Over the past year, Washington has sent federal bureaucrats home when terrorist threats emerged, when an agency building had a fire alarm, or when there were demonstrations in the streets. With a forecast for more than one flake of snow, "non-essential government personnel" are advised not to come to work at all. They stay home — on full pay, of course.
This federal policy unconsciously mimics an approach once suggested by the late Bill Rickenbacker. Bill became a hero when he fought the "voluntary" income tax so valiantly that a federal judge said he would have thrown him in jail, had he not been the sole source of support for his children. Back in the 1970s, Bill proposed that all federal employees be sent home permanently — their taxpayer-funded salaries would not cease, but the damage they did to the country would. We would also be able to sell the buildings, office furniture, and other trappings of bureaucratic bliss, and give the money back to the taxpayer. With this "reduction in force" (in the sense of both power and numbers), American freedom and economic productivity would flourish.
So went the Rickenbacker Proposal. Unfortunately, Bill died without seeing his ideas enacted into law. In his honor, then, permit me to offer a corollary.
Clearly, while the government has been doing very well, the rest of us have not. Government workers, including the congress, have salaries that are always protected against inflation by automatic cost-of-living raises. We the taxpayers, through our elected representatives, have been very generous, and, up until now, the bureaucracy has been unable to thank us.
I do believe that the bureaucrats would indeed be grateful, were such gratitude not forbidden by the wall of separation of church and state.
My proposal simply offers to government employees a meaningful, legal way to express their genuine appreciation to the American taxpayer.
I propose that April 15 be named "Taxpayer Heroes Day." On this day, all bureaucrats will show their appreciation of the taxpayer by voluntarily turning back to the Treasury their wages for that day. However, essential or not, they will go to work as usual.
Here I differ with Bill Rickenbacker. His proposal would pay them to stay home. Mine would have them voluntarily work for free on this most special of holidays.
Why? Well, new government holidays are always supported by bureaucrat unions because holidays amount to paid leave for government employees. Taxpayer Heroes Day will allow the focus to fall on the other side of the equation. It will be a unique holiday, in that the taxpayer, not the bureaucrat, will be visibly honored and appreciated.
On Taxpayer Heroes Day, some government employees might grumble at the prospect of working for nothing. Therefore, as a sweetener, the president shall declare the day to constitute a 24-hour "Personnel State of Emergency." On this single day, the "Bureaucratic Leadership Accountability Management" program, better known as "BLAM!", will take effect.
Under "BLAM!", all incompetent government employees can be fired without any recourse to contrived union rules, affirmative action quotas, taxpayer-funded lawyers, or other bogus contrivances. They can be terminated by simply being told, "You're fired."
Under my proposal, April 15 would be a day where all of us, both in the public and the private sector, can feel good about ourselves. Of course, for those ingrates out there, we would always have "BLAM!"
As Bob Dylan says, "Country'll grow."
April 15, 2003
Christopher Manion [send him mail] writes from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.
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