Saturday, January 08, 2011

I'm from the government and . . .

As I celebrate my twentieth year suckling on the (California) taxpayer teat, it's hard to believe that it's been 20 years since I gave up on life and became a civil servant. All for a cushy job and a fat pension. Have I now pride? No dignity.

Apparently not.

Anyway, lately it is all the rage to attack government workers now for our, well, cushy jobs and fat pensions. To be perfectly honest, I get that. Whether you stand in line at your local Motor Vehicles office, the post office, a court clerk's office, or any number of other offices, it's hard not to get frustrated with how government works. Or doesn't. Mostly doesn't. Fortunately, what government lacks in efficiency it more than makes up for in a customer/citizen-first attitude. Who doesn't enjoy standing in line for hours just to be greeted by a happy clerk telling you you have the wrong form? See how they smile? Gosh, what a wonderful thing.

Fortunately, the government is able to do things on such a scale as to promote cost savings and efficiency. Government hammers and toilet seats come to mind.

Two examples. In California government agencies must purchase their furniture from the Prison Industries Authority ("PIA"). Yep, prisoners make the furniture, along with quite a few other products as well. No competition is allowed, but then why would there be? Why you can get a nice L-shaped desk from PIA for $1,333.00, while an equally nice U-shaped desk from Office Depot would cost $299.00. And that desk is (a) not built with prison labor and (2) is shipped from China. Why else would it cost $1000 less?

And then there is what we learned today: it is cheaper for my department if I rent a car from Enterprise (they'll pick you up!) than a government vehicle from the state garage. Significantly cheaper.

Economies of scale indeed.

And what's remarkable is that my co-workers are, for the most part, as frustrated as I am with this nonsense. Yet year after year they overwhelmingly continue to support and vote for candidates who want this same bureaucratic nightmare to control their health care and every other aspect of their lives.

I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.