Politics & Policy

Jeb Bush on Reining in the Federal Bureaucracy

In an address to be delivered later today in Tallahassee, Jeb Bush will offer an ambitious agenda for reining in the growth of the federal government. While Bush has said that he will eventually address the ins and outs of the tax code and various federal entitlement programs, this speech focuses on the workings of the federal bureaucracy, drawing on his experience as governor of Florida. Some of the reforms Bush advances, like the balanced budget amendment and the line-item veto, will be familiar to conservatives. Yet he also offers a fairly detailed discussion of the civil service, and how hiring and compensation policies ought to be reformed to help rein in federal spending. Specifically, Bush calls for reducing federal employment by adopting a three-out, one-in rule, with a carve-out for positions closely tied to national security and safety, a policy that he argues can lead to a substantially smaller federal workforce over four years. To increase the effectiveness of this leaner federal workforce, Bush proposes merit pay for rank-and-file workers, financial incentives for managers who help achieve meaningful spending reductions, and a shift away from rigid civil service protections that make it difficult for managers to fire ineffective federal employees. Rather than lump all bureaucrats together, Bush argues that we must call out those who squander public money while rewarding those who prove to be responsible stewards.

In keeping with his campaign’s emphasis on the importance of transparency and integrity in government, Bush favors new legislation that will require all members of Congress to disclose every time they meet with a lobbyist, a disclosure that will have to be made on a weekly basis on the member’s official website, and that will bar former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists themselves for six years. While I can imagine that putting this principle into practice will prove challenging, it certainly speaks to concerns about the revolving door between the federal government and the businesses that turn to the federal government for favors.  

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute Policy Fellow. He is a contributing editor at The Atlantic and National Affairs, a member of the ...

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