Shutdown dampens enthusiasm for some prospective feds

October 17, 2013

In some ways, Uncle Sam is one lucky dude.

Sure, he must contend with a recalcitrant group of Republicans who would rather hang an “out of order” sign on his house than allow the Affordable Care Act to work. Rather than undermining Obamacare, however, the Republican tactics have eroded confidence in Sam’s government, torpedoed the party’s ratings and wasted much time and money.

Superintendent of the National Mall & Memorial Parks Bob Vogel (R) welcomes a worker back to work on Oct. 17. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters). Superintendent of the National Mall & Memorial Parks Bob Vogel (R) welcomes a worker back to work on Oct. 17. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters).

Yet, he also has loyal, talented and long-suffering staff members eager to get back to work after a government shutdown kept them off the job for more than two weeks. Many other workers demonstrated their allegiance by continuing to work with only a promise of being paid eventually.

But Sam suffers from chronic dysfunction. It’s not contagious, but it can infect the morale of those he needs most. That’s not just his veteran staffers, who have come to know his strange ways, but — important for the future — young people who have looked to him for a career.

Several students, interns and young government professionals contacted by the Federal Diary had good things to say about government service. The shutdown, along with earlier budget cut furloughs and three years of a freeze on basic pay rates, has not soured all of them on federal service. Their enthusiasm, however, has been subdued by the cold reality of Washington politics.

Read the full Federal Diary at: http://wapo.st/15JFyXW

federaldiary@washpost.com

Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.
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