The situation at the border has finally gotten so out of hand President Biden just can’t ignore it anymore. So, what’s the solution to the problem from our newest commander in chief, now that he has caught up with the rest of the country and determined that it is, in fact, a crisis? Shuffle employees. Rob Peter to pay Paul, as the saying goes, by offering paid leave to any federal employee who volunteers to help at the border.
While certainly a novel idea, this plan to rearrange the federal government raises a question small-government conservatives and libertarians would love to hear the answer to: If we can afford for thousands of federal employees to abandon their posts, why are we paying them to begin with?
Border Patrol caught more than 170,000 illegal aliens trying to cross the border this March – a 243% increase over March of last year. And that’s in addition to the 155,000 reported to have made it through without getting caught. There are more than 20,000 minors in federal custody right now, which, according to FEMA’s Operation Artemis, is 103% of capacity. These kids are supposed to be there only for three days, tops, but there are simply too many for the system to handle. Once again, the government’s solution to a problem created by the government has led to an even bigger problem – which leads us neatly back to Biden’s proposed solution …
Blame Donald Trump.
Okay, that’s almost a joke. The Biden administration does, in fact, blame Trump for this issue – despite the fact that the former president never saw these numbers and that the rush of migrants is due largely to Biden’s own campaign rhetoric. But that’s just the excuse, not the solution.
To fix the problem, Team Biden is offering to pay up to four months’ leave to thousands of federal employees from other agencies – like the Department of Homeland Security and NASA – to ditch their current duties and help care for migrant children in these border facilities.
Those children are in government facilities only because of U.S. government policy and Biden’s promises. Therefore, the government does have a responsibility to make sure these kids are cared for properly. As for the thousands of posts now unmanned: The vast majority of them are probably completely unnecessary to begin with. In any case, one might argue, they certainly aren’t as important as taking care of people who are in their current bad situation only because the U.S. government put them there.
Can America afford to have all those jobs going undone? Probably. According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. taxpayer started out the year funding the salaries of an estimated 31,900 people working for the legislative branch, 33,700 for the judicial branch, and, for the executive branch, about 2.8 million civilian and 1.4 million uniformed military. That’s a minimum of 4.2 million full-time federal paychecks – and it doesn’t take into account the few million contract and grant workers or any part-time employees.
When government spending goes up, we often call it “feeding the beast” – and with good reason. The more we feed the beast, the bigger it grows. And the bigger it gets, the more it needs to eat.
The Founders certainly had their disagreements, but, generally speaking, they envisioned a small federal government with very limited powers – you can read every one of them in the Constitution – that dealt mostly with foreign relations, foreign trade, domestic defense, disputes between the states, and just enough federal taxation to keep those other four functions from falling apart.
James Madison reminds us in Federalist #14 that “the general government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and administering laws. Its jurisdiction is limited to certain enumerated objects.” The making of laws to govern how folks behaved was a responsibility and right of the individual states. He warned George Washington in 1791 that “to take a single step beyond the text would be to take possession of boundless power.”
Eventually, vague parts of the Constitution – words like “general welfare,” “commerce,” and “necessary and proper” – were reinterpreted in new and terrible ways. Novel readings of the Constitution gave us the National Bank and the Federal Reserve, the IRS and federal income tax, gun control, drug prohibition laws, and a bevy of other programs and laws that increase both the size and power of the state, crushing individual liberty under the immense weight. Even the individual mandate for Obama’s Affordable Care Act was justified as “necessary and proper” until it was removed.
The fact that the federal government can spare thousands of employees simply demonstrates that we never needed them to begin with. Most of these jobs exist only as a way to justify spending more money and exerting more control over the people. Still, like all government solutions, it’s the people who have to pay for it. These otherwise unnecessary employees are being shuffled to the border and some other tax-funded department – Health and Human Services, for the most part – is paying the tab, with everyone else’s money. Will this new solution make a difference? Who knows? All it has proven thus far is how unnecessary and improper the federal behemoth really is.
Read more from James Fite.