Feds: Is Anybody Happy?

Tuesday - 10/11/2011, 2:00pm EDT

A colleague who also covers the federal beat says a couple of recent columns here — if read in isolation — could give people the impression that civil servants are a spoiled bunch who don't know when they are well off.

He said federal and postal workers have a retirement system that 99 out of 100 American workers would love to have, and a variety of cradle-to-grave health plans to die for. No pun intended.

He said feds are complaining about a two-year pay freeze when millions of people are unemployed, are without health insurance or whose pay has been frozen after being forced to take a pay cut. He cited two recent columns here: The subject was buyouts and why so many retirement-age civil servants are still working.

And he's got a point.

Up to a point.

Emails from angry feds, to us and other publications covering the government workforce, indicate that many people in government are fed up with anti-bureaucrat, anti-government attacks from politicians, the media and portions of the public.

But as always there is another side. One that — because it is positive and upbeat — often doesn't see the light of day. For instance who are we covering today: The protestors on Wall Street, in D.C. and other cities, or a much larger national movement to fight breast cancer or hunger? Check the front page of your local newspaper for the answer.

So, we went back a couple of weeks and checked the email bag. Guess what? Lots of people are grateful to have a job, appreciate their benefits package and love their work. For example:

  • "I think some of your readers, possibly some of my coworkers, need a little more cheese with their whines. My experience is exactly the opposite. Most of the people I work with have taken the pay freeze as their contribution to reducing the deficit. They, and I, realize we are fortunate to have chosen government service. We look forward to a very generous (also well-deserved) retirement and appreciate that our health insurance won't punish us as we get older and less healthy. If you are counting votes put me down as a very proud, very happy federal civil servant." Don H., Silver Spring, Md.

  • "I don't know where you find so many unhappy federal government workers. I understand their comments, but I don't understand their attitude or conclusions. We have good jobs. We have jobs, period. Although unemployment has risen most dramatically in the public employee sector it has been at the state and local government level. No RIFs in the federal service. The government pays most of our health premiums and our retirement (for which we contribute) is the best in the nation. What's not to like. Also, I love my work and feel I am contributing to the country." Linda, IRS

  • "I'm retirement eligible…have been for many years. I have no kids in school, no divorce in the past, my investments are conservative and not too far down and my retirement income would be more than adequate even if I quit tomorrow. My plan: Stay on the job. I love the work. My coworkers are great, the issues are challenging. My commute-a 10-mile bike ride to the Pentagon - is a great way to start and wrap up the work day. I know you get lots of e-mail from unhappy and sincere people who would like to retire but feel trapped. There are no doubt some of the same here, but the majority of my civil services cohort is made up of people like me: happy with a great job." Lee at the Pentagon

  • " The recent Page One article in USA Today (which must really hate government workers) again compared apples and oranges to make us look like rotten apples. There is too much of this. I assume that hard-working civil servants (not to mention the military) who protect lives, save money and make like safter and better, are too dull to get ink. Put me down as one happy, appreciative camper. I continue to work because I think I am making things better, and because I like, no make that LOVE, my job." E.C., Austin.

Good to know!


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

Some people are convinced exposure to Wi-Fi and mobile phones are making them sick. It's called Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity, Gawker reports. Some of those afflicted — or at least who think they're afflicted — have moved to an area in West Virginia known as the U.S. Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000 square-mile Appalachian area with no wireless technology (to avoid interfering with a telescope there).