So are we going to be shrinking the size of the federal government? How about reining in the ever popular but rarely acted upon topic of waste, fraud and abuse? There are still some in the press paying attention to these questions, with the Washington Post blaring a headline this week about President Trump seeking an “historic contraction of the federal workforce.” Sounds pretty good to me, but is there any substance behind all of this vaporware?

For once, the pleasantly surprising answer may be yes. Government Executive reports that a new package of bills currently making their way through the process include some long needed reforms on top of the already announced reductions in staffing and consolidation of redundant functions. Chief among these are measures which would trim taxpayer expenses for union activity inside the government behemoth as well as finally imposing some significant penalties on federal employees who choose to while away their days watching pornography on their work computers rather than conducting the business of the people.

A House committee approved several bills aimed at reforming the federal workforce, including a pension reform for union officials who receive government paychecks.

Two of the measures would bring changes to the practice of official time, with one earning fierce opposition from Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The more controversial Official Time Reform Act would prevent employees from counting days worked at least 80 percent on union representational duties toward their retirement pensions. It would also prevent employees from engaging in lobbying while on official time…

Also in the markup, the committee approved the Eliminating Pornography From Agencies Act. The panel also signed off on the bill from Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., in the last Congress, though it never received a vote on the House floor. The bill would require the Office of Management and Budget to issue governmentwide guidance prohibiting access to pornographic websites on federal computers. Currently, Meadows said, agencies maintain a patchwork of disparate rules on the subject.

The first of those measures is an old chestnut which we’ve batted around here before. So-called “official time” is a tool which the unions use to allow federal employees who receive full salaries on the taxpayer dime to spend 100% of their time on the job doing nothing but union business. (They also get to use government offices, utilities and resources for this work which you also pay for.) At this point Congress still seems to be approaching the situation with kid gloves. Rather than eliminating the official time policy, they’re looking at not counting hours spent on union work toward the employee’s pension benefits. That’s not much, but at least it’s a start.

Out in the real world of private-sector work, unions generally maintain their own offices off-site and far less frequently get paid by the employer for doing exclusively union related work. That’s because the unions are not actually part of the employer’s company. Taxpayers should rightly be shocked and appalled to learn that the federal workers unions have been so deeply ingrained in the bureaucracy for so long now that they are treated as part of the government. But when it comes to negotiations over pay, benefits and workplace policy, who is representing the taxpayer? Up until now the answer seems to have been, “nobody.”

The second reform issue which I mentioned deals with the question of what to do about employees who spend hours of their day at the office browsing Porn Hamster (or whatever the most popular adult content sites are today) rather than doing the work of the people. One might imagine that being caught engaging in such activity would essentially be an immediate firing offense, but we’re talking about government workers here so that’s far easier said than done. In reality though, we don’t even need to be talking about pornography and the various social debates which rage over that. If you are at work you’re supposed to be doing work. This really isn’t any different than an employee who spends their day filling out and monitoring their March Madness bracket, playing video games or engaging in online shopping. That’s not why you were given a computer and these are not activities which the taxpayers should be expected to fund. Why is it so incredibly difficult to simply discharge people who don’t do their jobs?

Perhaps this is all finally about to change. It would be a welcome relief to see our elected representatives actually standing up for the rights of those who pay for the operation of the government and not simply allowing the unions to make all of the rules. Is it going to happen? Let’s just say I’ve been around this block enough times that I’m not holding my breath. But I’m also ready to be happily shocked if I’m proven wrong.