If the Reagan administration gets its entire civil service reform program through Congress, it will be a minor miracle. If it gets it through without wrecking the morale of longtime civil servants, it will be a major miracle.
Judging from lots of calls and letters, many feds and retirees become bitter when their political bosses attempt to sell reform by talking about overpaid, overpensioned bureaucrats, although many private sector workers agree with those descriptions.
Feds talk about "breach of contract" and "betrayal" when referring to attempts to revamp the personnel system of what amounts to the nation's biggest company.
Many retirees are unhappy over delayed or frozen cost-of-living raises. Middle-aged feds are fearful of plans to make them work longer. Lots of feds say that the political tactics being used to win reform of the people side of government will destroy the people in that government.
Today's letters -- because they come from real people in the trenches -- say it best:
*"Let me add my voice to those who say that if I had only known a few years ago how my employment 'contract' with the federal government might change, I would never have stayed until middle age with all its peculiar employment-personal liabilities.
"Here I am going through both an identity and midlife crisis at the same time! Who do I cry out to within the closed circles of power? This administration gets its kicks from decking unions, so not them! Political appointees could care less about the future beyond their term in office, so not them. Congress -- bless them all -- plays hard for the folks back home and the numbers aren't on our side, so not them either. My mother might support me, but not publicly because her friends think I'm mediocre at best and that I regulate them, so not them. I think I am going to throw up. Guess where?" Suffering in D.C.
*"I came here 30 years ago excited about Washington and working for the federal government. Public service was something to be proud of, and I was proud. I realize I've grown older, and things in the past may seem brighter than they actually were . . . .
"However, I am absolutely convinced that morale has slipped considerably over the years . . . and I think a lot of the slippage is the result of a constant stream of abuse heaped on the civil servants. Don't people and politicians realize that we don't make the laws and rules, we carry them out!
"I love my work (still) and have enjoyed the associations I have made over the years. I am still very proud of being a federal government employe; however, I feel I must keep my place of employment to myself when I am out of town.
"My heart goes out to young people coming into government because they so quickly become jaded or disinterested, or so it seems to me." S.A., Arlington
*"I am so disgusted with the anti-civil servant attitude of the last two presidents (Carter and Reagan), I find it difficult to express myself. People in my age group (52) came into government because it offered us a chance to serve and make a difference. The pay wasn't great but we were offered a good retirement system and security.
"Even though few changes have actually been made in the retirement program, the constant threat of major changes is wearing us down. That, coupled with the kick-the-bureaucrats mentality of so many politicians. Sad to say that if my son were to ask if he should go to work for the federal government that I once proudly served, I would move Heaven and Earth to dissuade him." Just Putting in My Time