Feds: Answering to a higher power

Thursday - 5/10/2012, 2:00am EDT

Should federal and postal workers — like a popular brand of kosher salami — be held to a higher standard? Because they too answer to a higher power? In this case that higher power is the American taxpayer which, come to think of it, includes you too.

Are people who don't work for the government — media types, insurance folks, computer nerds or goat-keepers — more easily and justifiably forgiven for doing (or not doing) stuff that would get you, because you are a fed, publicly ridiculed, fired and maybe prison time.

Is it fair to fold, staple or mutilate (figuratively) government workers for things that go unnoticed and/or unpunished in the private sector?

Obviously the answer depends on the "crime" itself. Some things that are written off as boys-will-be-boys shenanigans in the private sector might result in dismissal, forced retirement or a congressional investigation if done by somebody at the IRS, Defense, Interior or even OPM. Who, outside of government circles, had heard of GSA until a month or so ago?

A column here last week, "Uncle Sam: Eagle Scout or Charlie Sheen?" featured the comments of a reader/listener. He spoke of the responsibilities of federal workers. He really hit a nerve. In addition to emails addressed directly to me, 35 people took the time and trouble to post their thoughts in the public comments section above the column. That's a lot. If you get a chance read them.

Meantime, here's another angle on the subject:

  • You probably knew you would fire up a few people with the comments in the Eagle Scouts/Charlie Sheen column with the comments from Mr. Shaw. Actually, he is probably right. His comments, however, are one-sided. This is typical of those who bash government employees. I understand we all work on the public dime and that does make a difference. It is the hypocrisy that says that the private sector does not take from the government's money is in a word, insane. It is always stated that somehow government employees waste government money like wild college frat kids, and that corporations are somehow virtuous and righteous job creating saints. As government employees spend another year on a pay freeze, I am sure the corporate parties, bonuses, and junkets to the corners of the world will continue. All of this is funded by the taxpayers in the way of tax breaks, bailouts, and the zero-tax status of such corporations as GE for example. I only need to change a few words in my quote of Mr. Shaw to make this point: American corporations are full of inefficiency, waste and unaccountable people — that's the way it's has always been. It will never change." — Signed Under the Bus
The fairness of the should-feds-be-held-to-a-higher standard? argument will continue long after the current scandals du jour have faded away. But there was a winner in all this: Me. Thanks to the headline, @SoCharlieSheen is now following me on Twitter. Ok, so it's not the real Charlie Sheen, but it's a start.

Is this a great country, or what?

Look for one very soon about Helen Mirren and, if that works, maybe an interview with Laura Linney to get her thoughts on public service.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

Beloved children's book author Maurice Sendak originally titled his book "Where The Wild Horses Are," according to Mental Floss. But Sendak wasn't very good at drawing horses, so he settled on drawing "things."


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