Trump Takes Steps to Drain the Swamp

What does it really mean to drain the swamp that consists of two million bureaucrats nationwide? We may find out, following a series of aggressive steps announced by President Trump to curtail wasteful practices long tolerated in the federal workforce.

The Washington Post puts it this way.

President Trump moved Friday to roll back civil-service protections that federal employees have enjoyed for a generation, making it easier to fire poor performers, curtailing time employees can be paid for union work and directing agencies to negotiate tougher union contracts.

In three executive orders the president signed before the holiday weekend, Trump took his first significant steps toward fulfilling a campaign promise he made to overhaul a federal bureaucracy he told voters was awash in “waste, fraud and abuse.”

Many Americans likely have no idea that thousands of federal employees conduct union business courtesy of taxpayers. But public employee unions are now on notice the rules of engagement are about to change.

The orders limit federal employees to spending no more than a quarter of their workday on “official time” — paid time to do union business, a benefit Congress approved for federal unions four decades ago. Administration officials said the change could save $100 million a year.

They require agencies to negotiate union contracts in less than a year. And they direct managers to move more aggressively to fire poor performers or employees involved in misconduct, limiting to one month a last-chance grace period for improvement that now can last up to 120 days. Agencies must also disclose details about an employee’s record to other federal offices considering hiring someone who has been fired or disciplined.

It’s about time common sense reforms were instituted. But there’s a bigger agenda at work.

Civil-service experts said there is widespread consensus across the political spectrum on the need to overhaul the federal civil service. But they noted that Trump’s orders build on an effort conservatives have used in Indiana, Wisconsin and other states to weaken public employee unions.

“It’s very clear this is part of a broad strategy to undermine the power and position of federal unions,” said Donald F. Kettl, a public affairs professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Look for public employee unions to respond by doing what they do best, avoiding increased efficiency and accountability.

The National Treasury Employees Union, the second-largest federal labor organization, said the orders amount to an “assault on federal employees, the nation’s civil service laws and federal unions.”

“This would begin the process of dismantling the merit system that governs our civil service,” the NTEU said in a statement.

Do the reforms stand a chance of working? The Heritage Foundation thinks they set the stage for even greater progress.

By hiring people who have studied and understand how the current federal civil service system perpetuates the administrative state, Trump set himself up for success when it comes to dealing with the wash, rinse, repeat swamp cycle that the public employee unions perpetuate.

…This executive order will shift about $100 million in union employee costs back onto the unions. This will force them to prioritize which cases should be fought and which ones should be settled, injecting some rationality and perhaps greater speed into the federal government firing process.

Now, the president needs to take the next step: force the public employee unions to compete for their members through an opt-in process, where the employee would have to actively decide to be a member of the union rather than being assumed to be a member unless he or she fills out the proper paperwork.

If the president takes this next bold step, the public employee union stranglehold on the federal government will be broken, giving Congress a chance to pass full-blown civil service reform.