Many Carter transition team aides, who came here with high hopes of getting a comfortable berth on the ship of state they helped refurbish, now feel the White House has abandoned them.
The 400-plus people from all parts of the country came to Washington as part of the team, hungry and generally young political army that helped oust an incumbent President. Visions of Grade 15 jobs, exciting responsibilities and being part of the in-crowd danced in their heads.
A number of the transition crowd borrowed money from friends, families or the bank or tide them over until they were "taken care of" with some sort of government job. For most of the employees, whose age and experience meant they were accustomed to pay that is peanuts by Washington standards, the government average of $19,000 a year seemed like a dream.
"A week or so ago they called us over to the Interior Department, at night, and told us how to apply for civil service jobs," an embittered transition worker said. "My God, whatever happened to the old saying, To the victor belongs the spoils?"
The now-unemployed transition team staff member said he and his colleagues are especially ticked off because their one-time bosses now refuse to give them the time of day.
At the White House personnel office, we can't get through to the top man," a transition worker said. "One secretary told me it would be two weeks before I could get an appointment with King James King of the White House jobs office). So I said, okay. Then the secretary said, 'No, make it three months, come back in June.' I'll be broke and out of my temporary job by then."
Most of the employees put into temporary, 90-day political jobs in agencies will be out of work within the next few weeks. As this column reported on March 15, White House officials say that few of the temporary appointees will be kept on - and that they knew that when they took the jobs.
The column quoted White House and federal hiring officials as saying that many of the transition workers were too young or too inexperienced to qualify for political appointments or decent-paying career jobs in government.
"If that thing about us being inexperienced and having low previous salaries is true," one transition worker said, "how can the White House explain most of the appointments it has made. Some of those people up from Georgia had never seen $13,000 in one year. Now they get jobs paying twice that, and Carter gives them big pay raises on top of that."
One young man, who said his family is having a tough time, said his former transition team boss (now at Housing and Urban Development) "won't even return telephone calls from us. He didn't mind asking for our help during the transition, asking us to work two or three hours or more overtime. Now we can't get a return telephone call."
White House officials note that they have a problem, too. The ex-transition aide said that before the inauguration, "we were told that the campaign had been our probation period and we had passed."
A Carter talent scout told them "these 90-day jobs would be set up for us, and if we passed our probation period in that, we would get jobs," the employee recalls.
White House hiring officials say, however that they repeatedly stressed that relatively few (around 2,000) political jobs were available, and that the transition people weren't guaranteed anything.
"We've tried to advise them how to go through the civil service system," a transition veteran now working in government said. "But we aren't going to break the law by putting them into civil service jobs improperly."
One former transition staff said he finds it "strange that we were so valuable during the campaign and the transition, when we got to donate overtime, and donate work. We were competent then, but now in this great big Washington bureaucracy, they can't find a place for all of us. I don't understand. This isn't the way we thought it would be."