the next decade, and far more from there, with even more efficiency/productivity gains over time.

Federal Workers Making Over $180,000 Increase By 2,000% In Past Five Years


Federal Government Workers Make Twice That of Private-Sector Counterparts


sun tzu's picture

They will tell you that government workers all have PhD's and masters degrees. I will tell you that they are fucking liars. I've worked in the government and private sector. I will tell you that the private sector will get rid of the deadwood every few years. The government absolutely cannot or will not fire anyone after 5 years of employment unless they commit some sort of felony. Fifty percent of government workers are dumber than doorknobs and they make $100K just because they've been there for decades. 

redpill's picture

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.

Sudden Debt's picture

In fact, federal public employees now make twice the salaries of their private sector counterparts—annual earnings that top $123,000. The median US household income, by comparison, is $52,000 annually.

Patriots need to make a lot of money. Being a patriot is a costly thing! You have to buy a flag to hang on your doorstep... you know, expenses.

And than there's inflation, even patriots are confronted by that so a little more on their paycheck helps them get by.


It worked for Greece for over a decade, so why not for the US...


Paul Bogdanich's picture

More BS.  Why not treat government agancies like a business and increase productivity?  Herinafter the SEC budget will be not less than the dollar amount they collect in fines and settlements.  Oh no not that!  Same for the EPA same for the FDA.  If you did that Government would become productive by ENFORCING THE DAMN LAW which is just what the ruling classes do not want nor can they tolerate so they sell all you plebian idiots (useful idiots I believe they called you in the periodic literature) this line of horse poo that government can do nothing.  Just sickening how inculcated with propaganda everyone is.   

sun tzu's picture

Ever hear of speedtraps? The federal government can fine you a dozen times a day because there are over 300,000 pages of federal laws and regulations.

Michael's picture

This is sector warfare. Private sector vs public sector.

The public sector will never suffer the pain of layoffs as the private sector does. And why should they?

I just thank God the complete and total economic collapse trajectory has not been altered.

I need to have the amount, of catastrophic economic destruction in it's final phase, maximized for my own entertainment thrills down the road. Got It?

I sure hope the Bernank starts QE3 soon.

fuu's picture

Could we start by getting rid of all the paid shills in the comments section?

sun tzu's picture

How do I get paid for posting here?

A Lunatic's picture

Please send $9.99 in a self addressed stamped envelope and I will gladly show you how. Don't forget to invite your friends and loved ones to join you in this limited time special offer.

snowball777's picture

You already are, Koch-sucker.

Popo's picture

The AVERAGE federal government salary is $146,000 ?!?????       HELLO?!???         WTF?  No wonder we're in such deep shit.


Give me one reason that the average government salary should be higher than the average private sector salary.   $146k average is absurd.

MisterMousePotato's picture

Average cop in Vallejo ... $120,000 (plus) as of about six years ago. And, they only have to work until age 50. And, they get to game their retirement (like 80% of $120,000 isn't enough to live on).

Average lifeguard in Newport Beach ... $150,000 (plus) as of about six months ago. And, they only have to work until age 50. And, they get to game their retirement (like 80% of $120,000 isn't enough to live on).

You would be astounded, literally flabbergasted, to know what that nice lady working at the counter at the city who takes your money makes. (And her boss? Fugedaboudit.)

There is a list online of Illinois public employees and their remuneration. Believe it or not, there is a high school teacher in Illinois making almost $650,000 a year:

Name: Bouman, Timothy
Salary: $632,000
Position: High School Teacher
Full/Part Time: Fulltime
Percent Time Employed: 100%
Assignment: English (Grades 9-12 Only)
Years Teaching: 12
Degree: Master’s
School Name: Noble Street Charter High School
District Name: City of Chicago SD 299

And let's not forget about:

Name: Ancelet, Barbara
Salary: $609,300
Position: Psychologist
Full/Part Time: Fulltime
Percent Time Employed: 100%
Assignment: Psychologist
Years Teaching: 20
Degree: Master's
School Name: Spec Educ Assoc of Adams County
District Name: Spec Educ Assoc of Adams County

Name: Ballough, Tiffany
Salary: $379,600
Position: Speech/Language Pathologist
Full/Part Time: Fulltime
Percent Time Employed: 100%
Assignment: Speech and Language Impaired
Years Teaching: 1
Degree: Master's
School Name: Spec Educ Assoc of Adams County
District Name: Spec Educ Assoc of Adams County

If you care, you can go see for yourself … name, school, etc. And there are just thousands of others just like them. THOUSANDS. Maybe millions. In every state, county, city, and who knows what Redevelopment Agency throughout the country. Not to mention the Feds. Not to mention pensions and medical benefits. Three months off each year. Etc. Etc.

A lot of this information is public record, and can even be found online. For example, the online sister of the San Francisco Chronicle published such a list for California a few years ago. Of state employees making over $100,000 a year. (Well, about half of them, anyway.) It was thirteen hundred freakin' pages long with name after name after name on each page. Not including pensions, medical, housing allowances, car allowance, cellphones, private chefs, and personal watercraft.

This is freakin’ crazy, and if you don't think that that adds up ... with 20 or 30 million such?

Look, folks. This isn’t politics. Or economics. It’s math.

One last thing, too. The averages for 'private sector' include such as nurses and the like. If you think a nurse is 'private sector', well, then you must think that Blackwater employees and UAW workers are 'private sector', too.

Actual private sector pay is a mere fraction of what we are told. $50k? Huh. I'll bet it's more like $30 or 35k.

Problem Is's picture

Chop At The Top
Can 30% of the idiot management and all of the B(L)S...

I plan to fire Obama Bin Lyin' by placing my voting foot right square in Barry Soetoro's ass...

Drag Racer's picture

they can do without the TSA, FDA, USDA, SSS, SSI, PBS, OTS, OSHA, NRC, FSIS, HUD, FHA, DOC, BLM, CBO, etc.


how about all of it and we have a do over....

LRC Fan's picture

So...let's get this straight.  We would "save" 1.4 trillion over 10 years but we currently spend about 1.5 trillion more than we bring in every year.  So this gives us one year's worth of savings, and then the rest all gets piled on top of the 14.5 or whatever trillion in debt we already have...sounds about right.  As long as rates stay where they are we might be able to "grow" our way out of this sometime near 2050 when the Singularity finally arrives. 


Can anyone coherently argue that we should have any government, let alone one that is even 85% as big as this one??

Cdad's picture

Can anyone coherently argue that we should have any government,

I could...were it not for the fact that this would be a very bad time to make that argument...and because I am currently blowing Coca Cola out of my nose after your comment about the Singularity finally arriving...ya bastage...lolololol.

Lol lol lol lol...

Yen Cross's picture

  Cdad I'll probably lose out of sheer wisdom... I will debate with you any day or night... I respect you.   Yen.

traderjoe's picture

+1 - just let the f*cker collapse already.

Stuck on Zero's picture

Why stop at 15%? Why not lay off all the non-essential government employees?  That would mean about 15% would be left.

oldmanagain's picture

Cut the military.

sun tzu's picture

Get rid of most of the EPA, all of the Dept of Education, Homeland Security and a dozen other useless departments. Then end the wars and cut the Pentagon budget by 10% per year until it's back down to prewar levels.

cynicalskeptic's picture

cut the military to pre WORLD WAR II levels.........   our Founding Fathers abhorred a standing military and would be horrified at this nation's 'foreign entanglements'

Ike was right about the power of the military industrial complex - permanent military contractors - and would be horrified at the growth of the CIA, NSA and countless other 'Intelligence Agencies' that have done more to undermine democracy in the world than promote it.  

sun tzu's picture

I agree but it has to be done gradually so all these weapons and engineers don't end up in the wrong hands. The military needs to be very small, especially the army. 

Rodent Freikorps's picture

Military is already half the size it was in the 90s.

Debtless's picture

Are you talking number of troops or spending? Seems hard to believe - any support for your claim?

ThisIsBob's picture

Bring the troops home, set them up along the border to interdict drug smuggling, thus decreasing competition to legal domestic pot growers who will prosper any pay more taxes and fees, etc.  Dude...


caerus's picture

"super congress" is faster than a Chinese bullet train

Oh regional Indian's picture

Perhaps it will crash like a hastily built chinese bullet train too?



Spastica Rex's picture

I want you to be right. I want your Indian mysticism to be proven true. I want to believe.

Oh regional Indian's picture

:-) Welcome to the party Spastica R, I do too! By the way, have you ever heard anyone from the Bob Dobbs gang speak?

Mindblowing stuff. 


Miss Expectations's picture

In closed door session, they call it  the Super Con, enjoy their catered lunch and laugh at our expense. 

MacGruber's picture

Sweet, great idea, we'll just add 434,000 people to the unemployed. Way to think it through.

alien-IQ's picture

They don't work now...they just get paid. Cut the fat. Put the fuckers on the street.