In nearly every public appearance Carly Fiorina makes, she brings up the need to rein in the out-of-control federal bureaucracy.
Why is her private sector experience as the former CEO of Hewlett Packard important? Because she knows how to handle large bureaucracies. How can she spin her laying off 30,000 HP employees as a positive? Because she now has the experience needed to cut the federal workforce.
And now, poll after poll after poll that has surfaced since the Republican debates last week shows Fiorina has catapulted from the doldrums of the GOP cellar to the top tier of candidates. A strong performance in the “kids table” debate -- which aired before the main debate and included candidates not in the top 10 of national polling -- has promoted her from an “also ran” to a contender.
Even in that debate, Fiorina did not miss an opportunity to mention her intention of reforming the civil service.
She said she “understands bureaucracies, how to cut them down to size and hold them accountable.”
And since the debate, she has used her newfound status to amplify her desire to take on federal employees. Appearing on Fox News Sunday, she told Chris Wallace she would not replace a single federal worker when the Baby Boomer generation starts to leave government.
Good government groups have long warned of a coming retirement wave in the federal workforce. About half the federal workforce is in currently at least 50 years old, and as of 2012, 270,000 permanent career employees (14 percent), were retirement eligible. That is expected to jump to 31 percent by 2017.
Even the budgets put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., only required federal agencies to cut their rolls by 10 percent through attrition. Fiorina’s plan would reduce the federal workforce by at least 600,000 employees, and that number could grow depending on how long she kept her hiring ban in place.
Another common talking point for the former executive while on the campaign trail is federal employees who watch pornography while on the job. She has used the issue to discuss a larger need, in her to view, to make it easier to fire federal workers.
She recently debuted a new line for porn-watching feds: “As Donald Trump would say, 'You’re fired,’ ” she said last week after the debate.
Fiorina has also talked about the need to overhaul the federal employee compensation system.
“The government needs to get off seniority systems and go to meritocracies as well,” Fiorina has said. “Pay for performance.” During her unsuccessful 2010 run for Senate in California, Fiorina pledged to fight for “obvious reforms” such as “limiting federal salaries and benefits.”
Former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., has also discussed proposals for reforming the civil service, but Fiorina remains the only 2016 presidential contender who has made the issue a focal point of her campaign. As her popularity continues to rise, expect to hear these issues elevated to the national conversation.