President-elect Donald Trump‘s pledge to drain the Washington swamp sounds good to some, and terrifies others. The good-news-bad news is that nobody knows for sure what that means. Maybe because the details haven’t been worked out yet.
Washington, D.C. once really was a swamp, as in swamp, swamp, long before it became — to some critics — a political, bureaucratic swamp. It got drained and filled in, but much of the city was a swamp. Mosquitoes and that sort of thing. As a boy I lived, played and went to school in the part of D.C., formerly known known as Swampoodle. My mother was a long-time fed with HUD, HEW (before it became HHS), Social Security and the U.S. Information Agency. She went from a GS-2 or 3 at the then-new Pentagon building and ended up (after getting a master’s degree in years of night school) as a GS-13. Not bad, as they would say back in the day, for a woman. Realistic or not, I tend to judge federal workers from Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, to the guides at the Grand Canyon, based on how much she (mostly) loved working for Uncle Sam. Sorry if that’s TMI. Back to the question of whether fear of Trump is justified or nonsense:
The major political parties disagree about most things, except federal civil servants. Over the years, politicians have decided, right or wrong, the political leanings of federal workers. Most Democrats think most civil servants are Democrats. Most Republicans know (or think they know) that most feds are Democrats. That is too bad, either right or wrong, because it allows one party to pretty much take the government vote (if there is such a thing) for granted while encouraging the other party to beat up on feds whenever possible.
Last week, we encouraged feds to sound off with their hopes/fears about the incoming Trump administration. Many did. In a follow-up column, we highlighted emails from workers who are very apprehensive (to say the least) about their soon-to-be CEO. But an equal number said they are looking forward to (or at least not dreading) new leadership out of Washington. For instance:
“Having worked in the Department of Defense all of my 33 years, and for contractors supporting the Department of Defense for another 4-1/2 years I have worked with military my entire career. They know how to get things done and they have a backbone — which I have found many of the career workers don’t! I believe all that “deadwood” to which the private sector likes to refer will be gone — with the military it’s either put up or shut up! Don’t get me wrong, they are fair, but they expect you to do your job. So guess my take on this is, it’s a good thing! Maybe not for those federal employees that don’t want to work but have a job anyway, but for the ones that do work!”— Treva
“In answer to your question, it’s SFTAPP (Send-For-The-Adult-Pampers™ Please!); I work for the IRS, and I’m terrified as to what Trump will do. I have four years until retirement, and I just hope the rules don’t all of a sudden change, he seems to be able to do whatever he wants to. I have no faith in the fact that I’ve been working under a contract, regarding retirement and pension rules. Obviously, don’t use my name!!! Love the column.” — Connecticut
“Upon careful reflection I think Trump is going to be good for the country, and the federal workforce. I have seen presidents and their appointees come in ready to throw the rascals out until they found out what feds do for their country on a day-to-day basis. So many so-called Hard Cases made what appear to be heartfelt speeches praising the career staff they inherited and were initially suspicious of. I remember we had high hopes as civil servants when Carter and Clinton came in. But we got little or nothing. Nixon, his other problems notwithstanding, may have been the best boss federal workers have ever had.” — Give Him A Break
“I lived through the Iran hostage nightmare when our government acted and appeared to be weak. The very people that took the hostages, held them for months, and laughed in our face released them very shortly after Reagan — whom they apparently could not read — took office. Maybe that’s what he means by Make America Great Again! Still reporting for duty. — Stan
“The key point is that nobody knows what’s going to happen, maybe especially the Trump team. That said, the bureaucracy is a pretty tough beast. And it has put people on the Moon, guards national parks and protects the homeland. I personally think it’s here to stay.” — Tom D.
Nearly Useless Factoid
By Michael O’Connell
Leslie Nielsen of the Naked Gun and Airplane! fame portrayed American Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion in the 1950s Walt Disney TV series, The Swamp Fox.