In March, President Donald Trump proposed a budget that would cut 31% from the EPA. This would serve to undo much of the work of the Obama administration which allocated a significant amount of cash to fighting climate change. As the EPA prepares to make these cuts, they have set aside upwards of $12 million in buyouts and early retirement packages.
This number is shocking to some and leaves many people asking why the EPA is not simply laying off its employees. It seems thing are not that simple. After all, limiting the bloated federal government never is.
When the federal government wants to lay off workers, they must go through what is called a reduction in force (RIF). This takes into account several factors such as veteran status, tenure, performance ratings, and length of service. This process is expensive, complex, and can take months to navigate. For this reason, RIF’s are usually avoided. There are a couple of alternatives to RIF’s used to cut the costs of layoffs.
One such alternative is called voluntary separation, also referred to as a buyout. In the case of a buyout, an employee is offered up to $25,000 to leave the company voluntarily, thus avoiding an RIF. These buyouts are still costly, but avoid many of the pitfalls of the RIF. This accounts for a big chunk of the $12 million being set aside by the EPA.
Another alternative is to offer early retirement. Early retirement allows employees to retire before reaching age and years of service requirements. Specifically, it allows employees to retire at age 50 with 20 years of service or any age with 25 years, and may additionally reduce retirement benefits. This also saves money but is by no means inexpensive.
These alternatives are used to make downsizing cheaper for the employer, and in this case, the taxpayer. However, these programs still mean millions of taxpayer dollars must be spent to essentially layoff employees of federal agencies. Despite overall savings, this still does not sit well with many people.
Of course, no such rules apply in the private sector. If a company needs to downsize, they simply lay off a necessary number of employees, some of which receive severance packages that amount to a few months worth of salary. There are no incentive checks offered to the average person to voluntarily leave their jobs.
Federal employers are put between a rock and a hard place. They must either choose costly RIF procedures, or early retirement and buyout programs that are relatively cost-saving, but expensive nonetheless. There is no clear choice that benefits all parties while not costing the American people untold millions. A change must be made.
It seems there may be room for reform of the RIF requirements. There must be strict requirements for which federal employees receive severance packages just as in the world of private business. As of now, it seems the net is far too wide. To truly save the taxpayers money, drastic changes must be made to streamline the process of downsizing federal agencies.
This costly process is just another byproduct of having extremely large and bloated government programs. As presidents, both liberal and conservative, strengthen and enlarge these government entities, they create behemoths that not only cost taxpayers millions at full capacity but are also extremely costly as they are downsized to less absurd levels.
There is much to undo in Washington. Establishment politicians have brought the government to a frightening size, making it unruly and far too pervasive in the lives of average citizens. While Trump’s plans to downsize agencies such as the EPA are a definite move in the right direction, this only goes so far to cure the much larger and more infectious disease of massive government.
Perhaps a possible first step for limiting government is to make it easier to shrink federal payrolls. They exist as a possibly unnecessary roadblock in shrinking government and minimizing taxpayer spending. The stringent requirements in place, which turn layoffs into an arduous and expensive process, serve to punish those who want to see smaller government. The taxpayer is not only the victim of the existence of a huge federal government but is once again victimized when attempts are made to reign in that government.