Sunday, December 26, 2010
The lousy economy and the burgeoning national debt have turned government employees into the new whipping boy.
After all, the public and now the politicians rail, these bureaucrats aren't really workers or public servants. They get paid a lot to do a little and then they rake in incredible benefits on top of that, or so the popular refrain goes.
No matter what the issue is these days it seems someone has to be the scapegoat. We can't all be at fault, can we?
This foaming at the mouth and calling for the heads of government employees has gone beyond the normal ranting. Sure, it's easy to blame government employees and bureaucrats.
But what about police officers, firefighters, teachers, college professors, correctional officers, trash collectors, military personnel, U.S. Army Corps of Engineer workers? It's a lot harder to scream about "those overpaid government people" when you think of it like this.
Or how about if we get a little more up-close-and-personal and talk about Tom and Bill and Mary and Sue. Some of us may feel like hanging our heads in shame when we put it this way.
Government employees are taxpayers too. They perform vital services that we have decided we need and want. They live in our neighborhoods, shop in our stores and volunteer for projects that meet community needs.
That doesn't mean government employees should be immune from the pain the rest of us are feeling. And they are not. There have been layoffs (which turn a service provider into a collector of unemployment and welfare benefits). There have been furloughs, salary reductions and benefit cuts. Government employees haven't escaped the fallout of the recession.
It's true you can point to such expenses as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the stimulus packages as major contributors to the deficit. Or there may be particular programs you feel are wasteful but which others feel are vital. But those decisions weren't made by the government employees in the trenches, but by the elected leaders (elected by us, the public).
If we have to have a scapegoat, maybe we better look in the mirror. It is the public who wanted government services and it is the public who wanted tax cuts. It was the public who elected the lawmakers and continues to elect those who bring home the bacon. It doesn't take a genius to realize that keeping and adding services increases expenses while cutting taxes reduces revenue.
In the immortal words of Pogo: We have met the enemy and he is us.