Hard Times Come Again No More
Island Dweller plops down next to the Czar at the Castle Lobby Bar and lets the Czar have it about the unfair treatment government employees are getting from the private public. The good news is that the Czar remembered it almost verbatim:
Most illustrious majesty:
The water is steaming a little down here on Shangri-La island.
There is a well-known radio talk show host personality who has a very short “teaser” soundbite played as a draw in certain markets in which this individual rails about how unfair it is for government employees to have “better health care, more vacation time, and better retirement than you have.”
I was one of those government employees, and for 23 years (27, if you count my military service time). Before I did those 23 years, I went through 14 years of schooling to get my bachelor’s degree – at my expense, not at a state university. I then had to complete a rigorous training regimen that lasted 16 weeks, during which time I could be released for any reason. Add to this situation I was the second-oldest person, and the oldest male, in my class – most of my compatriots were from 5 to 10 years younger than I. No one cut any slack in the physical portion of the training, either. I then had to endure 17 years of 2:30AM duty calls like, “I think I was raped six months ago; my girlfriend and I were talking at the bar tonight and she told me what happened back then was a sexual assault, and I have to report it.” I kid you not, we had to roll out on these things, and when they were reported – not at 8:00AM the next work day.
And let’s get one thing straight, for the benefit of the readers, not Your Majesty – I am not belittling the reporting or seriousness of sexual assaults, nor of sex crimes in general. But the very nature of the statement causes one to believe this person is reluctant to report what happened, because of guilt over a poor decision, an disease acquired as a result of a momentary lapse in liquor-blurred judgment, or because classmates will talk because the sexual partner was not the same color as you – or maybe because it was consensual to begin with and we’re now having second thoughts. I ran across all these reasons during subsequent investigation, and with only one exception, the encounter was consensual and no force was involved, nor intimidation. Most of the time, the male involved couldn’t even be identified. There were many other nonsensical things we had to do.
I won’t go into the last 6 years I spent at HQ where the insanity was multiplied by orders of magnitude.
My point is, some of us in government service actually do break a sweat for a living, and do place ourselves in some discomfort and danger. Imagine your rising gorge, then, to read something like the following, gleaned from an internet source yesterday:
“But for those called in to work, the guide reveals they will be eligible for extra pay. ‘Excepted employees who meet the conditions for overtime pay, Sunday premium pay, night pay, availability pay and other premium payments will be entitled to payment in accordance with applicable rules, subject to any relevant payment limitations,’ said the guide.”
I got that availability pay, to answer nonsense calls such as that described. Maybe that, together with the other stressors, is why I’m subject to SCD and walking around with a defibrillator and pacemaker in my chest now. Let me enlighten you about some other restrictions placed on employees in my former organization, all due to the shutdown. They must show up for work at the appointed start time on any day that is a normal work day for them. If they are sick – no matter what the problem – they must show up. If there is a family emergency, they must still show up. If there are family events planned, they must still show up. If they had leave scheduled, that leave is now cancelled. If there was a medical appointment, it must be cancelled. Failure to show up at the appointed time and place is grounds for being placed on furloughed status, and remaining there until the end of the shutdown and resumption of normal government operations. No exceptions.
There are a lot of private employees who can decide not to come in to work today and take a phony sick day, or just decide to eat the lost pay in order to do something else they want want to do. They go back to work the next day. Excepted government employees don’t have that option. They work, or they are furloughed.
It’s a little galling to read or hear about how you are lumped in with that GS-7 file clerk who can hardly move for their weight, and for whom a hard day’s labor involves moving paper from one basket to another, without thought or creative input – or risk.
The bad news is that he expected sympathy or support from the Czar.
Look, the Czar gets it. People love to dump on public sector employees.
But people love to dump. Island Dweller doesnt like to think about it, but how about all the crap truck drivers get for what they do? Or how lawyers get ripped for being low-life bastards when in fact most of them are really smart, helpful people? Just the other day, our own Dr. J. got jabbed on Twitter becausegasphe is a real doctor and apparently a Twitter correspondent thought he is paid way too much for just saving lives all day. He must make too much money: hes a doctor and therefore filthy rich. It was that simple for the tweep.
Island Dweller is counting the pot shots at government employees, naturally, since thats what he is attuned to. Thats fair. But everybody is sick of getting ripped on. Thats also fair.
Okay, so government employees get furloughed…but not nearly at the same rate that folks in the private world get laid off or fired just because. When the shutdown ends, the non-essential folks go back to work. The private sector? Still heavily unemployed.
The Czar burst out laughing once at a teacher whose union lost a battle to retain tenure. This means that teachers could be let go with or without cause. She asked if we could envision thatyou could just walk in to work one day and be told you were fired. Yes, we replied: most of America lives like that. Its called work.
The Czar is not ridiculing Island Dwellera large number of us around the Castle have worked in, with, or around government employees to say the least. We know that when we poke fun at the officious form-pusher at the government office who is peeved that she almost stayed until 5:01 because a pencil needed to be re-sharpened, we simultaneously ignore the guy fast-roping out of a helicopter who hasnt seen his young daughter yet because he has to go get shot at by a malodorous, bearded lunatic who wants to murder him and his daughter because the guy wears an American flag on his shoulder. Like any industry, the government has a lot of superstars (in all areas, not just the military) worth applauding.
But Island Dweller likely acknowledges that when Americans, at an effective unemployment rate of 14.3%, hear that almost a million non-essential government workers are getting a few unpaid days off, they bristle pretty badly. Almost a million.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are sixteen states in the US that have fewer people employed at all. Meaning, that if all the non-essential government employees created a new state just for themselves, they would rank thirty-fourth in the total number of employed people. If youre an unemployed or under-employed machinist in any of those sixteen states, that stings bad.
The Czar knows Island Dweller is a good guy: he writes for us, for crying out loud. We dont think that he or his hard-working counterparts across the Federal spectrum are zombie slackers. But this would be a good time for non-essential government employees to not gripe too loudly about being unfairly treated or portrayed. There are a lot of essential family breadwinners bringing in even less, with no prospects of recovery until 2016 at the earliest.
Yeah, its bad all around, everybody.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.