As y’all know, I love our conversations. I have been surprised, however, by how hostile some have been with regard to the partial Government shutdown and furlough.
On responses at my site and others, a few themes have arisen regarding the furloughed employees that are just not true. Usually these themes accompany an ad-hominem attack on a previous commenter.
One of my favorite sayings is that we are all entitled to our own opinions, not our own facts. Here are what I see as two of the most egregious examples of demonstrably false statements–mythology of the furlough–that appear in comments to furlough articles.
Myth # 1: Furloughed employees are not doing important work.
This myth is a pumped-up spin on the old stereotype of the Government employee as a feckless clock-watcher. You have probably heard it in the form of a comment that reads: “if the Government does not need them [the furloughed workers] why are we paying them?”
Like that lazy government employee stereotype, assuming people on furlough are not doing necessary work is ignorant, uninformed and just plain wrong. Furloughed employees often have policy and oversight responsibilities; for example, take a look at Federal agency shutdown plans to see who is not in the office this week. Among the furloughed, you will find contracting officers–the employees who award Federal contracts.
Those employees sign the contracts that support the national economy – lest we forget which entity purchases more goods and services than any other. Even with the Department of Defense back at work, the economy will presumably suffer with most Government spending on hold. For sure, many problems the furloughed employees would address will not be addressed as a result of the shutdown. A veritable army of GS-14s and 15s watch over how our money is spent, design safeguards to protect our money, and perform similarly important functions . . . and this army has been idled. If you know a Federal employee on furlough, try asking him or her what work is not getting done. I bet you’ll be surprised.
Myth # 2: Furloughed employees are enjoying a vacation.
The furlough is not a vacation. On every one of our vacations, my husband will generally spend around an hour each day working. He can’t just ignore his duties even when we’re at the beach. He has to get online and address small problems to keep them from becoming big ones; he has to check the pulse of whatever is happening to make sure he can seamlessly transition back to the job he loves when he gets back to the office. And I want to underscore, friends, that he loves his job, which centers on serving the public welfare. His work breaks do not interrupt our vacation (he is the only early riser in our crew and our vacations always include downtime), but we all know he needs to stay on top of what is happening at the office. And he’s not alone in the dedication he shows to his job. The vast majority of the Federal employees I know work every bit as hard as private sector employees. And in the case of attorneys like my husband, for half the pay.
During the furlough my husband is not checking his e-mail, telephone messages or doing anything else directly related to his work. I can tell it bothers him. The Federal employees are not enjoying a vacation. He can’t take care of his duties, and no one else is, either. People depend on him. Businesses depend on him. And he cannot help them. I think it’s driving him slightly crazy. In fact, I know it is, because he’s reorganizing the family library according to the dictates of the Library of Congress Catalog. I know he’s not the only Federal employee who’s worrying about the work he or she should be getting done, but cannot, during the shutdown.
How about it? Are some of you furloughed Government employees? If so, I would love to hear what you would be doing if the Government were funded.
Have you heard any other ridiculous statements related to the shutdown?