The Demoralizing Effects of the Government Shut Down

By October 1, 2013Blog

Jeffrey Zients speaking at White House Press Brieving on possible government shutdownHaving been prevented from doing my job for 28 days during the Government shutdown 17 years ago, I thought I might share with you what that feels like. I need to preface it with the fact that while many people like to disparage public service (e.g., government employees would get a real job if they were any good, their kids are ugly, and the steal pencils), during my 30 years as a Federal employee I experienced the vast majority of federal employees as dedicated professionals just as committed to their work and chosen career aspirations as those I have seen in academia and the private sector. These are real, hard-working professionals who care about what they do.

So, when the Congress forces a shutdown and almost a million of us were declared “non-essential”, it is more than a simple by-product of our representatives acting like children. It is a smack in the face and demoralizing. Take a moment and think of how you would feel if you (and your chosen career) were all of a sudden deemed not important.

Some may think (and I have heard this) that it would be great to be furloughed, but that assumes we do not like/love our jobs and our work and think of what we do as “simply a job” and not a calling or career. In fact, many of my colleagues during the last shutdown, found ways to continue working!

So, while a minority of members of the House of Representatives are holding “the government budget” hostage, trying for the 45th time to stop a law that was passed by the Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court, keep in mind that “the government budget” supports real people doing real work they consider part of their chosen career.

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