…because it’s possible that there is a far larger game going on right now in DC with the government shutdown than anybody realizes.
The op-ed is titled “I’M A SENIOR TRUMP OFFICIAL, AND I HOPE A LONG SHUTDOWN SMOKES OUT THE RESISTANCE,” and the Daily Caller states in an editorial note above the piece that its staff knows the identity of the anonymous author but won’t divulge it in order to protect him or her.
That hidden identity, and the assumption that the author is who he says, makes the op-ed explosive. Some excerpts…
As one of the senior officials working without a paycheck, a few words of advice for the president’s next move at shuttered government agencies: lock the doors, sell the furniture, and cut them down.
Federal employees are starting to feel the strain of the shutdown. I am one of them. But for the sake of our nation, I hope it lasts a very long time, till the government is changed and can never return to its previous form.
The lapse in appropriations is more than a battle over a wall. It is an opportunity to strip wasteful government agencies for good.
On an average day, roughly 15 percent of the employees around me are exceptional patriots serving their country. I wish I could give competitive salaries to them and no one else. But 80 percent feel no pressure to produce results. If they don’t feel like doing what they are told, they don’t.
Why would they? We can’t fire them. They avoid attention, plan their weekend, schedule vacation, their second job, their next position — some do this in the same position for more than a decade.
A bit more…
Saboteurs peddling opinion as research, tasking their staff on pet projects or pitching wasteful grants to their friends. Most of my career colleagues actively work against the president’s agenda. This means I typically spend about 15 percent of my time on the president’s agenda and 85 percent of my time trying to stop sabotage, and we have no power to get rid of them. Until the shutdown.
Due to the lack of funding, many federal agencies are now operating more effectively from the top down on a fraction of their workforce, with only select essential personnel serving national security tasks. One might think this is how government should function, but bureaucracies operate from the bottom up — a collective of self-generated ideas. Ideas become initiatives, formalize into offices, they seek funds from Congress and become bureaus or sub-agencies, and maybe one day grow to be their own independent agency, like ours. The nature of a big administrative bureaucracy is to grow to serve itself. I watch it and fight it daily.
When the agency is full, employees held liable for poor performance respond with threats, lawsuits, complaints and process in at least a dozen offices, taking years of mounting paperwork with no fear of accountability, extending their careers, while no real work is done. Do we succumb to such extortion? Yes. We pay them settlements, we waive bad reviews, and we promote them.
The piece goes on to describe the process by which federal employees cannot be dealt with for poor performance, sabotage of the White House’s agenda or other misbehavior, and it’s depressing.
But we all know the truth of what the op-ed says. We’ve all dealt with the federal government in one stripe or another, and its inefficiencies and waste are more or less taken for granted.
Here’s why there might be something bigger afoot than just a game of political chicken between Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi.
But President Trump can end this abuse. Senior officials can reprioritize during an extended shutdown, focus on valuable results and weed out the saboteurs. We do not want most employees to return, because we are working better without them. Sure, we empathize with families making tough financial decisions, like mine, and just like private citizens who have to find other work and bring competitive value every day, while paying more than a third of their salary in federal taxes.
President Trump has created more jobs in the private sector than the furloughed federal workforce. Now that we are shut down, not only are we identifying and eliminating much of the sabotage and waste, but we are finally working on the president’s agenda.
President Trump does not need Congress to address the border emergency, and yes, it is an emergency. Billions upon billions of hard-earned tax dollars are still being dumped into foreign aid programs every year that do nothing for America’s interest or national security. The president does not need congressional funding to deconstruct abusive agencies who work against his agenda. This is a chance to effect real change, and his leverage grows stronger every day the shutdown lasts.
The author then goes further…
The first thing we need out of this is better security, particularly at the southern border. Our founders envisioned a free market night watchman state, not the bungled bloated bureaucracy our government has become. But we have to keep the uniformed officers paid, which is an emergency. Ideally, continue a resolution to pay the essential employees only, if they are truly working on national security. Furloughed employees should find other work, never return and not be paid.
Secondly, we need savings for taxpayers. If this fight is merely rhetorical bickering with Nancy Pelosi, we all lose, especially the president. But if it proves that government is better when smaller, focusing only on essential functions that serve Americans, then President Trump will achieve something great that Reagan was only bold enough to dream.
The president’s instincts are right. Most Americans will not miss non-essential government functions. A referendum to end government plunder must happen. Wasteful government agencies are fighting for relevance but they will lose. Now is the time to deliver historic change by cutting them down forever.
How does that work? Well, in a post at The American Thinker, Thomas Lifson explains that when the shutdown reaches 30 days, or 22 work days, Trump gains some power over the federal government that none of his predecessors had. Lifson picks up from a post explaining the federal process of a Reduction In Force at a site focused on government careers…
The US Office of Personnel Management is responsible for overseeing RIFs by federal agencies. These agencies may choose when they want to implement a RIF, but they must follow the rules set forth by OPM.
In deciding who stays and who goes, federal agencies must take four factors into account:
- Veteran status
- Total federal civilian and military service
Agencies cannot use RIF procedures to fire bad employees. Adverse personnel actions must be taken on an individual basis. While performance is a factor in RIFs, it is only one factor. Agencies can’t simply get rid of their lowest performers.
When agencies furlough employees for more than 30 calendar days or 22 discontinuous work days, they must use RIF procedures.
An employee can be terminated or moved into an available position. The new position does not have to be at the same pay grade, but it does have to be within three grades or grade intervals of an employee’s current position. There can be a series of “bumping” that can go on as employees are placed in lower positions displacing employees in filled positions.
Agencies must give employees 60 days notice before being terminated. In extreme circumstances, OPM can allow agencies to give as little as 30 days notice.
If employees believe they have been unfairly treated, they can file an appeal with the Merit System Protection Board. The appeal must be filed within 30 days of the RIF action.
As Lifson notes, this is an opportunity for a president willing to act as a disruptive force.
Keep in mind that saboteurs cannot be individually identified and RIFed, but they can be included in the layoffs if they meet the criteria above in terms of seniority and service, and they must be given 60 days’ notice. But once they are gone, they are no longer free to obstruct using the “process” as their friend, because they are gone.
You can expect lawsuits on every conceivable point, and I suspect that the definition of “furlough” will be one matter of dispute.
If this was the plan all along, it would explain why President Trump goaded Chuck and Nancy in his televised meeting with them last year, boasting that he would claim credit for the shutdown. How could they resist a prolonged shutdown when he made it so easy to blame him?
President Trump has proven that he is a “disruptor” who changes the framework of thinking on major issues by refusing to accept the “givens” – the assumptions of how things always have been done and therefore always must be done.
So who is the “senior official”? I don’t know, but I think Stephen Miller is the sort of bold thinker who might volunteer to telegraph the strategy just five days before the deadline. Give Chuck and Nancy something to think about and probably reject as unthinkable. Then they can’t complain that they weren’t warned once the trap is sprung.
Such a mass RIF would be the Trump version of Ronald Reagan firing the air traffic controllers when they went on an illegal strike in 1981. That was completely unexpected by his enemies, vehemently criticized, and successful.
It’s worth noting that yesterday Trump tweeted approval of the Daily Caller post, retweeting a tweet from his son Donald, Jr. who called it “worth a read.” It’s entirely possible, if in fact the Daily Caller op-ed was written by a “senior Trump official,” that the administration is signaling to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer what’s about to happen to large swaths of nonessential government employees.
Why would he do that? The simple answer is that he’d be maximizing the political damage to the Democrats if in fact the administration began RIF’ing partisan Democrats in the federal workforce left and right. They now have their warning that the shutdown is a cover for Trump to purge the bureaucracy of “resistance” operatives and others who are actively sabotaging Trump’s agenda.
Our assumption, which is based on polling data – Trump is catching the blame for the shutdown, but the fact is most Americans couldn’t care less and the Dow is up 2,000 points since it started, which is an indication the markets are unaffected – has always been that so long as Trump doesn’t lose his nerve he’s going to win the shutdown. But we didn’t figure that he might use the shutdown as a way to purge the federal bureaucracy permanently.
But if that’s what’s coming, and it turns out that Pelosi and Schumer had an indication what was going to happen and continued stonewalling the President on the border wall, the political fallout could be severe to the Democrats’ leadership. We might even see a scenario in which Pelosi and Schumer are so desperate to reopen the government and save the jobs of the partisan Democrats getting RIF’ed by an opportunistic Trump administration, they’re continuously upping the ante on the border wall in an effort to entice him to stand down.
Needless to say, this would take presidential stones never before seen in modern times. We would doubt Trump could go so far. But on the other hand, what does he have to lose? He’s negotiating against people who want to impeach him simply for winning the 2016 election, and who are openly calling for the end of American constitutional governance via things like the Electoral College. That’s not an environment for a win-win negotiation – it’s a pure zero-sum game. At this point Trump seems to recognize the stakes and he might just be willing to go all the way to reaching the most ambitious goals of the small-government crowd.
We should see indications of this, if it’s going to happen, within 10 days or so.