On Monday, as one of his first acts as President, Donald Trump announced an immediate hiring freeze across the federal government. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the goal behind the freeze is “to respect the American taxpayer” adding, “some people are working two, three jobs just to get by. 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.”
Sounds pretty good, huh? Except that a hiring freeze is a recipe not just for wasting taxpayer dollars but also for eliminating well-paying jobs.
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Here are four ways Trump’s hiring freeze will cause pain in communities across the U.S.—and leave taxpayers holding the bag.
1. It will kill jobs
Trump campaigned on a promise to save and bring back jobs. But his hiring freeze is a recipe for large-scale job loss. In fact, experts believe that the freeze could affect at a minimum some 800,000 workers, or more than one-fifth of the entire federal workforce.
Certain groups will be particularly hard hit, including African-Americans and people with disabilities, both of whom are employed in the public sector at disproportionately higher rates. Veteran employment will especially suffer—they get a hiring preference for federal jobs, and make up more than 40 percent of newly hired federal workers.
2. It will likely cost, not save, money
While Donald Trump may claim that a hiring freeze will save taxpayers money, all evidence suggests the opposite. Hiring freezes make government agencies more dependent on private contractors, who are paid nearly double what federal workers are for the same amount of work. As political scientist John Dilulio points out, the growth of federal contractors (as a substitute for federal employees) is one of the main drivers of waste.
What’s more, hiring freezes can cripple the parts of government that bring money in. When the IRS was forced to cut its workforce between 2010 and 2014, it cost the country $2 billion in revenue. Even Trump’s own nominee to lead the Treasury Department, Steve Mnuchin, conceded in his confirmation hearing that the IRS needs more staffing, telling the Senate, “[If] we add people, we add money.”
3. It could undermine public safety and health
A hiring freeze could put the nation at greater risk of cyberattacks. That’s because updating government computer systems and increasing security requires personnel—and many of the agencies that protect us against cyberattacks are already understaffed. In an era of ever-increasing cyberattacks (which Donald Trump has openly encouraged in the past), some agencies are already sounding alarms. Without the necessary staff, the work will most likely need to be outsourced. (In the past, lawmakers of both parties raised eyebrows about outsourcing cybersecurity to expensive contractors.)
Food and drug safety could also be jeopardized. For years, the Food and Drug Administration has suffered from staff shortages. In November of last year alone, the FDA was short 700 positions. Inadequate staffing at this critical agency puts Americans at risk of foodborne illness and can slow the time it takes for life-saving treatments to get to market.
4. It will keep veterans and disabled workers from accessing Social Security and medical care
Two agencies that will be especially hard hit are the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Both agencies are significantly short-staffed, which leads to long waits for care and months- (or even years-)long delays for people to access benefits. Thousands of people die waiting for Social Security disability benefits each year due to unconscionable backlogs that the agency is unable to address without additional staff.
In addition, if Trump and his GOP colleagues in Congress move forward with repealing the Affordable Care Act, many of the 3 million veterans who currently get their care through employers or on the health care exchanges could be forced to turn to the VA to get the care they need, which would further worsen delays. As Peter Kauffmann of VoteVets noted, it would be the “ultimate insult to our men and women who serve to deny them the additional doctors, nurses, therapists, and administrators that are sorely needed at the VA” and if the order “leads to preventable deaths, that will be on Donald Trump’s hands.”
Trump has repeatedly proclaimed himself the head of a “workers’ party,” bemoaning in his inauguration speech that there has been “little to celebrate for struggling families across the land” and promising to ring in an era of shared prosperity.
Yet, for the millions of Americans who will lose jobs, suffer delays in accessing needed benefits or medical care, or have their families’ health and safety put at risk by the President’s hiring freeze, there will be even less to celebrate now.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that women will be particularly hard hit by the freeze.