Thoughts From a Furloughed Federal Government Employee

US-capitolThe government shutdown is affecting about 41% of federal government employees including 3,000 aviation inspectors, FDA food inspectors, auto recall inspectors, training for new TSA agents, and most of NASA. What most folks fail to realize is how the government shutdown is not only affecting employee morale, but also the view of the government as a potential employer in the future.

Here’s a post sent to me to publish by an acquaintance to express his/her thoughts about the shutdown.  All words belong to him/her, emphasis added.

550w_soaps_silhouetteFirst of all, the views expressed here are my own and not those of the U.S. government.

Since I was a child, it has been my goal to work for the United States government. In my eyes, agencies like the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration represented the largest cohort of passionate scientists, physicians and public health professionals that truly love what they do: Helping the American people.

Decades later, I still feel this is true– I am proud to say that I work with individuals who graduated from some of the nation’s best universities and medical schools and who represent some of the most intelligent critical thinkers and decision makers. I am surrounded by fellow government employees that focus on doing research that protect the health of the public from potential bioterrorism events, pandemics, and other disease and food-borne outbreaks…and they do what they do because they love it, not because they get the personal glory of naming a new discovery after themselves or by listing themselves as first author on a scientific manuscript. The glory is simple: We save lives. Period. There is nothing better than that.

Apparently I’m not alone with this point of view– consistently, the Department of Health and Human Services (specifically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is always voted as one of the top, favored agencies by public opinion polls across the United States. (http://www.gallup.com/poll/ 162764/americans-views-irs- sharply-negative-2009.aspx)

Now, I’ll tell you what worries me: this generation of young people view the government as a single entity that is responsible for the tattle-tale battles between Republicans and Democrats that invade television…and yes, even social media. If I were growing up in this current political climate, I can honestly say I would have steered clear of the government when I was choosing the direction of my future career. Why would I want to be involved in constant embarrassing battles that are proudly paraded in front of the world? Why showcase our vulnerabilities to our enemies? More importantly, why would anyone who attends a top-tier university choose to work as a government employee when we are threatened by continuous budget cuts and furloughs? This is what worries me.

It seems the days are gone when one could be proud of being a government employee. At this point no one is sure how long this furlough will last, but I personally find it nauseating that it will cost $2 billion dollars to simply close the government for a single week. Are the American people aware that this amount could singled handedly fund an ENTIRE government agency for an entire year? Instead, fighting and pointing fingers is apparently more important than continuing to do the work that saves lives. $2 billion dollars will be flushed down the toilet…for absolutely no reason at all. I’m not sure how taking away pay checks for almost 1 million United States government employees will boost the economy. I feel like the back and forth conversations as of late represent a ship in peril; a ship that is on the verge of sinking…Which is my point: Any intelligent person will get off of a sinking ship.

I won’t talk about how I’m worried about how I will pay my mortgage this month or how reading “Green Eggs and Ham” to my children before bed now causes me anxiety and anger– I bet Ted Cruz won’t be affected by the same nagging worries that I have in the back of my own head due to this shut down. No, I won’t talk about those things because other Americans have been dealing with the same issues for the past few years. More important than any of that, I worry about all of the vital work that agencies have been doing that are now stalled and perhaps irreparably damaged due to this shut down. I worry that future generations of government employees won’t be of the same caliber, won’t have the same drive, and won’t have the same passion toward their work because they simply feel “non-essential.” This keeps me up at night more than anything. I hope I’m wrong and that looming budget cuts and furloughs and holding the government hostage for ideological views isn’t the only thing we have to look forward to in our future.

I hope the government isn’t a sinking ship. But if it is, you better believe the government employees doing the important work that needs to be done, will go elsewhere to get off of this sinking ship.

What are your thoughts about the government shutdown? Comment below.

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