Monday, January 23, 2017

Time to write to the new man in Washington again

Will there end up being a candidate for a new face on the mountain?
Well they wouldn't put up a new one anyway, no matter what.
Oh so much material to work with and so little time! What should I write about next?

I know that many people are taking up the gauntlet about health care so I decided to let that one go for the moment although the idea is rich with things I could and should say. I'll get to it.

I was thinking about what he said about the forgotten men and women who will now be heard. Well that's good, but there is another really large group of people whose lives are very directly affected by federal policy who are almost totally voiceless. I'm talking about employees of the federal government.

You'll read my actual letter soon, but in case you don't already know, most federal employees are doing work they love on behalf of people they care about for pay that is generally less than can be had in the private sector. Being a federal employee can be incredibly satisfying work. But that work can be made miserable with the stroke of a pen.

Shutting down the government, for example. Lets hope we've seen that last of that super bad idea. The point I make in the letter is that the work people need to do does not actually stop just because people aren't paid to do it or are required to do it under miserable circumstances. When you work in health care, the patients and their needs don't go away. You, the health care worker, just have to perform more work with fewer resources and help. 

They don't decrease the amount of airplanes taking off and landing just because there are fewer air traffic controllers. No, the controllers just have to work longer hours and more days. Is that a good recipe for safety? Weather doesn't stop, but probably there are fewer meteorologists to measure it, interpret it and warn us about it. I could go on and on and on.

According to news report, the federal workforce is already at an all time low. This move is just playing politics. Trouble is, it can and will affect real people doing real work.

So, don't take out your ire on federal employees who want little more than to do their jobs. If you want a smaller federal government, look to take away tasks to be done not people to do the tasks. Only trouble is, all the low hanging fruit is pretty well gone. I really don't have any good ideas of what business the federal government needs to be out of. 
Thank heavens this stays. It's now cared for by the National Park Service.

Dear Mr. Trump,

Oh there are so many things I would like to say to you this week! I’ll limit myself to just a few.

First, I was personally offended by your “tweet” that assumed that the people who marched all over the world the day after the inauguration had not voted. Certainly people in other countries who can’t vote in our elections had not, but I and (I am sure) most of my marching peers had. We just had voted for Mrs. Clinton (or perhaps someone else) not you. Recall that you DID lose the popular vote in the US by millions. That’s a simple fact, a real fact, a well-known fact, an indisputable fact.
A couple of my hats. I made several and gave them away.
the color is actually much brighter than in the picture

I am a pink hat wearing, independent thinking VOTER. I’m not registered with any party. I do not vote in primary elections because I do not want to belong to any party. I always decide for myself whom to vote for based on my own values and analysis. This year you, Mr. Trump, could not have persuaded me to vote for you in a million years. But let me reiterate – I DID VOTE.

That said, I think your choice of Dr. Heather Wilson to lead the Air Force is a good one. She has been leading our South Dakota School of Mines for fours years now and is very qualified for her new job. We will miss her in South Dakota, but trust that her national service will be good for the whole country.

Finally, I would like to comment upon the federal hiring freeze you imposed today.

You say you did this because you want to “reign in the size of the federal government.” A hiring freeze will not be able to accomplish this. The only way you can accomplish reducing the size of the government is having the government do less work than now, not by asking hard workers to work even harder to accomplish the same amount of work with fewer resources (fewer colleagues and co-workers.) A hiring freeze is totally counterproductive.

Please do not forget that MOST federal employees are low level workers in their various professionals and vocations, not high level “bureaucrats” based in offices in and around Washington. Most federal employees are not your “swamp dwellers” as you seem to think.

You employ quite a large number of nurses, for example, as well as hospital personnel of all kinds …. people who clean, food service people, physicians, technicians & therapists of all kinds, clerks, maintenance people, social workers, etc., etc. … in your various federal hospitals and clinics, especially the VA, but also smaller agencies like Indian Health Service and as civilians working for the armed services.

I used to be one of those nurses. My former nursing students, from when I taught nursing, wanted to serve our country by caring for our veterans or native people or military personnel. But I left federal employment because of intolerable working conditions, and I advised my students to be on the lookout for the same if they decided upon working for the federal government.

When a person work for the federal government, that person’s life work, about which they are often passionate, can be made miserable at the whim of politicians for political reasons only as you are doing right now with this hiring freeze. That is not a plan for finding and keeping a talented work force to do important things like care for our veterans who deserve our nation’s care.

The work all the members of the heath care team (e.g. with the VA) need to perform will not diminish. Demand for care will stay the same (or perhaps increase because now is infectious disease time of the year.) When vacancies cannot be filed, the work will need to be done by fewer people, overworked people, people who think their president doesn’t care at all about them.

You do know that federal employees are not allowed, by law, to speak to policy makers about anything at all that might affect their jobs. That’s a good law, but it means that the people you will never hear from regarding how your actions affect their lives are federal employees. Talk about your unheard from women and men. It’s up to people like me to be their voice.

You have set yourself up for understandable resignations among the ranks of all kinds of workers. Most of these workers can pretty easily find jobs in the civilian sector. Overworked and exhausted health care workers are not good workers to begin with. Overworked and exhausted health care workers quit their jobs because the can only take so much. That means you have even fewer workers to meet the same demand for services. This is NOT the way to “fix” the problems within the VA or any other agency.

I’m speaking about heath care workers because I have personal experience with being a federally employed nurse. But I think you can easily substitute nearly any other kind of federal worker. Do you want overworked and exhausted air traffic controllers? Border patrol agents? Meteorologists? Park rangers? FBI agents? People who process Social Security applications? TSA screeners? How many vacancies did you inherit in the Secret Service? What will you do if more happen?

A hiring freeze makes for good publicity, but is NOT good policy. The longer it lasts, the worse things will be on the ground across all agencies. Eventually you will lift this silly ban.  I suggest you do it sooner rather than later. You can do it quietly if you want.

I’m looking forward to the next time I have the opportunity to write to you.


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