President Donald Trump signed an executive order last Monday that placed a hiring freeze on the federal government, with the exception of military, national security and public safety personnel.
The two-page order, which was promised during his campaign as a part of his “Day One” agenda, is meant to cut government payrolls and ensure a more efficient government.
According to Trump’s contract with the American voter, the freeze is among six measures meant to prevent corruption and special interest group manipulation, a goal with which LSA junior Enrique Zalamea, president of University of Michigan’s chapter of College Republicans, agrees.
“I support the federal hiring freeze, as I believe it’s a necessary step towards ‘draining the swamp’ of bureaucracy, special interest group collusion and corruption,” Zalamea said.
At a news conference last Monday, Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, said the freeze is meant to counter the expansion of the federal workforce. However, in 2016, the increase in federal workers was about one percent, and the number of executive branch employees hasn’t been this low since 1965.
Despite worry from union members and veterans, Spicer said the freeze is ultimately to protect the working class.
“Some people are working two, three jobs just to get by,” Spicer said. “And to see money get wasted in Washington on a job that is duplicative is insulting to the hard work that they do to pay their taxes.”
LSA junior Taiwo Dosunmu, communications director of the University’s chapter of College Democrats, said in an email interview he agrees with the sentiment that Americans are hardworking, but he questioned whether or not Trump’s motives were really to protect them.
“The vast majority of government employees and civil servants are talented and hardworking people who help government agencies run smoothly and effectively,” Dosunmu wrote. “President Trump, in contrast, has clear conflicts of interest and has nominated people to high government office that are beholden to Wall Street, oil companies, and other special interests. Even a week in, his administration is the embodiment of everything he falsely claims this executive order will help correct.”
Individuals who have been hired but who have not yet started working could still be affected by the freeze. Although the freeze is scheduled to last 90 days, until Trump’s budget director recommends a long-term plan, LSA senior Dominic Russel now worries for his job at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Russel expected to start his job in July, well after the scheduled 90-day limit, but his employers are still unable guarantee the security of his job.
“They sent out an email a day or so after the freeze saying that the legal team is going to look more into it,” Russel said. “I’m definitely hoping for the best, but I would like a more definitive response.”
At risk of putting his position further in jeopardy, Russel declined to comment further on the broad effects of the freeze.
LSA freshman Helena Harmon has also been feeling the effects of the constraints. Harmon has a family member who works for the federal government, and the Environmental Protection Agency media blackout has forced her family to operate with discretion, especially considering the agency’s attrition program.
In addition to the stress felt by Harmon’s family caused by the hiring freeze, Harmon herself has goals that could be hindered by the precedence this legislation sets.
“I want to work for nonprofits, so I want to work for an (non-governmental organization),” Harmon said. “When I graduate in four years, if the administration doesn’t change its tone, I would have to look at the private sector.”
Dosunmu also mentioned the private sector is a large part of freezes implemented by past administrations.
“First of all, the history of past federal hiring freezes, like the one under President Reagan, shows they don’t actually help to manage the size of the federal workforce,” he wrote. “Additionally, it ends up making the government spend more — not less — money as they hire expensive contractors.”
However, the private sector is affected by the hiring freeze as well. Trump wrote in his memorandum that contracting private sources to avoid the intent of the freeze is not permitted, a move Harmon found concerning.
“This is just a step further to prevent any work, no matter how important it is, from happening,” she said.
Additionally, Dosunmu wrote he believes the freeze will not be effective in shrinking the federal workforce and is hypocritical in light of the large federal projects Trump plans to undertake.
“Trump’s hiring freeze is a tired old tactic of anti-government conservatives,” Dosunmu wrote. “Trump has returned to this tactic in an attempt to pander to Tea Party conservatives, while at the same time proposing policies like a wall with Mexico that would represent a massive increase in government spending and a clear waste of taxpayer money.”