About Dr. Carson’s Promise to Cut Federal Payroll

Republican presidential contender Dr. Ben Carson has been saying this about federal employees,

“Well, there may be other places we should be thinking about getting rid of some of our expense. We have 4.1 million federal employees. Do we really need 4.1 million federal employees?
THAT’S ABSURD. AND WE NEED TO REDUCE THAT, BY ATTRITION, WE CAN GET IT DOWN IN THREE OR FOUR YEARS TO A REASONABLE LEVEL. I THINK, YOU KNOW, WE’VE GOT 645 GOVERNMENT AGENCIES AND SUB-AGENCIES ALL OF WHICH HAVE BUDGETS. WE NEED TO, ACROSS THE BOARD, HAVE THEM CUT THOSE BUDGETS. ANYBODY WHO TELLS ME THERE’S NOT 3 OR 4% FAT, I THINK THEY ARE LIVING IN AN ALTERNATE PLANET.

Let us do the numbers if this is realistic. We have data from US Census on Federal Government Civilian Payroll data. The data is from March 2013 but it is safe to say it has not changed significantly in the past two years.

Regarding the 4.1 million claim, US Census data says Civilian federal employees add up to just 3.1 million.

Total annual payroll for these employees add up to $227 billion a year.

Compare that to annual budget of $3.8 trillion or $3800 billion. Federal employee payroll account for just 6% of the federal budget. A 4% cut of payroll, as propose by Dr. Carson would cut this share tp 5.76%, reducing $9 billion from $3.8 trillion total budget. Is that where you would look first to balance the budget?

Let us look at the numbers in details.

Employee Numbers:

Top 10 departments account for 85% of the employees. Top 2 account for 43%.
Next 10 account for 12.7%.
Last 9 account for 2.3%.

The biggest employer in terms of number of employees is National Defense and International Relations with 775,999 employees, about a quarter of total employees. I do not believe Republicans would touch this area.

The next biggest employer is the postal service with 579,694 (18.4%) employees but this agency funds from its own revenues. That means deeper cuts from smaller agencies like Homeland Security, Health, Judicial etc.

So not only will cut have no measurable impact on budget but when forced through it will adversely affect already small agencies.

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