Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress have initiated a widespread program designed to make government less responsive, more bureaucratic, and less responsive to changing needs, purposefully crippling federal government activities that protect Americans from corporate abuse. This program of infrastructure sabotage began with legislation such as the REINS Act and the Regulatory Accountability Act, which will obstruct federal efforts to prevent corporate abuse by creating nearly insurmountable roadblocks. It reached its next stage today with Trump’s signature on an executive order creating an immediate freeze on all hiring by the federal government.
With Trump’s freeze in effect, the civic infrastructure of our nation will soon begin to decay. The U.S. mail will be delivered more slowly, corporate polluters will become able to outmaneuver public investigators, phone calls for help with tax forms will be put on hold for even longer, and violent criminals will have an easier time evading arrest.
Sean Spicer, the top spokesman for the Trump Administration, tried to divert attention from these effects by claiming that the hiring freeze was necessary to counter “the dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years.”
There’s only one problem with Spicer’s statement: It is a lie. There has been no dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years.
In November 2008, when Barack Obama was elected President, there were 2,778,000 federal employees. Eight years later, in November 2016, there were 2,799,000 federal employees. That’s an increase of 0.7 percent – hardly a “dramatic expansion”.
That anemic growth in the number of federal employees came as the population of the United States increased from 305,090,000 to 323,640,000 – an increase of 5.7 percent. So, as a portion of the American population, federal employees actually shrank under Barack Obama.
The number of federal employees actually grew much faster under George W. Bush than it did under Barack Obama – twice as fast.
To get some context for the actual size of the federal workforce today, we can compare it to the size of the federal workforce in November 1988, the year when George H.W. Bush was elected to replace Ronald Reagan, who claimed to have shrunk the size of the federal government. The number of federal employees then was 3,159,000. That’s 360,000 more federal employees under Ronald Reagan than under Barack Obama – enough to populate a healthy-sized city.
There’s no gentle well to say it. There are no “alternative facts” that can explain this discrepancy between the Trump Administration’s claims and reality.
When Sean Spicer said that there has been a “dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years,” he was telling a monumental lie.