My expectations about the sequester are based on what happened in the Great Recession. We saw companies lay off people and divide their tasks up among the rest of their workforce. People didn’t complain and did the extra work because they were afraid of being fired. But aside from the extra responsibilities, workers also saw opportunities to become more efficient. Each fired worker was one less person’s email to read and respond to, one less person to drone on at meetings and keep everyone else from getting back to their desks. As the economy has improved, many of those jobs haven’t returned as businesses have realized that all the work is getting done and they are making more money. That’s why both corporate profits and unemployment are so high.
If you think private companies could make do with fewer workers, that’s true for the federal government many times over. Many of these people are bright and conscientious, but the truth is that getting rid of their emails and memos and presence at meetings won’t make a damn bit of difference to their departments, the government as a whole, or our society.
In terms of making the federal government function more efficiently, I think that the sequester is not a bad thing. But if it goes on, it will definitely lead to job losses in the private sector and to a contraction in our economic growth. So good for the government as an isolated, bloated, inefficient sector, bad for the country as a whole.