Welcome to the real world, federal bureaucrats
A specter haunts Washington, D.C.: federal workers, accustomed to job security, may actually be reduced in status to the level of private-sector peasants, who must live with the possibility of being laid off due to workforce reductions. The Washington Post, in many ways the trade paper of the government industry, shares the anxiety of its readership:
Federal workers are growing increasingly anxious at the prospect of massive budget cuts President Trump proposed this week that would pave the way for increased military spending.
Employees who list endangered species, collect taxes and distribute aid to foreign countries are fearing for their livelihoods as they sift through rumors and wait to see whether their offices will be targeted for steep reductions.
Those of us who work in the private sector have never had the job security of a federal employee. And few of us have the retirement benefits they enjoy, so we have the constant issue of providing for ourselves beyond our working years. Frankly, it is a lot of stress, and I find that in my case, at least, it provides quite a lot of motivation for hard work. After all, I have no rich Uncle Sam to rely on to keep money coming in to pay for the groceries, much less fund an extended vacation called "retirement."
Ordinarily, in the rare case of a government agency reducing its workforce, attrition is relied upon. Deaths and retirements (and hardly ever firing for cause) automatically reduce the number of working bodies in a large organization. If you don't bring in replacements, the workforce declines in number. But not rapidly, and not all at once:
... words like buyouts, furloughs and RIFs (or reduction in force) – government-speak for layoffs – are now being tossed around at the water cooler as civil servants face the possibility of massive downsizing. Some of these strategies were used when Ronald Reagan was president and others more recently to meet the goals of budget caps known as sequestration.
Normally, the government lays off a very small number of employees every year. But the biggest round of layoffs came in the late 1980s and early 1990s with military base closures and other defense drawdowns. The process can take months, with terms that must be negotiated with unions. And it's costly, since agencies must pay benefits and outstanding vacation and sick time to their workers.
But experts said the rate of natural attrition would not be enough to cover expected budget cuts. In the short term, furloughs – or unpaid days off – may be an option to reduce costs, they say.
At the EPA, a sense of gallows humor has set in. "We've been discussing whether it will be really bad or really, really bad," said one employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
The relative economic standing of government bureaucrats has soared compared to the fortunes of 99.9% of employees of private-sector firms. When I was a lad in the early 1960s and musing about the possibilities of work, my dad advised me that a government job wouldn't pay as well as comparable private sector work, but you had job security. If I wanted to relax and rise in salary modestly and slowly, then government work was for me. But if I wanted to take risks, work hard, and have the possibility of more money, then the private sector was for me.
He was correct, at the time. But over the ensuing five decades or so, government workers have vastly improved their lot, and now they often get more pay for equivalent work, while enjoying job security and often lavish fringe benefits. So the notion of losing some of those gains and facing the ordinary work risks of the rest of the economy is a psychological shock:
At the State Department, career diplomats are uncertain what and who will be needed in a downsized agency. Without a clear set of guidelines on what foreign policies the administration will be adopting, they say they have time on their hands and little work to do.
Any bureaucrats with time on their hands need to be given their walking papers immediately. There is always work to be done. But then again, if you have job security and no immediate task at hand, why bother to ask yourself what could be improved or what information might be needed? If your superiors in the bureaucracy don't keep you busy, you can just watch porn.
Almost 100 federal government employees have admitted to or been caught viewing copious amounts of pornography while on the job in the past five years, according to an investigation by the News4 I-Team.
The cases include workers who admitted spending six hours a day surfing illicit images and videos and maintaining tens of thousands of adult images on their office desktops.