Problems with gov’t employees? Have ya’ read Dilbert?

Ever read Dilbert? Have ya’ noticed Dilbert doesn’t work for the government?

There’s been a lot of talk lately—I’ve seen it and heard it and read about it in a number of sources—denigrating the public employee; the government worker. Everyone has at least one anecdote about an ill-tempered, inefficient, ineffectual, lazy, disinterested leech, sucking down a taxpayer-provided paycheck they perceived owed to them, without any regard to producing any actual work for said paycheck. But whenever I hear someone proclaim that such a “worker” is endemic to people who are paid with tax dollars, I wonder, has this person ever worked with more than a dozen people, anywhere?

First, let’s get one thing straight, the “government employee” covers not only clerks at the DMV and IRS, but your local firefighters and teachers. (And don’t try to sidetrack my discussion with stories about ineffectual teachers, who only retain their position because of tenure–yeah, I have those stories, too. But for every one of those, I have more about teachers who did what they did for love of what they did, whose mission it was to impart some amount of knowledge onto those unwilling to learn it–some of whom made a real difference in the way I see the world, for the better. No, do not denigrate teachers around me.) And as I write this, I do realize there are those who believe even the fire department a waste of tax money, who feel it should be all volunteer, funded by generous donations from the wealthy (who would be able to if only they didn’t have to pay taxes), and if no one showed up to put out the fire in your house then it should be your problem. No, I will not point out where that attitude is likely to find them. To those people, well, I would tell them to get the fuck off my blog, but they’re incapable of reason.

Has anyone here ever worked for a large corporation? How about a company with more than two-dozen employees? In more than one location? Ever had to deal with someone who was, shall we say, less than efficient? Did you ever have a coworker who was only in their current position because it was the only place that would tolerate their personality? Or enjoyed their job because, no matter how trivial, how menial, it afforded them some small amount of authority over others?

And yes, the stereotype of the “government employee” exists for a reason. I have family who’ve worked within the government, and they’re full of stories of employees they couldn’t coerce to actually do any work. But I feel that reason is because so many of us come into contact with them, more than the employees of any other company. We’ve all been to the DMV and the Post Office.

But think about the other, private, for-profit companies we’ve all had to deal with. The cable company. The phone company. Certainly those are models of efficiency, aren’t they, since profit is their only incentive?

The one thing the government agency doesn’t have is sales people. When you call the cable company to inquire about service, you can hear them smiling over the phone while bending over backwards to get you to sign up. “We’ll even send over a masseuse, to rub your shoulders and ease away any stress caused by the install.” You want to share anecdotes? Tell me about all the times you called this private, profit-making company asking for satisfaction.

How about the phone company? “Would you like a decaf soy latte while you wait for me to transfer all the numbers from your old phone to your new one? Shouldn’t be but a moment. Sorry for the delay.” Tell me about what happens when you call back to that company whose stock is traded publicly on the market. Surely they’ve managed to cut through bureaucracy and red tape, right?

And I haven’t even gotten to the real irony. Those pedagogues railing against “government waste and inefficiencies?” Do I need to point out that many of them are government employees? Politicians whose very job it is to be in charge of those bloated systems, who continue to proclaim, year after year, no matter who is in charge, that they could fix everything, if only everyone else would let them—they are the ones touting “smaller government,” and (gads) “privatization,” attempting to perpetuate the myth (yes, that’s right, myth) that a privately run corporation, with only profit as its motive, is somehow more efficient than government.

Because private corporations, like Enron, aren’t prone to the corruption we see in government. You see, opening the field up to private companies, like Comcast and Cablevision, fosters real competition, and with increased competition, among companies like AT&T and Verizon, prices will come down. And with reduced government interference through regulations, international conglomerates like British Petroleum would be able to better address the needs of their customers, who are free to go elsewhere if they’re dissatisfied.

Oh, no, let’s not have Big Brother further their socialist takeover and monitor the water we drink and food we eat. Let’s take some personal responsibility for the contaminants we ingest. If we’re not happy with our private water supply, or electric company, we’re free to employ someone else. Let’s make sure our money doesn’t go to anyone undeserving—and if they need it, that only shows how much they don’t deserve it—and pay for schools for other people’s kids. I mean, the only reason someone would become a cop in New York City is for the government pension, am I right?

Let’s all agree to call bullshit when we see it. No, I am not asking you to excuse the woman at the Social Security administration who got angry with you for filling out a form wrong, nor the person in the unemployment office who spent 20 minutes reading to you out of someone else’s file—after you pointed it out. No, I’m not suggesting it’s excusable because you can’t get Verizon to take off a download fee you swear you never incurred, or a bank to reverse the insufficient funds fee they charged you when you withdrew too much money from their own ATM. I’m asking you to remember that these are people. People who are being told what to do by other people. And those people don’t always have interests that are in line with yours.

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Published in: on August 30, 2010 at 7:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

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