Monday, October 18, 2010

Get a Pitchfork! Get a Torch! Let's get 'em!

Note for Facebook users: These Notes are auto-copied from my somewhat lame, largely ignored blog ( Please feel free to crumble up this webpage and throw it in a trash can if you don't care about such things. I know I would.

This morning, while perusing the daily periodicals, I read this article in the Washington Post. The first two lines appear as such:

"More than half of Americans say they think that federal workers are overpaid for the work they do, and more than a third think they are less qualified than those working in the private sector, according to a Washington Post poll.

Half also say the men and women who keep the government running do not work as hard as employees at private companies."

I've been around the federal government my entire life. I've worked in the private sector supporting the federal government for 15+ years. My aunt and my mother both worked on Capitol Hill for span that between them covered more than 30 years. So when I say this, I have that as my background.

Based on the above polling results, after careful research and objective analysis of the data gathered, I have concluded that more than half of Americans are idiots.

Let's get one thing absolutely crystal clear - people in the federal government work just as hard as people in the private sector. I'm not saying there aren't people who are lax, who cruise control through their day without putting forth a real effort, but what I am saying is that these same people ALSO work in the private sector. I'm not so sure if the perception of the federal government is wrong as much as it is the perception of the private sector. As far as I can tell, the number of "slackers" is proportionate in both the public and private sector. I base this largely on personal observation more than extensive research, so I will admit the sample size of my data is limited to 15+ years of observation.

As for more or less qualified, well, again, I honestly believe that the people being polled simply have no idea. Public sector jobs tend to be more specialized I think, so maybe the broad skill set isn't seen so much on the resume of government workers. I've seen far more unqualified people in private sector jobs than I have in public sector jobs (although I've seen plenty in the private sector, too).

So, for the sake of discussion, let's assume I'm right. I mean, I am right, but it's not worth arguing about. Anyway, assume that for a moment - so why am I right? If you look at the mood of the country, the situation as it stands, you see a country in the midst of its worst economic downturn in 75 years, a country that is nervous, and sees a growing divide of "haves" and "have nots". They get worried, and they look for someone to blame. People are mad. They turn on the TV, the radio, the computer, and lo and behold there is someone telling them who is to blame for their misery.

The Mob is formed.

Let's get 'em!

But who to get? I KNOW - we'll blame the government! They're all evil! Let's get 'em! Fire all of them! Get a rope!

It's become fashionable to blame government for everything in the last few years (not just the last 2). I'm not going to go into the discussion of who is to blame, except to say that the American public have NO IDEA about the vast majority of the federal workforce, or the public workforce for that matter. And left on the sidelines in all this is the state governments and the county governments, both of whom are content to keep their head down as the mob goes by. But the notion that corruption and incompetence are the exclusive domain of the public sector is completely and totally ridiculous. I promise you, dear reader, it exists everywhere that the human animal is present.

Now that being said, could you overhaul the federal government workforce and improve performance? Absolutely. My experience has been there is a bit too much job security and not enough reward/consequence for good/bad work. But the average federal employee, based on my observation, cares about his job and does it to a decent standard. And isn't that what you would hope for from a work force? By the way, I've yet to see a private company that is "perfect", too. Every company carries dead weight and inefficiency.

I'm troubled by the whole lynch mob mentality and how it's starting to be applied. Don't like your Senator, your Congressman, your President? Cool, I'm good with that - not everyone is supposed to. Don't like a given policy? Awesome, having opinions are part of free speech. But focus that discord at the policy makers, the people who make the laws. The GS-9 who works for the Department of the Interior who shows up at his job every day, does his work with a degree of competency isn't the problem. But somewhere, there's a guy sitting in the house next door to the GS-9, cursing that person and getting angrier and angrier because some pundit told him it was the government making him unhappy. And chances are that person has no idea what that GS-9 does or how he does it, but he probably looks down at that person for doing it. And that's wrong.

Here's an exercise. Find a government job that matches what you do. See what it pays. In my own case, a job for the Fed would mean a pay cut, loss of annual bonus, a less flexible work schedule, and an inferior retirement plan.

So where's the well-formed thought? Good question. I suppose its this: if you don't like something, or the way something is being done, take an active role in fixing it instead of getting angry about it. Think government workers are overpaid and unqualified? AWESOME! Go apply for the job, and tell them as a civic service you're more qualified and because you're willing to do the job for the "appropriate" amount of money (read: LESS) they should hire you right there on the spot! I will personally thank you for helping out America.

Stop blaming other people or groups if you're unhappy. If you're unhappy, work to make a change. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go back to USAJOBS.GOV and find one of those easy, high-paying government jobs everybody seems to have, for myself.