My father, who oh by the way was a career civil servant working for the Air Force, often said one of the ways to prevent the federal government was becoming even more powerful, expensive and over-bearing was to move the various major departments out of the national capital.
“Get'em out of D.C. because that would make it harder for them to help each other,” Dad always said. “You can move DOD to Texas, put HEW (now HHS) in Chicago or Cleveland, take the Labor Department and put them somewhere like Utah or Idaho, and so on.” He often had to stifle a sustained laugh whenever he said it.
I was always a bit skeptical of Dad's suggestion, and to this day I remain not completely convinced of its utility. But then I read this report on RedState.com about the brilliant minds who run an International Association of Machinist local of Olin Corp. workers in East Alton, Illinois.
Seems that for the second time, the union members voted down a contract offer from Olin management. They did so while ignoriing, or laughing at, management's warning that a failure to ratify the contract would result in the firm having to move the facility to Mississippi.
You can probably guess the rest of this story: Despite the fact the contract offered a seven-year job security in return for worker give-backs on benefits, the unionists voted it down. The very next day, Olin announced plans to shutter the Illinois facility and move its production to a shiny new, 500,000 square feet facility to be built in Mississippi.
You can read the whole story here. You've probably already guessed this, too: Mississippi is a right-to-work state. Illinois is not.
But what might this have to do with my father's long-ago suggestion of dispersing federal departments across the country in order to get them out of Washington, D.C.?
Well, all of the federal departments already have regional offices, so there is a great degree of dispersal. But D.C. is where the civil service unions are headquartered and where hundreds of thousands of federal bureaucrats daily commute to offices from which they issue regulation after job-killing regulation telling the rest of us how we must live, work, eat, and play.
Move the department headquarters out of D.C. and you accomplish three things: First, you make it more difficult for the bureaucrats to conspire with congressional staff. Trust me, anything that can be done to break up this part of Washington's Iron Triangles is worth doing.
Second, you complicate the ability of the civil service union bosses to impose their will on the federal workforce. It's not eliminated but being geographically separated does make it more of a challenge.
Finally, there is no substitute for peer pressure. Make all those HHS managers move out of their Washington cocoon and live among the taxpayers in the real world and we might just see some interesting attitude adjustments in the federal workforce.
It's worth thinking about.