As the captain gave his State Of The Union address, he was standing on an unsteady deck.
I had the opportunity this week to speak with a federal employee recently retired after 40 years with the U.S. government.
Federal workers’ morale is not good, he said. For a long time the government has pursued a policy of converting federal employee positions to contract positions. I presume the goal is to save money and to relieve government of responsibility for employees, and it’s working.
Federal employees idled during the month-long government shutdown will receive back pay, the retiree explained. Contract employees who work alongside federal employees in the same buildings will NOT be paid.
Approximately 800,000 federal employees will be paid; approximately 1 million contract federal workers will not be paid.
You might say it’s a dirty little secret. But it’s not a well-kept secret. I read the same information in a newspaper. However, most Americans are unaware that 1 million workers will not be paid. Or they simply don’t care.
The U.S. is fighting wars (sometimes secret wars) with mercenaries paid by private contractors, instead of soldiers paid by the U.S. Army. And the civilian government is staffed by contract workers, instead of official federal employees.
Morale is horrible among both official employees and their contract fellow workers, said the long-time employee. Contract workers are leaving the government in droves, he said. Departing workers are taking years of experience and irreplaceable skills with them, said another man at the table. The government is being weakened, and possibly wrecked.
I suppressed the image of rats leaving a sinking ship. It’s not the right image.
I summoned a vision of contract sailors, classified as “non-essential” and deemed not worth paying. They are disembarking from a stricken ship, with unseen damage below the waterline. A skeleton crew remains aboard.
Sailors are manning the lifeboats in orderly fashion. Meanwhile, a proud and inattentive captain is on deck reading a speech. Assembled officers applaud dutifully. The captain is unaware that the deck beneath his feet is unsteady and the ship is listing.
— John Hayden