NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Government May Be "Reinvented," But Hasn't Shrunk

July 13, 1999

As Vice President Al Gore runs for president, one of his campaign themes will be the success of his "reinventing government" program. But some analysts suggest the program's successes have been illusory. For example:

  • While he may take credit for downsizing the workforce, most of the cuts would have happened anyway.
  • About three-quarters of the cuts came from the Department of Defense, and were made possible by the end of the Cold War.
  • Another 14,500 came from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which wound down its efforts dealing with the savings and loan fiasco.
  • Yet, even though the federal workforce has dropped from about two million in 1993 to 1.6 million this year, monthly payroll expenses have risen from $5.9 billion to $7.4 billion in the same period.

The payroll increases can be explained by several factors.

  • After the reductions, many employees won raises on what analysts call the questionable theory that they're working harder.
  • Early retirement deals cost the government about $3.3 billion, or more than $20,000 per worker -- many of whom were about to retire anyway.

The real problem with reinventing government, critics say, is that it gives the public the impression that government is getting smaller. The fact is, more and more people owe their jobs to the public sector through contracts, grants and mandates. The Brookings Institution's Paul Light has estimated that the number reached 17 million by the end of the first Clinton-Gore term.

Source: John J. Miller, "Smaller Government or Bigger Lies?" Investor's Business Daily, July 13, 1999.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues