Push has come to shove. We are told that the federal government will lay off 800,000 workers. These workers will not be paid.
But is this figure right? Is it 800,000? Or 799,999? Or maybe 750,000? Or maybe 600,000? Let’s find out. This will be a good test.
The laid-off workers hope that this is temporary, that the House of Representatives will buckle to public pressure, and that they will get their jobs back with back pay in a week or two. They assume that this will be a nice paid vacation.
Then again, it might turn out that hardly anyone notices their absence. It might turn out that whatever they do at taxpayers’ expense can be done on a fee-for-service basis. Maybe private firms can supply their services. Maybe the government can charge a fee that covers the costs.
If anyone wants to go a national park, he can pay to get in. You know. Like Disneyland or Six Flags. What a concept! No free vacations for a handful of voters who like the great outdoors!
If someone wants a U.S. passport, he can pay the government to sell him one. Why should the government subsidize this?
Is this high-skilled work? No. Can the government hire workers at $15 an hour, with no retirement benefits and no health insurance? Of course.
This shutdown is going to reveal what the income taxpaying voters already know: there is a lot of fat in the federal government. There are a lot of people being paid above-market wages under Civil Service protection. They do jobs that could be outsourced to private industry.
Here is a brief list of jobs scheduled to be cut.
Moreover the damage to the economy is more than just about federal spending. Those so-called “non-essential” government workers are essential to many industries that depend on them. For instance, the loss of data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will make it harder for farmers and investors to make decisions.
What if this shut down the entire Department of Agriculture? Agricultural output would increase. Food prices would fall.
Then these are these employees.
Regulatory arms will take a hit, too. The Securities and Exchange Commission will furlough many of its employees, but declined to give specific numbers. The commission said in a statement that the agency “will remain open and operational in the event the federal government undergoes a lapse in appropriations.”
The Commodities Futures Trading Commission will furlough 652 of its 680 employees. That leaves 28 people to regulate much of the $565 trillion derivatives market. Yes, trillion.
Not one of these employees is vital. Not one of them saved us from the crisis of 2008.
The Federal Register publishes 80,000 pages of regulations each year. What if this were cut to zero? The nation would regain much of its liberty.
How many of the supposed 800,000 jobs to be cut can be outsourced? Let’s run tests.
Are we to believe that the federal government cannot balance its budget? If this really is true, then it will eventually go bankrupt, thereby balancing the budget.
Should it balance now or balance later? I vote for now.
So, the test begins. Which workers will be let go? For how long? Which can be replaced by outsourcing?
This will answer a question: “What if nothing that most voters care about gets shut down?”