Yet again, while perusing Facebook, I’ve seen a photo of military equipment with a caption that says “This won’t feed hungry children”. I always get upset at these photos, but not for the reason you think. I get upset because these photos that government workers and government contractors do not exist. This is also an attitude I see from the folks who want to cut, cut, cut government thinking that only brings benefits to the world. Smaller government == good, right?
So, as today, is Thanksgiving, I’d like to say “Thank you” to the government worker, government contractor, and all the other people doing services on behalf of governments. Thank you to all the people who the rest of the country seems to think do not exist.
For every piece of military hardware out there, there are soldiers and support personnel keeping it operating. These folks earn paychecks of government dollars, and feed their hungry families, and purchase goods and services from the community. There are the contractors who design and build this equipment, who keep the facilities operating. These hard working folks all work for their government dollar, and contribute to their community.
For every government program, there are people who work and make that program work. The vast, vast, vast majority of these folks are hardworking and honest, doing what they do because they know it helps the country. They endure furloughs and uncertainty. In return, many have good middle class jobs. The pay may not be what it could be in industry, but they tend to be stable. These folks work in factories, in offices. They teach your children (teachers are government workers, folks), they provide public safety. They inspect your food. They make and maintain the systems behind the census bureau, the national weather service, the public health services.
All of these people deserve thanks.
During the election, there was lots of talk about cutting government. Whenever there are military actions, there is talk about cutting the war machine. Some cuts are good — they can streamline operations and make them more efficient. But do not forget: the more drastic cuts will put people out of work. Cutting government increases unemployment. The government and its network of supporting contractors is the largest employer in the nation. A 10% cut will put double-digit thousands of people on the unemployment line. How would the news react if a private employer did that?
So let’s be thankful today for all the people who work for our country, be they in uniform or not, be they directly employed by the government or working for a government contractor. Let us vow, when we cut government, to keep them in mind. Let us cut intelligently — cutting inflated salaries and perks, making operations more efficient. If we must cut programs, lets figure out ways to redirect those workers into new programs that are better for society. Redirecting dollars into research can do wonders. Remember, DOD studies of survivability led to the creation of the Internet; funding theoretical physics gave us the World Wide Web, and early computer security networks gave us Perl.