Fauci and the case for mandatory retirement

It should be no shock to anyone that Dr. Anthony Fauci caused some confusion last week. This time, though, it was over his statements about his retirement. America’s most overexposed doctor first suggested in an interview that he would leave government by the end of President Biden’s first term in 2025. Then, in Fauci-esque fashion, he later flip-flopped, saying that he had no plans to retire.

The idea of Dr. Fauci, 81, finally leaving government service after more than 54 years, drew swift reaction from lawmakers and average Americans alike ranging from pure glee to genuine disgust. To leave it at that, however, would be to ignore a powerful lesson of Dr. Fauci’s controversial career.

That lesson for America has nothing to do with COVID-19 or public health. It has to do with the unbridled power of unelected bureaucrats and our dire need to start paring it back. 

Those understandable reactions and outrage over Dr. Fauci’s long-standing spaghetti-throwing approach to public health should be realigned toward more constructive change. It’s not only time for Dr. Fauci to go, but also time for Congress to pass mandatory retirement thresholds for all federal government employees.

Dr. Fauci, who has paintings and devotional candles of himself in his office, will likely go down as being one of the most influential and infamous members of the federal bureaucracy in history. He’s become the poster boy for the sheer power of the shadowy, unaccountable administrative state.

With nearly 2 million civilian career federal employees, the government has become a jobs program. It’s almost impossible to fire someone due to union contracts and civil service laws that prevent dismissals even for incompetence and dereliction of duty.

Mandating retirement will open positions for younger workers and infuse new ideas in systems that can lead to better taxpayer return on investment. It will also allow federal agencies to assess their needs, decide whether to backfill vacancies and right-size those entities. Right now, choosing not to rehire following a vacancy is the fastest way to shrink the federal workforce.

This doesn’t need to be about anyone’s age either. It’s about federal workers’ time in service. Mandatory retirement will protect taxpayers from people who stay too long, squirrel in, multiply their power, have reduced accountability, drive down innovation, box out better employees and cost more money.  

Members of the military, federal firefighters and most federal judges are already subject to mandatory retirement provisions. So too should the bureaucrats that have more power, more influence over policy and control more resources.

Employees that can serve until they determine when they might want to retire are a symptom of Big Government that is a direct threat to our democratic process. Dr. Fauci’s massive pension should also offend the sensibilities of Americans. His estimated $400,000 annual taxpayer-funded pension is seven times the annual salary of the average American.

Efficiency and effectiveness have never been the goals of the administrative state, and Congress has a responsibility to drive reforms that produce a more responsive, and transparent government.

Republicans are calling for investigations and hearings on Dr. Fauci, his spending and potential conflicts of interest. They should focus their attention on passing legislation that prevents federal employees from making royalties off patents or research, forcing full transparency on all outside earnings and mandatory retirement based on time in service.

Mandatory retirement after 20 years of service, for instance, will save taxpayer money, reduce the size of the federal workforce, increase government efficiency and allow former federal workers to contribute their experience to the private sector.

It’s not ageist to think that government service should be about serving the nation for a limited time. Workers should be held to the highest standards, well paid, not be able to receive outside income and subject to more stringent disclosure regulations.

Congress shouldn’t advance mandatory retirement provisions due to Dr. Fauci’s cavalier attitude toward tinkering with people’s lives, his misinformation campaigns about COVID-19 vaccinations or obfuscation about Big Pharma’s influence over public health decisions. Nor should they do it because of his well-orchestrated efforts to eviscerate scientific debate and physician independence.

They should do it because our founders warned us about tyranny, be it from one man or a system that operates without accountability to the people. Let Dr. Fauci’s arrogance of power be a lesson that strengthens America’s future.

• Tom Basile is the host of “America Right Now” on Newsmax Television, an author and a former Bush administration official.

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