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EDITORIAL: Bureaucratic nonsense

The federal government wastes billions of dollars each year through bloat and waste. But in addition to high-profile pork such as the Alaskan “Bridge to Nowhere,” this waste comes in more subtle forms, too — as an endless stream of bureaucratic nonsense needlessly jacks up the cost of countless federal projects.

Case in point: The U.S. Department of Labor’s current lawsuit with Google.

For the past decade, The Associated Press reports, internet giant Google has received a series of advertising and cloud computing contracts from the feds, including a current $1.2 million deal to place digital ads on behalf of the government. But in a lawsuit filed last week, the Labor Department is attempting to bar Google from doing further business with Washington unless the company turns over confidential information about thousands of its employees.

As a federal contractor with more than $10,000 in business, Google must comply with specific rules against racial or religious discrimination, the AP notes, as well as cooperate with audits in order to make sure that it is complying with those rules. The lawsuit doesn’t accuse Google of engaging in discrimination, only that the company dragged its feet in complying with a September 2015 request for records involving employee compensation, job histories, contracts and other information.

Google refuses to produce the data for privacy reasons.

Do companies that receive government contracts deserve scrutiny? Absolutely. But the growing list of mandates that companies such as Google and others face can range from needlessly burdensome to downright ridiculous.

For instance, the government demands that the disabled constitute 7 percent of any contractor’s workforce or the company risks financial penalties or the loss of the work. A similar requirement calls for an 8 percent hiring target for veterans. Other micro-management mandates call for companies to disclose information about their greenhouse gas emissions, set targets for reducing their carbon footprints and compile yearly reports on a number of issues.

While these regulations are certainly well-intentioned in most cases, they add tremendous costs to companies doing work for the federal government, driving up taxpayer costs and imposing massive inefficiences. In Google’s case, they amount to a thinly veiled fishing expedition designed to support a potential investigation into the successful company’s hiring practices.

President-elect Trump likes to tout his deal-making abilities. Perhaps, once in office, he can try to strike a better, healthier deal between the federal government and its contractors by paring back all this red tape.

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