Editorial: Energy solution going AWOL

Millions of Americans are having to work longer and harder just to pay their gas bills in great part because congressional Democrats won’t allow oil drilling in most of the Outer Continental Shelf or any of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Several weeks ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, adjourned the House for a long August recess while claiming that producing more domestic oil and natural gas is a “hoax” that won’t lower gas prices. A rowdy band of House Republicans have protested every day since, reminding Americans that Congress should be on the job, not on vacation.

Now along comes Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the second-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, with another brilliant suggestion — have the government work even less than it already does.

Talk about bad timing. The day before, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., released a report showing federal bureaucrats are going AWOL at a rapidly increasing clip, including  more than 3.5 million hours in 2007. That’s a 45 percent jump since 2001. Coburn’s report examined only 18 of the hundreds of federal departments and agencies, so the 3.5 million hours of AWOL by federal bureaucrats seriously underestimates the true extent of the problem. The State Department even admitted to Coburn that it doesn’t know how many hours it loses to AWOL employees. Fortunately, AWOL bureaucrats don’t get paid for the hours they miss, but, with an annual average civil service salary of $60,000, the value of the lost work is more than $210 billion.

These facts put Hoyer’s suggestion of a four-day, 10-hour workweek for America’s 2.6 million career federal employees in proper perspective. At a time when millions of Americans are having to work more hours in order to fill up their gas tanks, keep their homes heated and cooled, and put food on their tables, the Maryland Democrat says the solution to the energy crisis is to tell federal bureaucrats to work less.

Despite having fundamental philosophical differences with him, we have praised Hoyer in this space before because we believe his consensus-seeking leadership style is more likely to produce positive results for the country than the confrontation-seeking Pelosi.

Unfortunately, this rare Hoyer goof should be added to the Democrats’ growing list of energy-policy failures.

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