Vivek Ramaswamy at a town hall meeting in Philadelphia on June 20.

Vivek Ramaswamy at a town hall meeting in Philadelphia on June 20. Lisa Lake/Getty

Meet the long-shot presidential candidate who wants term limits for federal employees

Vivek Ramaswamy also pledges to eliminate unions, move workers out of Washington and end “pro-lazy” remote work.

There’s at least one in each presidential campaign cycle: the long-shot outsider who vows to shake up government and its workforce. This year’s model is Republican contender Vivek Ramaswamy, the 37-year old founder of  a biotech company and an asset management firm who wants to out-Trump Donald Trump. 

On his campaign website, Ramaswamy promises to “take America First further than Trump.” Much of the site is filled with aphorisms: “God is real.” “There are two genders.” “Reverse racism is racism.” “Courage is contagious.” “Excellence over politics.” And simply: “Truth.”

But the site also contains a series of specific policy proposals which would radically alter government and its workforce. Most are listed under the heading “Dismantle Managerial Bureaucracy,” and it’s worth looking at each of them: 

“Shut down toxic government agencies: Dept of Education, FBI, IRS, and more (and rebuild from scratch when required)”

The Education proposal is a Republican perennial. But Ramaswamy’s’ animus toward the agency is unusually strong. “I’m going to shut down a lot of federal agencies,” he said in a video posted to Twitter in February. “But the first one that I’ve already identified is, in the first few weeks on the job, I will shut down the federal Department of Education. Because it has no reason to exist.” The department’s “thousands of people working in a bureaucracy,” he went on, “don’t actually have a purpose to serve.”

The FBI and the IRS would presumably be candidates for the  teardown and rebuild process, however inefficient and disruptive that might be. But not Education, says Ramaswamy. And how would he dismantle it? Apparently by firing every single employee at once

“End civil service protections for bureaucrats: 8-year term limits instead”

This would go far beyond Schedule F-type proposals that would turn a bunch of federal positions into at-will jobs. It would mark a full return to the spoils system, only with millions more employees subject to removal for political reasons. 

“Eliminate federal employee unions: repeal JFK’s executive order 10988”

It would likely take more than repealing one executive order to get rid of federal unions entirely. But again, Ramaswamy isn’t interested in half-measures like scaling back collective bargaining. He wants no unions at all. 

“Move >75% of federal employees out of Washington D.C. & end pro-lazy “remote work” option”

Congratulations, Mr. Would-Be President! You’ve already kept this promise—exceeded it, in fact. Give or take 85% of federal employees already work outside the Washington area. The “pro-lazy” jibe at telework is a nice rhetorical flourish, though.

“Cut wasteful expenditures: White House, not individual agencies, will submit budget requests to Congress”

It will certainly come as news to federal agencies that they can submit their budget requests to Congress without the approval of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

In virtually every one of his proposals, Ramaswamy seeks to one-up other GOP reformers. “I think a lot of well-intentioned folks focusing on bureaucratic reform will say that we need to be incremental about this,” Ramaswamy said in his February Twitter post. “I think the time and place for that has passed.”