Freedom is the freedom to say that fewer is fewer

United States President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum1 today instituting a hiring freeze on Federal civilian workers. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the memorandum «counters the dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years.»

This comes as welcome news to millions of people who believe that the Federal workforce has been expanding dramatically under the Obama administration. The White House Press Secretary has said it, and President Trump would never have taken such bold, decisive action about it if it weren’t true, would he?

If the Federal workforce has been expanding in recent years, it’s news to the Office of Personnel Management whose report on the matter shows that during the Obama years, civilian Federal employment rolls dropped from 2,774,000 in 2009 to 2,663,000 in 2014.2 When compared to the overall population of the United States, this means that we’ve gone from one Federal employee for every 110.59 citizens to one Federal employee for every 119.82 US citizens. As a proportion of the population, Federal employees have gone from nine-tenths of a percent to eighty-three hundredths of a percent.3

I won’t deny that government has been expanding; it has. But it has not taken the form of increasing numbers of Federal employees.

The administration’s «dramatic expansion» is a fiction. President Trump’s presidential memorandum and Press Secretary Spicer’s corresponding statement are no more than a shadowplay designed to make us believe things which aren’t true. These are meaningless maneuvers designed not for the good of the nation but to make Trump look like he’s doing something. The self-aggrandizement wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, if it were based in the truth. Like Saint Patrick getting credit for chasing out snakes that were never in Ireland to begin with, President Trump is trying to take credit for doing nothing at all.

We cannot permit our leaders to rewrite history. Has Oceania always been at war with Eastasia? Has the Federal government been on a hiring spree? It’s all true to those who take the word as it comes from the White House.

Now, it’s not surprising that a politician4 — especially this one — would govern with this kind of contempt for truth. Politicians lie and they deceive. They ought nevertheless be held accountable. President Trump should get no credit for fixing a problem that wasn’t there. Our eyes ought to be on him and his administration now that he has taken office. We owe the new President a chance to prove his trustworthiness. We owe our nation vigilance as he fails to do so.

Even without the misinformation, this shows President Trump in a poor light. If this is an example of the kind of «action» we can expect from the Trump administration, it supports a very different view of Donald Trump than the one he’s presented:

…A poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.5

  1. Originally this was reported as an executive order rather than a presidential memorandum. Monochromatic Outlook regrets the error. ↩︎

  2. Newer figures are unavailable at this writing, but it’s implausible to think that the problem of Obama’s government expansion all happened in the last two years. ↩︎

  3. Correlation isn’t causation. Obama may not be able to take any credit (or blame) for the shrinking of the Federal workforce. The number of Federal employees has been shrinking steadily (if slowly) since its peak in 1990 at 3,067,000 civilian Federal employees (compared to the population in 1990, that was one Federal employee for only 81.39 — or 1.23% — of us). ↩︎

  4. He can’t any longer claim he isn’t a politician, now can he? ↩︎

  5. Yes, that’s Macbeth. ↩︎