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EDITORIAL: Trump trims the federal bureaucracy

As president, Barack Obama liked to brag that he had a pen and a phone.

President Donald Trump has made extensive use of those same tools. While he’d be better served tweeting less from his phone, Mr. Trump has put his pen to good use.

The latest example came at the end of May, when he signed three executive orders related to federal employment. The first urged agencies to conclude bargaining with labor unions in less than one year to reduce the expense of negotiations. That’s just common sense. Congress should take that one step further and eliminate collective bargaining for federal employees, a position pushed by liberal icons such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Next, Mr. Trump streamlined the time it takes for an agency to fire someone for poor performance. The process currently lasts between six months and a year. Contrast that with most private employees in Nevada and other states who work on an at-will basis. The idea that taxpayers must accommodate incompetence within the federal bureaucracy is an insult to those government workers who perform admirably at their jobs. The vigorous protests of public-sector unions to Mr. Trump’s actions is another reminder that unions exist to protect poor performers, not to improve government services.

Lastly, Mr. Trump required agencies to limit union leave time. Union leave time is a sanitized way of saying that taxpayers currently pay government employees to work for their union. Mr. Trump required agencies to limit that to 25 percent of an employee’s work time. He also wants agencies to charge unions rent for using federal office space. Mr. Trump estimates these changes could save taxpayers $100 million annually.

Remember this the next time someone claims the government is undermanned or underfunded. You’re paying government employees to work for their unions. That’s not limited to the federal government, either. In 2012, a Nevada Journal investigation found that Southern Nevada governments paid employees at least $4.6 million annually to work for their respective unions.

These executive orders have union officials apoplectic. “This is more than union busting. It’s democracy busting,” said American Federation of Government Employees president J. David Cox Sr.

Apparently, democracy requires bureaucrats to have life-time jobs getting paid by taxpayers to work for unions — which are private organizations. Who knew? Union hyperbole is usually a sign you’ve done something right, and that’s certainly the case here.

Good for Mr. Trump. But this should be just a starting point for federal reform. Congress should eliminate collective bargaining for federal workers and prevent union leave time entirely.

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