Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cutting the Deficit

The Washington Post today advises us that our president has proposed a two-year wage freeze on the nearly 2 million strong federal work force. Of course, it's only a proposal. Action by the Congress would be required to implement such a policy. Estimates indicate that roughly $5 billion each year would be saved so the amount is a miniature segment of the vast federal budget. One federal worker gave her opinion of the idea:

"You could always count on your increase," said Danielle Swain of Manassas, an analyst for the foreign export service of the Agriculture Department who is nervous about the cut to her commuter-rail subsidy. "If you don't get a bonus, this is all you get. They're picking on the government because they assume we sit around and don't do anything. Well, it's not true."

There's no doubt that Ms. Swain is exhausted every evening when she's finished her analyst duties at the USDA, wobbled home on the commuter rail and lurched into her kitchen to prepare a bowl of gruel. But that's not the point. The real issue is the role of the federal government in providing a "foreign export service" through the USDA. Presumably, this office of the agency assists US farmers and agribusiness in exporting their products. Why should that be a function of the federal government at all? If exports are an important part of the agricultural complex, as they obviously are, wouldn't it be in the interest of farmers and agribusiness to set up their own organization and hire their own Danielle Swains to promote US agricultural exports? Why should a person in another line of work, a circus clown, for instance, be expected, through his tax payments, to subsidize the marketing efforts of pickle purveyors and pumpkin producers?

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