Navel gazing, government style

There are two kinds of navel gazing. You can look at yours or somebody else’s!

Hundreds of outside groups, commissions, blue-ribbon panels, etc., have looked at the way the government works. How it hires, pays, promotes and fires people. But these groups rarely ask rank-and-file feds what works and what doesn’t. We got lucky and found one willing to spill the beans and give his observations. All he asked was “no byline” please. So here goes:

A summary of where it’s at on the federal proletariat scene:


Nowadays, they’re cutting feds in gigantic numbers in agencies like the U.S. Postal Service and the Social Security Administration and other agencies. Much of the institutional memory is vanishing with the cuts. New and younger people are being hired with reduced benefits and not much mentoring.

The glory days of a great professional federal bureaucracy are going away to pay for things like wars in the Middle East. The work was once seen as noble, that is, for the good of the country. Since Reagan’s time, federal workers have been portrayed with diminishing respect in the public’s eye. As lazy and overpaid. Union representation has faded even under Democratic administrations.

Certain groups are still being favored at the expense of other groups and Social Security benefits are an IOU in a box somewhere in West Virginia we are told.

There is no real protection for whistleblowers.

The performance-evaluation system favors managers who are presumed to be truthful and qualified to judge others. In reality, they have no special qualifications or training to make such judgements of others, being mere technocrats themselves.

Workloads increase proportionally as many jobs are not backfilled.

A certain level of fear is imparted if such things bother you and take issue.

Despite what you read to the contrary, work itself never decreases. The workplace is really only about the work being done and hardly ever at all about workers.

Giant backlogs of claims for benefits and retirement benefits are now the norm. Thousands of claims that will take years to finalize now exist for years. Federal retirees themselves must now wait months for their benefits as the backlog is 40,000-plus.

When and if there were to be a really good redesign of the federal personnel system, it should be people-centered as much as work-centered, but there is no sign that such an idea is even on the radar screen. Alexander Hamilton argued that “the power of the people” must be placed over legislative will. I wouldn’t bet a lot on that happening for we the 99 percent.

Each new administration enters and rains down some new theory; workers wait for each of them to pass away in a few years while the workers do their work…

A few hundred dollars raise after three years that amounts to enough to buy a little less than half a large pizza with one topping every two weeks. That really hits the spot while you accrue loans to help you pay off hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition.

And let’s not forget that while you get $5.50 per pay after a three-year wait, your health care costs rise maybe $40 per pay, a large net loss.

Nietzsche said that all such ideas rattle around in your head all the time and forever. He called it his theory of eternal recurrence. What a life. Geez!



By Jack Moore

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