Washington doesn't seem to care how hard it is to dismiss even grossly incompetent federal workers. The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times found that civil service rules and endless appeals processes in the federal government are so burdensome and ridiculous that hardly anyone is fired for poor performance.
That makes it doubly ironic that Washington now wants to rush the hiring of new federal workers, to add to the 1.9 million who are already on the payrolls. Congress is considering proposals that would shorten applications for federal jobs and permit speedier job offers.
"(P)olicymakers and members of Congress are looking for ways to expand the federal work force effectively and make it more nimble," McClatchy Newspapers reported.
That's a strange combination. Experience should tell us that expanding the federal work force generally makes government less, not more, nimble. McClatchy cited estimates that about 600,000 people will be hired by the federal government over the next three and a half years - and will enjoy extremely generous federal benefits funded by taxpayers.
President Bill Clinton was sadly wrong when he declared that "the era of big government is over." Government is about to get a lot bigger, even as private-sector payrolls continue to shrink. And if some in Congress have their way, that expansion could happen rapidly and without adequate screening of applicants.
If Washington wants to make the federal government more "nimble," it ought to be pondering why it is so difficult to fire incompetent employees, who cost taxpayers a lot while providing little benefit. But the last thing lawmakers need to be doing is smoothing the path to the addition of 600,000 people to the unproductive government sector.