Thursday, January 13, 2011

Reform: Civil Service

Republicans must find a way to sustain the entitlements that Americans have come to depend on — most notably Social Security and Medicare — without crippling the economy with increased levels of taxation. . . the Republican party — and only the Republican party — can save . . . entitlements without destroying the prospects for economic growth. The Democratic party can no longer be counted on to do this.

--Jay Cost, Weekly Standard, 1.17.11

There is a growing realization that the mantle of good government has passed from Democratic hands, for the “government party” is owned by its unionized employees, not the people taxed to pay civil servants’ salaries and benefits. The Economist is on to union power, writing that:
unions have blocked reform at every turn. . . it is almost as hard to reward an outstanding teacher as it is to sack a useless one. . . union power is magnified not just by strikers’ ability to shut down monopolies that everyone needs without seeing their employer go bust, but also by their political clout over those employers.
The Economist is striving to save civil servants from themselves before it’s too late, telling government what it must do:

➢ [There is] a huge opportunity to redesign government by focusing on productivity and improving services, not just cutting costs.

➢ The immediate battle will be over benefits. . .Too many state workers can retire in their mid-50s on close to full pay. America’s states have as much as $5 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities. . . Sixty-five should be a minimum age for retirement for people who spend their lives in classrooms and offices; and new civil servants should be switched to defined-contribution pensions.

➢ [The] right to strike should be more tightly limited; and the rules governing political donations and even unionisation itself should be changed to “opt-in” ones, in which a member decides whether to give or join.

➢ Private-sector productivity has soared . . . because [companies] have the freedom to manage—to experiment, to expand successful innovations, to close down bad ones, to promote talented people. Across the public sector, unions have fought all this.

➢ Focusing on productivity should help politicians redefine the debate. . . to hire a new generation of workers with different contracts.

It must happen, and perhaps the Economist will help Democrats/government see the light. More likely, however, Republicans will be the ones to make changes by first breaking union power.

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