I’m Proud to be a Civil Servant (even with a looming shutdown)!

It’s impossible to ignore the resentment, anger, and distrust towards Federal employees that permeates our society these days – especially if you happen to be a Federal employee. Our elected officials, reporters, and think tanks have jumped on government workers in an effort to raise their own stature and exposure.

Federal employees, whose salaries account for a grand total of 5 percent of Federal spending, are supposedly the reason the United States is in this mess. Let me put that statistic another way, we could fire every, single, last Federal employee (outside of the Postal Service, which is non-appropriated) and we would only save 5 percent. That’s less than we spent on interest this year.

Still, nobody’s advocating firing all federal employees – especially not those on whom we rely for national safety, but hypothetically, if we kept all “security employees” and fired the rest of them, which includes me, spending would only decrease 2 percent.

We have serious budget problems in the country, but attacking Federal salaries is like trying to balance your personal spending by canceling your Netflix subscription while renewing the lease on your Maserati GranCabrio – sure every penny helps, but come on… really?

Let me be clear, I understand that times are tough and I feel fortunate to even have a job. And I understand that Federal employees should not be immune to sacrifices. That’s why, when President Obama originally proposed a cost of living raise of 1.4 percent this year, I promised to donate that raise to charity and encouraged others to do the same. The President ultimately canceled the proposed raise, but I still went ahead and donated.

And I’m not against reforming the civil service; few are. In the 2010 Employee Viewpoint Survey, only 31percent of government workers said that “… steps are taken to deal with a poor performer who cannot or will not improve.” High performing Federal employees want the bad apples out just as much as you do – actually, probably more so, because we have to work with them every day.

Whether you want smaller government or bigger government, I think it’s fair to say we all want a more effective, more accountable, and more productive government. But good governance requires good employees, and good employees require adequate pay. One Senator recently said, “The average federal employee makes $120,000 a year.” All I can say is, “I wish!”

I make almost the exact median income of a DC resident. Essential, half of my neighbors make more money, and half make less. When USA Today infamously wrote that Federal employees make twice as much as the private sector, the reporter didn’t bother to compare my salary to private sector employees living near me; he also didn’t account for educational differences. Yes, I make more than half of DC residents, but only 9.3 percent also have a graduate or professional degree. Even throw in my benefits the government pays (including my 401(k) match) and my salary increases 24%… not double.

But now that I feel I’ve adequately defended my profession, I’m going on the offensive to say: “I’m proud of what I do, and you should be too!”

Think of what our career civil servants have accomplished over the last half century. We rebuilt a Europe that now knows unprecedented peace and prosperity through the Marshall Plan. We put a man on the moon and a vehicle on Mars. We helped map the human genome and invented the internet. We flew faster than the speed of sound less than five decades after the first man ever took to the sky. And every day, we cure the sick, feed the hungry, and house the poor. These are accomplishments that not only our civil service should take pride in, but our whole county should be proud of.

These are America’s accomplishments… accomplished by Americans.

So although it is easy to get disillusioned as a public servant, or disappointed as a tax payer, it is important to remember the accomplishments of our past and those yet to come. It is important that we address the real issues with real solutions. It is important not to vilify the public servants who come in everyday and do their jobs to the best of their abilities. And it is important, as public servants, that we continue to do our best, and that we remember the accomplishments of those that came before us and strive to accomplish more.

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Beth Beck

Thanks for putting this in words. I know many federal workers who work hard on their own time for no extra pay. I know others who do not much at all. Too bad it’s not easy to weed out the wheat from the chaff, but it’s not. We all get lumped in together as “the problem.” But that’s another issue entirely.

The issue at hand is the political game of who is right and who will back down first. Running the federal government shouldn’t be a day by day, week by week role of the dice. But here we are, none-the-less. Shutting down the government affects FHA loans, so that those waiting to close on houses may lose their locked in interest rate and have to start over. It affects the businesses who cater to the federal workers, like the restaurants and dry cleaners and parking garages. It affects our ability to pay our bills — mortgage, rent, utilities, student loans, etc. The ripple effect is extensive. And look at how much time ($$) we spend planning for the shutdown….

Congress, please, pretty please, get your act together. I have a job to do, and I’d like to get it done. (And I’d REALLY like to pay my bills too!)

Anne Steppe

Until Congress starts “feeling the pain” and they lose their pay and all that being furloughed will mean to public servants, they have nothing to say I want to hear. They are playing games with people’s lives and it doesn’t seem to phase them in the least. All I hear is that this is what the American people want. For real?? No one asked me and this is not what I want, nowhere close to it! Capital Hill needs to be renamed “Shameless Hill.”

Carol Davison

I’m proud to SERVE OUR CITIZENS regardless of whether there was a government shut down. However after reading Kevin Carter’s statement “And every day we cure the sick, feed the hungry, and house the poor” I realized that is what the Christian God charged his disciples to do. (My apologies to others faiths-I only have a Christian background and can only adequately quote their scriptures) I didn’t realize that we were so Supercalifragilistic! Thanks Kevin, I am proud of you and you inspire me as an American and a Fed!

Charlene McTier

Well-stated, Kevin — you’re an inspiration for everyone. You are the epitome of an ideal Fed! Keep that positive outlook and yes, it’s true we are all here to make a difference for our country!