The Aldrich Alert
Gary Aldrich

A Publication of the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty

Senator Daschleís Self-Destruction

August 21, 2002

by Gary Aldrich - Volume 2, Issue 39

This article appeared on on August 20, 2002.

Recently, President Bush appeared in Senator Daschleís home state of South Dakota on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the dedication of Mount Rushmore. True to form, Senator Daschle used this opportunity to attack President Bushís plan to reorganize current federal agencies into a mega-agency to address homeland security.

I believe Senator Daschle is making a fatal political error in using an imagined threat to federal employeesí job security as the main reason he will not move the presidentís reorganization forward in the Senate. Daschle says he wants to be sure federal workers cannot be fired "on the spot."

Take it from me. I worked for the federal government for more than 30 years. I spent time in various agencies all over the country, and two truths emerged from my experience. First, there are thousands of federal employees who can and should be fired "on the spot" for a lot of great reasons, including the fact that in some cases there isnít enough work for them to do to justify employment.

Secondly - and this is the greater issue - if the federal government fired thousands of federal workers "on the spot," assuming there were good reasons for firing them, nobody would ever miss them!

One day, while walking through the White House New Executive Office Building - the "Taj Mahal" that houses the Office of Management and Budget - I noted that an assistant to an OMB senior manager, who should have known better, was enjoying a pleasant game of solitaire on her government-owned computer! It was not lunchtime or break time.

This behavior stood out because this employee was not making any attempt to hide an obvious misuse of government time and property. She was by no means an exception. I witnessed dozens of incidents just like this over at the FBI and in the dozens of agencies that I visited on a regular basis. It would be shocking for decent, hard-working, tax-paying citizens to learn that some FBI agents are sitting around in squad rooms having long, "deep" discussions about the latest sale down at Macyís.

But itís true, and right now there isnít much FBI managers can do about it.

Iím happy to report that most federal employees are repelled and disgusted by such open displays of total disregard for the mission of the agencies for which they work - but the fact that the managersí hands are tied from taking any real action against lazy, stupid or insolent employees is well known to most seasoned federal employees. The ones who care have long accepted the fact that there are legions of federal employees who have drifted into patterns of incompetence and solid reluctance to do a dayís work for a dayís pay.

Couple that with a federal agency mentality that insists that certain numbers of "this kind" or "that kind" must be hired to meet diversity goals, and you have created a significant morale problem that infects the entire working group. Before long, it becomes obvious that the human resources department has cut corners to meet artificial goals, resulting in large numbers of employees who cannot perform the very tasks for which they were hired. This means that everyone else has to work harder to compensate for the incompetence of these "workers." Otherwise, the work does not get done.

On top of that, the agencies have institutionalized diversity considerations in their promotional schemes. As a result, employees who have worked hard and are qualified for promotion based on merit are passed over in deference to upper managementís real fear they will be subjected to lawsuits from groups that have perceived grievances if they donít promote their minority quotas.

Right now, the federal government has to be the best that it can be to protect us from further terrorist attacks. Thousands of federal employees know just how difficult that will be in view of the number of unqualified, disinterested or "over-employed" individuals who exist today only as "speed bumps" on the road to excellence, achievement and eventual success in our war on terrorism.

We must get rid of worthless federal employees!

Senator Daschle thinks we can have it both ways: We can keep the entire pile of deadwood in their present positions, and we can also win this war on terrorism. Senator Daschle is a liberal Democrat. This in and of itself identifies him as one who has long since given up on the ideal that the federal government can be a celebration of highly educated, highly trained, highly motivated individuals existing for the purpose of performing public service for the safety and betterment of us all.

Instead, Senator Daschle has taken the dismal position that the federal government is an employment pool of people who will most likely vote for him and his friends at election time. In other words, Senator Daschle is the worst kind of cynic.

Vice President Gore - it is said - lost his bid for the presidency because he believed he could attack the Second Amendment and his base would forgive him for trying to take away their right to own and bear firearms. How wrong he turned out to be.

Senator Daschle now goes down the same path, assuming that all Democrats agree with his position that itís more important to protect so-called aggrieved groups or other individuals who have found a comfortable refuge for their lazy and insolent ways - and who are more likely to vote for Democrats in order to protect their cushy federal jobs - than to promote those who do the job best and whose work merits recognition and praise.

Iím willing to bet that most Americans - regardless of political stripe - strongly disagree with Senator Daschleís low expectations for the federal employee workforce and will let him know how they feel during the next election cycle.

Meanwhile, bravo to President Bush for trying to give us a higher quality federal workforce. War on terrorism or not, this is the right thing to do.