paying the costs
Just-permalinked Mark Kleiman has another good point: Why isn't the government willing to pay market rates for its workers (up to and including Supreme Court judges)?
When a major corporation wants to get its internal workings looked into by someone distinguished, it pays a market rate. Why can't the Feds do the same?
And, in the long run, shouldn't we stop being so penny-wise about the wages of the people who do the actual work? And, while we're at it, could we stop passing out the casual insults aimed at civil servants that are so characteristic of American political discourse, especially though not entirely on the right? A number of people have noticed that the switch from private contractors to federal employees has substantially improved the courtesy and efficiency of airport screening, but no one seems willing to draw the obvious moral.
Right now, we're getting, at the Federal level, substantially better than we pay for. But if we persist in underpaying and insulting the people who work for us, we may succeed in recruiting and retaining a group of civil servants who deserve low salaries and contempt. And that will cost us plenty.
Of course, his excellent post doesn't consider the merry dance of slashing government--well, social; the Pentagon gets more than it wants--program funds, so they provide subpar service, so certain politicians can run against that lousy government (or powerful contributors are inadequately policed) , and on and on.