Which of the following help wanted ads does NOT pertain to a government job? Is it:
Help Wanted: Laborers. Room & Board Plus Three Square Meals a Day. Reasonable Amount of Whiskey. or,
Wanted: Young, Skinny, Wiry Fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. ORPHANS PREFERRED. Wages $25 per week. Or it is,
Wanted Top Boss. Big fish in a small pond. Good salary & benefits. Occupant likely to be publicly ridiculed each winter in Washington. Experience with guillotine helpful.
Have you written down your answer. Everybody in the carpool in? OK, here goes.
The correct answer is 1. The job that offered a reasonable amount of whisky as the primary benefit. It was posted when George Washington was organizing the C & O Canal effort. G.W., with a lot of help from his friends, dug the 184 mile canal from Georgetown, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland, in the 1830s.
Number Two was a quasi-government program that only lasted about a year. I mean how many young, skinny, 18 and under orphans were there? The idea behind the Pony Express was to get mail from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, in 10 days. (No wise cracks about how long it takes now). Can you count how many EO laws the ad breaks? Age and sex discrimination for starters. Shocking!!
Number 3 is a fully-funded government program. The Office of Personnel Management. It is headed by a director who, while little-known outside of government circles, often gets in trouble with Congress over something or other. Sometimes it is politics (real and alleged) or for bending civil service rules. More likely the OPM chief gets in trouble in the winter. He or she is often roundly ridiculed for releasing Washington-based feds during a “blizzard” or ice storm that folks in Chicago, Buffalo and Fargo would consider a mere dusting.
Katherine Archeluta, OPM director until her recent resignation, got in trouble because the Hack Attacks (there were two) of 2015 happened on her watch, even though the overseas breachers had probably been working on it long before she took office. The attacks are serious. Data for at least 22.1 million current and former federal workers, plus some job applicants, is now in the hands of some very bad folks. That includes an estimated 600,000 whose different vital stats were stolen in the double hack. Bad stuff to be sure. Maybe even worse than we think depending on what is used for (and by whom, and for what) down the road.
People take top — not necessarily high-profile — federal jobs for lots of reasons. To pad their resume and make contacts. To make changes (good and bad). Because they are wonks in that field, or because it’s the only political payoff job available. Some are great, some are awful. Long-time feds have seen them all.
It was clear, almost from the start, that Archeluta had to go. Or that she would be driven out. Politicians and the press demanded fresh meat. And they got it. The old Washington rule, “Never kick them while they are up,” demanded it.
But was that the proper solution? And what (and maybe who) is next? Think about that the next time a big promotion comes up.