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Federal employees are not part of the problem

Even though the threat of a government shutdown is over for now, the federal services that Americans depend on are still at risk of disappearing.

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposal to reduce the deficit by gutting $375 billion from the federal government in the next 10 years would severely threaten the important work of the nation’s federal workforce.

As would the recommendations put forth by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which called for disproportionate sacrifices from federal employees. This plan suggests that our federal workforce should account for 11 percent of the deficit reduction even though it accounts for only 6 percent of the federal budget.

Ryan’s and the Fiscal Commission’s plans go too far in the wrong direction and unduly place the burden of fiscal responsibility on the shoulders of America’s 4.7 million federal employees and retirees who are not the cause of the deficit problem.

America’s federal employees understand more than anyone the seriousness of the national debt. They are already facing a two-year freeze on their salaries. Meanwhile, the costs of health care premiums, housing and transportation keep climbing.

Continuing to target our nation’s federal workers is not a viable solution and will only send our nation backward. It is dangerously easy in the fiscal debate to start viewing our country in cold numbers ― $14.3 trillion in debt and 4.7 million Americans who are vulnerable to budget cuts.

What we miss by looking at the United States through this calculated lens is the real impact of the programs that make America the strong and wonderful country we are proud to live in. These vital programs are made possible by America’s top-notch federal employees who protect us from infectious diseases, find the world’s most wanted terrorist, warn us if a tornado or hurricane is coming, help small businesses get off the ground, push the limits of our discovery in outer space, stop narcotics from crossing our border, and nurse our veterans who risked their lives to protect our country because America is so much more than a set of numbers on an accounting spreadsheet.

This week is Public Service Recognition Week and it is a timely occasion to counter the legislative ill-will toward federal workers and honor the important jobs they do for us every day in every state. Too many politicians have lost sight of American values in their quest to add up America’s numbers. This has led to a disturbing and growing trend to paint our nation’s public servants as the nation’s public enemy.

We have even heard from some active federal employees that although they love the jobs they do, they have had enough of the verbal and policy abuse and are leaving the federal workforce earlier than planned. These departures are a shame. We cannot afford to lose our dedicated federal workers at a time when our country needs them the most.

When you stop and think about the work they do, federal employees are not part of the problem. They are part of the solution and need to be treated as such in the budget debate.

By John Gage, Colleen M. Kelley and Joseph A. Beaudoin

John Gage is president of American Federation of Government Employees, Colleen M. Kelley is president of the National Treasury Employees Union, and Joseph A. Beaudoin is president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. ― Ed.

(McClatchy-Tribune Information Services)
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