Why do we hate federal workers?

The USA Today published an article yesterday noting that federal workers are more likely to die than to be fired from their jobs.  The article itself was a bit callous toward the thousands upon thousands of federal workers who have spent their careers working for the American public, but even more saddening than that piece, which has a sufficient factual basis, is the tone of the response:  The over 850 comments to the piece are embarrassing and mean-spirited.  On the whole, the comments label all federal workers — not just a few who might have fallen through the cracks — as lazy, ignorant, under-educated, and incapable of doing anything productive.  They see federal workers as a waste of a good salary.  They claim that federal workers are paid too much anyway, and receive better benefits and a higher salary than their public counterparts.

Seriously?  Better benefits and a higher salary than their public counterparts?  Wow.  Can we just talk for a minute about how the SEC struggles to maintain top-notch financial analysts because of the significantly lower salaries it provides — salaries that are literally hundreds of thousands of dollars a year less than their employees could earn in the private sector?  Can we consider the scandals and rip-offs the general American public have suffered because government employees are overworked and under-staffed with experts and cannot keep up with  the fast-paced technological advances of the people and companies they were supposed to be regulating?

And, can we consider how difficult it must be for federal agencies to work under the direction of Congress and the President, when the Congress itself is falling apart and the House is working hard to stick a knife into every initiative that the President brings?  Imagine working each day in an environment where you don’t know if you will have a job, because we are going to shut down the government or default on all debt and stop paying things like, you know, salaries.

And finally, if our government cannot even provide good benefits and job security as a trade-off for the lower-paying jobs, and if working for the government is no longer an admirable and patriotic career but a black spot on the face of an American free market, then who is going to process tax returns, or clean up nuclear spills, or provide emergency relief in natural or human-made disasters?  Who is going to regulate banks and credit card agencies so they do not take advantage of an under-educated consumer population?

Me.  With all of the bad information out there, the federal government is one of the best places you can work.  You get amazing job security and solid benefits, while doing a job that improves the lives of Americans who hate your guts and think you don’t deserve your salary.  What can be more rewarding than that?

Working to improve the lives of others, even if it is sometimes inefficient or frustrating, is a job well done.  I hope that everyone is wrong, and that when I finally begin my government job it will be smooth sailing, but I anticipate some problems along the way.  I know that, as Congress talks about crashing our economy to the ground and the DOJ maintains a hiring freeze for the second year, things in Washington may be difficult during my first few years on the job.  But, I am still excited.  And I plan to prove all of those 850 commenters wrong.

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5 comments

  1. Alexander Grable

    It is incredible that so many people hate Federal workers. I myself would abolish the term “Civil Service” because some people regard them as servants instead of highly talented and motivated.

  2. Aunt Suzy

    You know, much of your blog entry also applies to teachers…we often wonder why so many people hate us, too. Here’s the interesting thing. We’re considered “state” workers until it’s time to give all state workers a raise. Then we’re considered “city” workers, which is fine with the city until they have to give raises to city workers. Then, it’s back to being “state” workers. Rarely are we treated as professionals who studied for years in order to become knowledgable in our field. Even more rarely are we regarded as “experts” whose opinions regarding how to educate children have any bearing whatsoever.
    Ohh, sorry! This is your blog! Maybe I should go write one of my own. :)
    Love ya.

  3. joethefed

    Thanks for the article. I’ve been a fed since 1994. I spent 4 years in the Marines before that. I worked for 15 years in the Postal until I graduated law school in ’09 and transferred into my present agency.

    And it’s refreshing to read an article from someone supporting us. I get so tired of hearing people complain about our pay. And the funny thing is, when the economy is humming and there are lost of jobs to choose from in the private sector, nobody really cares what we earn.

    When the economy tanks and people are out of work, the complaints about us skyrocket. What REALLY burns me is the way everyone says we should be suffering like they are. Seriously? Why would you WANT somebody else to experience the same hardship you’re experienceing? Since when did it become OK to wish bad on others just because you’re facing hardship due to the choices you made in life? And what’s more, who says that just because the private sector skimps on salary to satisfy stockholders, that the public sector should follow suit?

    I went to law school at night while working overnight so I could get better job in the government. And when I started, I was only in remission from Stage 3 Hodgkins for 6 months. So I guess because I worked hard and through adversity, I’m not supposed to reap the rewards…

    Thanks again for a great piece.

  4. Cindie

    My ex-husband worked for the federal government for 37 years. After he retired, he had a stroke within a year. I am appalled at the nasty comments by people who feel that he is living on “free money” that he doesn’t deserve.

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