Budget Cutting Lessons From the 90s

Hey there — I’m Christopher Dorobek — the DorobekINSIDER — and welcome to GovLoop Insights Issue of the Week. This marks our fourth week here, one month. And we’re glad you’re with us.

Each week, our goal is to look at an issue: a person, an idea that helped define the past 7-days but we also work to find a topic that also will have an impact on the days, weeks and months ahead. And as always, we focus on six words: helping you do your job better.

This week marks the end of the end of September — and the end of the federal government’s fiscal year. Certainly one of the stories we’ve been watching all week was the potential of yet another government shutdown or at least a shutdown showdown.

But it appears that most people may be weary of Armageddon politics. Early in the week, the Senate reached a bipartisan spending agreement that seemed to dodge shutdown. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Sans the shutdown we’ve been watching the government landscape and found several other worthwhile stories that people in the government space need to keep an eye on.

One is about your money — literally. A new report, commissioned by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence and the National Institute on Retirement Security, looked at data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data show that jobs in the public sector typically require more education than private sector positions, yet state and local government jobs pay LESS. State workers typically earn 11 percent less and local workers 12 percent less.

Meanwhile there are some dismal numbers on telework out this week. Feds generally believe that telework simply isn’t happening. The data is included in the 2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, which includes responses from 266,000 federal workers. And NextGov reports that data show that only 38 percent of feds were satisfied with their agency’s telework program.

One other interesting story out this week is about a new book that just hit the shelves this week. It’s called Worm: The First Digital World War. It’s by Mark Bowden, the author of the book Black Hawk Down. I just started reading it and it is the story of the battle between those determined to exploit the internet and those committed to protect it, specifically the Conficker worm and it’s about why this worm was a digital attack that nobody had seen before. Bowden even calls it the first digital world war. I get to interview him in a few weeks and what I’ve read so far is just fascinating.


The big story of the week is the budget. It many ways, this week felt like deja vu all over again, with all sorts of saber rattling and many worries about a government shutdown. Washington Post analyst Ezra Kline has a wonderful assessment of the cost of the threat of a government shutdown. Kline says the shutdown brinkmanship itself damages the economy. And he asserts that the immediate effects are probably somewhat worse than you think.

Amid all of this, the Partnership for Public Service this week issue a report Making Smart Cuts: Lessons from the 1990s Budget Front. It looks at lessons learned from the last period of serious budget cutting what worked, and what didn’t.

And joining us is the head of the Partnership for Public Service — Max Stier. In our interview with Max we touch on why the Partnership decided to put the report together and it’s key findings. We also go beyond the report to get Max’s take on the current climate in government and his thoughts on OMB Director, Jack Lew’s comments earlier in the week.

That brings us to the BIG question — we all understand that there need to be cuts. We all know how NOT to do it, but what SHOULD be done? What works? What doesn’t?

It’s GovLoop — so we’d love to get your thoughts.

And look for us on Wednesday, we’ll post our early poll seeking your thoughts on what the issue of the week is. Thanks to Max Stier of the Partnership for Public Service for joining us. Thank you for being here. Go out there and do good work. Until next week, I’m Christopher Dorobek — see you online — dorobek insider.com

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