Newt Gingrich has a wildly ambitious plan to save $500 billion dollars per year by reforming civil service laws. Or it may be closer to impossible.
“I agree generally with the need to reform government,” Gingrich said in Wednesday’s GOP debate in Arizona. “I think that, if we were prepared to repeal the 130-year-old civil service laws, go to a modern management system, we could save a minimum of $500 billion a year with a better system.”
The Republican presidential candidate was responding to a question about how he would bring down the the national debt. But if $500 billion a year in savings from civil service reform seems rather lofty, that’s because it is.
Civilian personnel costs (including direct compensation and benefits for all three branches, the military and postal service) totaled $432.6 billion in fiscal 2011. That number is projected to fall to $425.7 billion in FY2012 and again to $424.5 billion in FY2013, according to the White House budget office.
Economist Dean Baker told TPM that it’s possible Newt misspoke and meant $500 billion over 10 years. “That number would still be very high, but not altogether impossible,” he said.
A spokesman for team Gingrich did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment.
Federal Times adds that the 130-year-old law Gingrich was referring to appears to be the 1883 Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act that aimed to take on cronyism and ensure that government jobs were awarded on the basis of merit. Most advocates of civil service reform, the blog says, cite the 1949 General Schedule that guides existing pay scales for most employees.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.