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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

And Now For A Really Sticky Topic...

        No, it's not Debate Day.  On Tossing It Out Debate Day is on Thursday--that's when I sometimes bring up some really sticky topics.  Today I have a sticky topic of a different nature.  However, let me preface by noting that if all levels and offices of federal, state, and local governments in the United States were businesses most of them would have gone under years ago. If government were actually operated like a business things would be a lot different.

        On Tuesdays I often do reviews, so today I'd like to offer an extremely superficial review of government offices in the United States.  Now I know I have some readers who work for some kind of governmental office and I'm sure this is not directed toward you because any reader of this blog could only be a high quality individual with  good ethics and work habits.  This rant review is directed toward those government workers who would be too ignorant to read a blog or just don't care about the quality of their work.  This is the anti-paean to the slovenly workers who suck up the hard-earned money you and I pay in taxes.

          This will not even touch those members of the executive, legislative, and judicial branch of the government who are supposed to be serving us.  That's a whole different topic.  And this certainly doesn't include any of our terrific military personnel who do such a great job keeping this country safe.  I'm just talking about the regular employed workers out there who are supposedly providing a service but are doing it poorly.  So before I begin let me apologize to all you good, honest, caring workers (you know who you are) and say this is not about you, but it's about some of your co-workers (you probably know who they are) and some of the incompetent decision-makers on the upper levels. 

        As an aside I should say I've gotten way off track from the topic  I was planning on talking about today, but it can wait.  What first inspired the direction of todays off-the-track post was an experience in the Post Office last week.  I was going to buy some stamps and I was mislead-- or perhaps just misinformed.  Whatever it was it was wrong. 

        When I buy stamps, I just buy one "book" at a time.  It's not really a "book" it's a small card of stamps. Since I buy in small quantities I always request the commemeratives (the pretty stamps).  On this visit the employee at the counter convinced me that I should buy the "Forever Stamps" (the ones that are good for any price hike in the future) because the prices were going to go up soon.  I took the bait and bought the "Forevers".  I have dealt with this lady at the Post Office before and she seems like a nice enough person so I trusted her.   What I forgot to ask was how much of an increase there was going to be.

      Later, I went to the United States Postal Service website to get info about the increase but there was nothing about any increase of first class letter rates.  I called the 800 number--they said there would be no increase this year.  Who do I believe?  The lady at the Post Office had a whole story--a sales pitch--complete with a poster of upcoming stamps and how they weren't keeping many 44 cent stamps in their inventory because the new stamps would be coming soon.  Now I'll be having the Liberty Bell on all of my outgoing mail for the next few weeks when I could have had the Simpsons and Chinese New Year.  I love the Liberty Bell and all, but on every darn letter?

     And this right after a couple of unpleasant visits to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.  I'm sure we all have unpleasant DMV stories no matter what state we're in, but in California we have the added unpleasantness of the employee furlough days so the incompetent California government can save money to pay for the legislators.  At the rate they are handing out drivers licenses to illegals they should just give all of us legal folks a license that will last us the rest of our lives so we don't have to deal with the DMV anymore. And don't even bring the Smog Testing scam--I'm sure Al Gore loves this one.  The next scam the CA thieves of government want to impose is tire inflation testing -- I can hardly wait.  Instead of worrying about the air in our tires, they should be worrying about the hot air in the windbags in Sacramento who are trying to run our lives.

      But the actual thing that really ticked me off was a recent report that baggage loss for air travelers had gone down due to increased scrutiny of all baggage handlers.  The airline employees were responsible for some losses, but the biggest concern had been theft by employees of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).   Excuse me?   Am I missing something here?  The folks that are supposed to be providing security to us fliers may be possibly stealing things out of our suitcases.   What kind of security is that?  If a TSA employee can take things out of our suitcases can't they put a bomb in one if they want to?  Here we are lined up like cattle getting thoroughly examined like criminals and some Somalian with known terrorist ties merrily hops on board with a bomb in his underpants.  It just makes me wonder if the TSA is screening the right people.

          Now please don't get me wrong.  I love my country and the United States government does many things efficiently.  I seem to get all of my mail in a timely manner and the roads are better here than they are in a lot of places.  I've never personally had to grease the palm of any public official although I'm sure some of that is being done at some level and probably mostly by corporations and lobbyists.  I've got my power, water, and televison so I guess regulation is under control.  As long the bread and circuses keep us all happy we should thank our governments.

         Stayed tuned for next Tuesday's post:  And Now For the Sticky Topic I Meant to Talk about Last Week But Got Carried Away Complaining About Things I Probably Can't Do That Much About.....

God Bless America


  1. I get tired of those Liberty bells, too! I keep worrying they're going to push up rates again, though, and then I'd have to buy those 2 cent stamps to have my old stamps work (if I get non-Forevers). I used to love standing at the post office counter and looking at all the different stamps.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. The airline people stealing our bags doesn't surprise me. Not when WalMart's highest theft comes from employees.

  3. Ah, how true your story rings. I called the post office ahead of time to make sure of the shipping rate on a package and was assured it would be $12. By the time I got there it was $40....Yeah, it wasn't a good day.
    It seems our government offices are disconnected from reality far too often. :P

  4. Lee,
    As a State Employee, I have to say, our morale is at at an all time low. I know many people outside of state service think most of us are slouches, and perhaps that is true, but most don't see the reason for it.

    The state has grossly underpaid state employees for the most part. A professional in my line of work in the private sector would get about 25% more, plus other bonuses. In past years, this was offset by a good retirement, and working a 40 hr week compared to the 60 or more private employees worked. This is no longer true.

    Our salaries, over time, often did not even get the cost of living increase, as much as for 6 years straight. We got an extra holiday day added to appease us. Now, the holiday has been taken well as giving us 3 furlough days.

    In my office, because we cannot hire a clerical person, (we have 1 when we need 2 or 3). We field people have to do our own clerical work, IN ADDITION to our own work. Meanwhile, it's do more inspections, more special projects....

    In my 20 years, I have become jaded. I used to take pride in my work, do a great job. I was at the top 10% of the bell curve on all parameters that we are evaluated on. But even the strongest willed of us get beaten down with the crap they dish out. Now, I am at middle ground. Staying at a point just above the danger point. And there I will stay. Extra effort and a job well done is punished. If not by adding more work load, then by taking away salary and benifits.

    When the furloughs end in July, we are facing the possibility of a 5% PAY CUT which reduces our retirement, a 5% INCREASE to our retirement contribution (so the state contributes less) and possibly another 5% PAYCUT if the Gov doesnt get the money from the feds that he wants. So we wind up nearly the same reduction in salary as we have now, but not the 3 days off.

    It sucks. I am in that spot of too many years in service, and too old to start over. So I feel stuck.
    If private employers treated their workers in this way, they would lose the employees. The state can get away with it for reasons to lengthy here.

    There is much more than what meets the public eye, that causes a govt employee to do a mediocre job, and to cause a once hard working employee to lose his or her work ethic.

    Trust me...I know first hand


  5. We are of like mind on this.

    Don't have anymore to add other then letting you know someone else out there agree's.

  6. Thanks for comments so far.

    Sig -- You were definitely one of my blogging friends that I was thinking of that I didn't want to offend. I hear where you're coming from and I do sympathize with you and agree with you in many ways. Here in CA we are especially hurt by mismanagement and poor governing by the guys who make the rules. I don't see much cutting back at the administrative and legislative levels.
    I really think that most government run things should be handled by private companies that are held at very high and visible standards of accountability in the public eyes. And please lay off on passing any more dumb laws that hurt the people and drive business out of the state. Government needs to think more like business in that if the customer isn't satisfied, business is taken elsewhere.
    Sig, hang in there. I hope you make you fortune with beading and writing so you can do that instead.


  7. I was born and raised in
    Southern California and currently live here.

    The mere mention of the California DMV brings one word to mind 'nightmare'.

    Now days we try to do all our business with the DMV online or at the Auto Club.

    I hope I don't have a bad {DMV} dream tonight.

    God bless you, Ron

  8. Totally agree. It doesn't really matter what state you're from there are things I hate having to do: go to the post office/go to the DMV/go to Social Security. When I got married and had to visit all branches in the same week I nearly lost it.

    And I also get tired of the Liberty Bells but they have me living in fear of increased stamp prices too so I've also bought the generic ones for that very reason!

  9. By no means am I making excuses for anyone. But I found it interesting that the U.S. Postal Service is regulated by the federal government, but it is not supported by taxpayer dollars.

    Maybe the lady who waited on you at the post office thought she was working on commission. :-)

  10. The mail system here in the UK leaves alot to be desired.
    Much of my mail never reaches me.
    My bank statements and "Important letters go to my son's address and we meet up every 2 weeks so I can collect the letters.
    But I did last year get a Christmas card in August but whether it was for 2008 0r 2009 had me guessing.

    Enjoyed the read, extremely well written.

  11. Ron -- I too try to go to AAA or online to take care of DMV business, but there are a few things they just won't let you do online. If you have a bad DMV dream, then you could do a dream post like I've been doing on Fridays.

    Kristi-- I don't know why I got talked into buying the generic stamps. The cost difference would have essentially been pennies. That lady really gave me a persuasive sales pitch.

    Kat -- you're right. The USPS is actually ran like a business and in all fairness does a pretty good job. My little incident was only the catalyst that really set me off when I read about the TSA.

    Yvonne -- How fun! Christmas cards in August! I've been fascinated when I've heard those stories about mail getting delivered years, or even decades later.

  12. Lee,

    Not all functions of govt can be privatized. Remember first off that most equivalent jobs on the "outside" pay higher wages than we get. So I doubt there would be much if anything in savings. Second, how can a private company enforce laws? They cant be given the authority to do so. Would cities hire rent-a-cop to do drug busts? there is a conflict of intrest that can come up really fast.

    I have nothing to do with the laws that are passed. I HATE some of them, and in my way, find ways to get around what I find objectionable without getting myself into trouble. You are right, though in that a lot of our laws are passed to protect the STUPID...

    but then....

    a lot of the employee complaints we get ARE STUPID. So the general public contributes to the stupidity of our govt. Its not just the law makers.


  13. I don't blame the government workers. Most of them are probably underpaid and overworked. I do blame the system, Lee. And the big guys who are supposed to work for us. But they are too busy greasing palms and bribing rather than pay attention to things like problems with the Post office.

    The Post office has many problems. But if I run a business and I have many problems, I'm still expected to treat my customers fairly and to give them the best service possible.

    The same should hold true for them. But it doesn't, because they are government run. Sheesh. I guess there isn't anything we can do about it. It's like the weather. We just have to take it. (^_^)

  14. Sig --I don't think I would mind a government job if I have to have a job. I'm sure I would be paid better and have better benefits than any private sector job that I've had. But having never worked for the gov I don't know -- it just seems to me that the people that I know who work for the government have it pretty good.

    Robyn -- actually I think the post office does a very good job-- I was just having my silly rant. But I do think the story about the TSA is pretty scary. It makes you wonder about the screening process and measures of accountability that are in place in important security jobs such as this.


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