100,000 new government workers. That is one estimate mentioned in a recent Washington Post article. Over 100 Grand New Members of the government apparatus. Finding the right people to fill this number during a time of economic downturn will not be hard – making them effective members of the government administration will be.
President Obama stated during his campaign that “People don’t expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better.’ No one knows the exact figure, but in order to ‘do better’ according this administration, the government will have to expand.
What will be the effect? Government is different from Private industry.In my time as faculty for the Government Sector at the Center, I have re-discovered the fundamental differences between government and non-government entities. In short, government service is focused upon the effective and equitable distribution of the people’s resources for the good of the nation. The themes of service, effectiveness and equitymake government organizations different from commercial organizations whose raison d’etre is to increase the bottom line for shareholders.
The Center has many partners in government, and all agree that service is the coin of the realm in government employ. Federal and state employees speak of service in almost mystical tomes – they serve the taxpayer and take this mission almost as a holy edict, insuring that they spend the taxpayers’ resources with great care and fidelity. This idea of service counters the idea of financial gain, a key theme of private enterprise. An oft-used adage of public service is that ‘I don’t do this for the money.’
Effectiveness is the logical conclusion of the idea of service. Effectiveness, making certain the resources provided are used appropriately and for the correct purpose, is in government, more important than efficiency. Government employees want to make sure the job is done for the right reason. This is sometimes won at the loss of efficiency.
Equitable treatment counters the idea of exclusionary preference. In the private sector, exclusionary preference creates scarcity, which allows for the setting of prices. In government, civil servants are caught in the middle between the executive branch, which dictates policy, and the Legislature, which approves and authorizes the use of funds. Democratic theory states this offset of responsibilities insures equitable treatment for all people within the nation – there should be, in a perfect world, no exclusion.
Service, effectiveness, and equity are all profound differences within government and ideas held by the public service. I am wondering if we have the right structure to bring on 100,000 more people and instill them with these three key ideas. Without internalizing these ideas, without the training needed, without vision, and without dedication, the new employees will reinforce George Patton’s idea of government service: “A Civil Servant is like a broken cannon, it won’t work and you can’t fire it.’
As citizens, we must ask ourselves what kind of civil servants will we demand and pay for? What kind of civil servant will pick up the President’s mantra and strive towards the change in priorities that will make a better life for others? How might we reinforce a sense of national service, program effectiveness, and equitable application? These are important for without internalizing these key themes, the workers simply serve themselves.
There is change occurring in Washington. In his speech to Congress last week, the President set forth a very assertive agenda and will soon be looking for 100,000 to make it happen. Government agencies across the spectrum will have many volunteers to join the government, all with their own ideas — some based on ideology, others on economy. Regardless of their reason for joining, those within the senior levels of government must find a way to instill a sense of service, a dedication to effectiveness and an understanding of equity.
There are many detractors who believe this cannot be done, but as Thoreau stated, “To speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.”
Let’s discuss how we can set the foundation for 100,000 new government workers taking one step towards obtaining that better government.