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.