Federal Employees News Digest

The bureaucracy dilemma

‘Yet it is almost impossible to fire civil servants. In 2017 only 347 out of 4.1 million were dismissed…Workers often slink from their desks hours before they are supposed to…’—a quote from The Economist magazine. Not really a surprise, but ouch!

Overpaid, Cushy Job, Fireproof: Any of this sound familiar? Been there. Done that? Got the t-shirt of fame that says, to family, friends and well-wishers, “Sorry. I tried but I wound up in government. Sorry about that. Stuff happens.”

If you’ve been in the civil (or Postal) service for even a couple of years, you know that according to much of media, press and politicians, you are an overpaid bureaucratic slug. Couldn’t hack it on the outside if you tried. Probably got your federal job through a relative or political connections. And it’s a job for life! But you’ve heard that.

Regular “news” stories appear each year comparing federal salaries with that of private pay. They almost always conclude that Uncle Sam showers his people with pay and pensions outside Wall Street. Mostly the data is supplied by conservative think tanks. Some of the comparisons are fairer than others. Some lump pay rates of scientists and researchers at NASA, the CDC or the National Institutes of Health with salaries for delivery drivers and greeters in big box stores. Both sides—government unions and private think tanks—claim the pay gap is 20 to 30 percent. They disagree which group is on the good side.

Bottom line: Most federal workers are accustomed to being kicked around. Most have some scar tissue. But they carry on. Many envy their civil service colleagues in France, Canada and the UK which (BBC sitcoms notwithstanding) hold the civil service, and its career employees, in high esteem. In some civilized nations of the world, graduates of top universities—children and grandchildren of the elite—set their sights on government jobs. Some elected office but more often in places where tenure is treasured and longevity esteemed, in the career civil service. Especially but not limited to their versions of the Treasury Department, the Home Office (Justice), and in nations where the Ministry of the Interior doesn’t handle parks and recreation.

In many nations, civil servants are held at the top of the list of esteemed jobs. Here public employees often rank down there with used car salesmen, politicians, tarot card readers and, uh, journalists.

The weekly Economist story on the civil service said there is a “culture of entitlement’ among senior career employees and, despite growing criticism “the bureaucracy is unable to shake off its lethargy.” Budgets have been approved and vital services, like collecting taxes from the rich and influential is spotty at best.

Sad news for sore eyes like yours, right. But wait…

We’re not talking about you. At least not this time. We are talking about them. Especially about bureaucrats in most other countries that make our feds look pretty darn good. Existing in a society where a crooked bureaucrat makes Page One as opposed to many countries where an honest, hardworking bureaucrat is the news story. Which is the good news because the thoughtful piece in The Economist, one of the most respected publications in the world, is not about. Or our (yours and mine) government. In this case the subject is Indonesia.

 But the bad news I could have been anywhere: The good news is that “anywhere” doesn’t include us.

Check it out: https://www.economist.com/asia/2020/09/26/why-so-many-indonesians-want-to-be-public-servants


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