Sep 13, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Ramaswamy wants to cut 1 million government jobs

GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at the Nixon Library recently. Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Republican Vivek Ramaswamy says he wants to cut a million civilian employees from the federal government — more than a third of the non-military federal workforce — if he's elected president in 2024.

Why it matters: It's the latest proposal from the political novice that tacks far to the right of every other Republican in the presidential race — in this case, by gutting major government agencies that often have been the scorn of the GOP's most conservative members.

  • Ramaswamy tells Axios that his targets would be the Department of Education, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the IRS.

Between the lines: Polls suggest Ramaswamy's running a distant third in the race for the GOP nomination, behind former President Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

  • But he's gotten attention from far-right conservatives for proposing policies similar to what former Trump has suggested — and then dramatically taking them to another degree.
  • Trump has proposed a historic expansion of the president's powers to purge civil servants and fill career posts with those loyal to him, Axios has reported.

What he's saying: Ramaswamy says his eventual goal would be to cut the federal civil workforce of 2.2 million people by 75% after four years.

  • "We would start on day one, and we want 50% reduction by the end of year one, Ramaswamy told Axios in a phone interview.
  • "Keep in mind that 30% of these employees are eligible for retirement in the next five-year period," Ramaswamy says. "So it is substantial — no doubt about it — but it's not as crazy as it sounds."

Reality check: Experts say Ramaswamy's plan is a long shot that would create chaos in government services and parts of the economy that depend on such agencies.

  • Massive government reorganizations usually require congressional approval because there are laws that authorize agencies to exist and conduct certain activities — and a president can't singlehandedly change them, experts say.
  • "The idea that a president would have the unilateral capacity to fire a million people is farcical," Norman Ornstein, an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told Axios.
  • Previous presidents have tried to eliminate entire departments with little success. Ronald Reagan, for example, promised to eliminate the departments of education and energy. Both still exist.

The details: Ramaswamy argues that the president has the authority to cut massive numbers of all non-military federal jobs via executive order, without congressional approval.

  • At an event at the America First Policy Institute on Wednesday, he'll argue that "for cause" protection wouldn't protect federal employees from an executive order implementing a mass layoff, according to a preview of the speech obtained by Axios.

Between the lines: In October 2020, Trump signed an execute order dubbed "Schedule F" to re-classify about 50,000 career positions in the federal workforce, making them at-will employees and easier to fire.

  • Other Republican presidential candidates — including DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence — have talked about cutting the number of federal workers.
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