End Civil Service Protection?

Trump—remember him?—is out with a proposal to repeal the Pendleton Act and other legal foundations of the civil service in the federal government. “We will pass critical reforms making every executive branch employee fireable by the president of the United States. The deep state must and will be brought to heel,” Trump said over the weekend.

Cooler heads have rushed to say this is a really really bad idea. They are likely right: a completely politicized government bureaucracy could make things even worse than they are right now, given that there is a nearly inexhaustible supply of idealistic leftists to fill government jobs—qualifications and experience not necessary. (Just conjure in your mind 100,000 former bartenders with honors degrees like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez filling the ranks of federal agencies.)

But it may be yet another really bad idea (like term limits) whose time has come. And I suspect it would be extremely popular with voters between the coasts.

It would have the merit of clarifying the character of our government, and attaching complete accountability to the president, who today dodges it by attributing unpopular actions to “independent agencies” and other permanent organs of the administrative state that run along without regard to election returns. If the permanent government today consciously considers itself as internal opposition (the “Resistance”!) to Republican presidents, what do we have to lose by enabling a president to fire hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats?

As usual, Trump has put his finger on something that undoubtedly bothers millions of Americans whose livelihoods have been decimated by the government’s actions during COVID-19, while federal employees all got pay raises, and did their non-work from home. Worth an extended debate. . .

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