Fundraisers are dangerous things for politicians who are trying to slip one over on the American people.
Mick Mulvaney, the president’s chief of staff, found that out when he let the truth slip about why parts of the U.S. Department of Agriculture were relocated.
Recently, hundreds of government researchers and economists were given about six weeks to decide whether to move to new offices in Kansas City, Mo., or resign. Those who chose to move were expected to do so by the end of September.
Employees voted to unionize when word of the relocation began to surface. More than half refused the move and lost their jobs. The whole affair threatens to undermine the scientific credibility of one of the most respected institutions in the world.
The administration said the moves were necessary to put agency employees closer to people they serve. Yet, Mulvaney told an audience of Republican loyalists in South Carolina on Aug. 2 that the move has resulted in reducing the workforce in the two USDA agencies involved by half, a result he characterized as a “wonderful way to streamline government.”
Dave Verardo, president of local 3403 of the American Federation of Government Employees, told Talking Points Memo that this was the first time anyone involved in this move has been so explicit about the true motivation. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue continues to speak only of saving money and being closer to farmers and ranchers.
Those who argue for a smaller, less powerful, less intrusive government will cheer Mulvaney’s remarks. His assertion that firing or even laying off federal employees is “nearly impossible” is a nearly universally accepted truism. Few will think to argue with his other assertion—that the workers who have refused the relocation don’t want to move “out into the real part of the country.”
Those assertions miss the fact that federal employees are not the expendable, easily replaced or completely unnecessary burden on the taxpayer that anti-government proponents believe.
Experienced federal employees spend careers gaining irreplaceable scientific expertise and institutional knowledge. They know how to spot a scam or an end-around the rules that protect public assets and the public itself. Plus, Washington, D.C., is no less real than Laramie, Wyo., or Boise, Idaho.
No swamp will be drained, but at least now we know why no one seemed concerned when draconian relocation policies trashed two important agricultural agencies.