January 06, 2003
Diane S. Witiak
(202) 639-6419

AFGE Calls Report By Volcker Commission An Embarrassment

(Washington, D.C.)—“Despite the distinguished public service records of the individual members, the recommendations of the Volcker Commission are an embarrassing example of the pitfalls of an ignorance of history, stated Bobby L. Harnage, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), following release of the Volcker Commission’s report on reform of the public service.

“As George Santayana warned, ‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ When the Volcker Commission report repeats the ridiculously inaccurate claim that handing over total power and authority to managers to dictate pay and other conditions of employment is ‘modern,’ and that recognizing employees’ rights to insist on a pay system with internal and external equity is ‘antiquated,’ one wonders whether they are at all aware of the depth and breadth of the corruption which led to the passage of the Pendleton Act that established the civil service.

“AFGE is not surprised when politically well-connected contractors and those with high-level political appointments argue that they need discretion to spend federal dollars without constraints, to have unfettered authority to award federal jobs and contracts to their cronies, and to gain the power to decide who receives big taxpayer-financed bonuses and salaries and who does not. But we are shocked to see the Volcker Commission give its blessing to such crassness and greed.

“The campaign to vilify the very concept of the public sector and the civil service system that allows government services be provided by those who get their jobs on the basis of what they know rather than who they know is in full force. The solutions being offered are all distinctly contrary to the interests of citizens and taxpayers—give the keys to the public treasury to big contractors and high-level political appointees and forget about accountability, equity, or good government.

“The rush to privatize a million federal civil service jobs and to undermine the merit system that underlies the modern civil service are two sides of the same coin. The Bush Administration wants discretion to contract out government work without competition and to be able to award contracts that are larded with unnecessary bells and whistles—and do it all without the constraints of law or regulation. When they are not contracting out federal jobs, they want authority to deprive federal employees of their due process rights or an apolitical pay system. The Volcker Commission should have denounced these policies as contrary to fiscal prudence, accountable government and democracy, rather than lend its tacit support.

“The Volcker Commission Report makes broad recommendations without attending to the details of implementation. These details are too important to leave to the anti-government politicians in the White House and Congress. Finally, in a highly unionized environment like the federal government, the fact that the Commission gave only one paragraph to labor-management principles discredits its work.”

Related Links

Panel Urges Government Pay Hikes, Big Mergers

The Washington Post, 01/08/2003

Panel Calls for Vast Changes in Focus of Federal Agencies

The New York Times, 01/08/2003

A Call to Start Over With the Civil Service System

The Washington Post, 01/08/2003

Final Report of the Volcker Commission

January 2003

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