Of feds, virgins and luck

I once had an editor — wonderful guy, a World War II vet and a great teacher — who flew into a rage when I turned in a story on the (then) new federal pay scales. Most grades on the list made more than I did, and many were paid better than my editor. He flipped out.

He went into a rant (not directed at me) about how the bureaucratic bums were overpaid, didn’t do any work, were clock-watchers, time-servers etc.

Except his neighbor.

Turned out my editor lived next door to a guy who worked for the OMB (then called the Budget Bureau). He worked nights, days, weekends. All the time. He lived only to serve. He was a good fed. The only good fed, according to my boss. He was perfect.


I thought of the perfect response: How lucky my boss was to have been born in the best state (Massachusetts), to have been in the best military service (the Navy), to have gone to the best school in the nation (Notre Dame) and to have married — what he claimed was — one of the few remaining virgins in Virginia. And, also, live next door to the only one of the government’s 2.8 million workers who actually worked. Think of the odds!

Wisely, I did not say this, thus retaining his good will and my job. I was reminded of that incident yesterday when I got this very thoughtful email from Deborah B. It sort of says it all:

Working for the Fed:

When you take a job in federal government, you take an oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. You become a part of a family of people who dedicate themselves to serving their fellow citizens.

The only problem is people, who are not part of the federal government, don’t understand anything about federal government. They think federal employees are overpaid, underworked and useless. That’s a result of the media’s crying about evil “government.”

Feds are not the evil government that everyone thinks we are. We’re the folks who ensure citizens have good roads to drive on; send out IRS refunds; hunt down criminals and put them in prison; keep order in the streets and on highways; put fires out and help citizens with their problems, every day.

We are required to listen to every complaint and respond to requests for assistance, but if we don’t take care of a citizen’s complaint immediately, we are called names, threatened, and some have been killed, yes killed, for doing our jobs. We’re that horrible entity, “The Government.”

I guess it’s the way things work. The general population makes assumptions based on what they hear in the media — feds make more money (taxpayer money), get free healthcare (not true) and receive generous retirement benefits — sure, after working for 30 or 40 years.

The point is feds work and work hard. If the federal government failed tomorrow, all Social Security checks to seniors and disabled folks would stop; police and fire services would end; no one would be available to answer 911 calls; roads would not be fixed, maintained, plowed in winter. It’s a good bet that anarchy would be the disorder of the day and we’d all be in a hum then wouldn’t we?

So, next time you hear a TV personality malign the “government” — think twice before passing judgment.” — D.B.


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