August 20th, 2009
01:07 PM ET

Hey, GOP! Please stop insulting America's civil servants

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/08/19/voters.health.reform/art.capitolbluenight.gi.jpg]

David Gewirtz | BIO
AC360° Contributor
Editor-in-Chief, ZATZ Publishing

I just got yet another email from RNC Chairman Michael Steele. The headline was "Run Health Care like the Post Office?" and the letter was what you'd expect, complaining about the United States Postal Service and other government-run operations.

Steele compares the post office with UPS and Fedex, and complains of inefficiencies. So, as an exercise, I just called Fedex and asked them if they'd carry a postcard for me from Florida to Washington. When I told the guy on the phone I had 28 cents, he laughed.

I then called UPS, and asked their rep if they'd pick up a 1 ounce letter and bring it to DC. He was down with the idea, until I told him I only wanted to spend 44 cents.

In recent weeks, members of the GOP seem to have constantly insulted our civil servants. They've complained government-run health care might be like the post office, full of inefficiency. No one ever accused America's post offices of perfection, but the Fedex guy recently delivered my wife's birthday present to a house down the street. He eventually figured it out and brought it here, but Fedex isn't perfect either.

And, GOP, while you're at it, stop picking on the DMV. While no one's ever claimed to have fun at the DMV, I dare you to spend a day climbing into 20 cars of questionable safety with 20 anxious teenagers and let them drive you around an obstacle course. Do that for a day, and then you can complain about the job those battle-weary civil servants do for their fellow citizens.

And in case you've forgotten, the government runs America's military. And while they may occasionally attack the wrong country, they certainly do it with great skill. America's soldiers are among the best in the world, don't you forget it.

And that goes for our police officers, our fire fighters, and our teachers as well. America's civil servants are asked to do more and more with less and less, and while there are certainly some problem areas, most of these dedicated Americans serve their country and communities in good faith and with the best of their ability.

And you Democrats, don't you be thinking you're off the hook. You know you'd pull these same shenanigans if you were the opposition party, so no chortling there in the back of the room.

The GOP wouldn't be having such a field day, picking on our overworked, underpaid civil servants if you could manage to write a health care bill that real Americans could understand.

A thousand pages? Really? The entire Constitution of the United States fits on one large sheet of paper and you couldn't fit "make sure Americans can get health care" into less than a thousand pages?

When you write a convoluted bill that takes a thousand pages to explain, you deserve a fight. But America's hard-working civil servants don't deserve to be the butt of the jokes that should be at your expense.

You know what really sucks, though? There are mail carriers all across America who are doing their job, going out in hundred-degree heat, delivering letters that paint them as inefficient workers.

When you spend a day in hundred-degree heat, carrying a 40-pound bag of mail on your back, then you can complain. Until then, there is only one class of civil servant you have any right to complain about: politicians.

Follow David on Twitter at http://www.Twitter.com/DavidGewirtz.

Editor’s note: David Gewirtz is Editor-in-Chief, ZATZ Magazines, including OutlookPower Magazine. He is a leading Presidential scholar specializing in White House email. He is a member of FBI InfraGard, the Cyberterrorism Advisor for the International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals, a columnist for The Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, and has been a guest commentator for the Nieman Watchdog of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. He is a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley extension, a recipient of the Sigma Xi Research Award in Engineering and was a candidate for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Letters.

soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Terry / Washington State

    Fantastic. You succinctly just allowed me to improve my defense of the American civil servant. I've tried several times to argue the point being made between Fedex/UPS and the USPS. I never thought of the cost and efficiency angle. These people are to be commended. Sure, as you point out, there's inefficiencies with everything. I'm not often disappointed by the USPS. (barring the bills they seem to get to me with no problem).

    Hooray too for the knock on the Dems for 1000 pages of something most will honestly never read. It should be much more condensed and readable by the average American.

    August 21, 2009 at 5:56 am |
  2. chris

    Actually this email from Michael Steele was quoting President Obama. Yes the email compared a public option system to the downfalls of bureaucracy but if you read the email correctly you would see that was a direct quote from Mr. Obama himself stating the post office is the issue.

    August 21, 2009 at 2:15 am |
  3. Dulcie - Denver

    I always find it strange when people bash the Postal Service. Really? I've always found the Postal Service to be pretty efficient, reliable and for the last 10 or so years, friendly. Yes, postal rates have gone up, but I doubt very much it's going to make anyone go broke.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:28 am |
  4. Vonnie Baldwin

    Thanks so much for sticking up for the civil servant. I have been a state employee in a welfare office for 25 years. I am proud of what I do and I have helped feed and get medical care for thousands of people in that time. But a legislator in Arizona actually called me and my fellow employees in a local newspaper "deadwood". Republican legislator that is. I dare them to do the work that I do every day. I dare them to have to do 3 times as much work due to this poor economy with 1/2 the staff we had 4 months ago thanks to a slashed budget. I dare them to smile and be empathetic while being berated by a desperate person who can't feed their child. But most of all, they will never know the great pleasure I get from helping others. That is what seperates a civil servant from the rest.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:26 am |
  5. Mary

    The big mistake you are making is thinking it's just the GOP. There are democrats who have 'Common Sense', although it would be hard to believe that when you see the wasteful spending by Obama and the left Democrats. Yes, I was glad to hear Obama knows he'll be a one term president if he passes a govt run Health Care, when the majority of the taxpayers don't want it. When I go to lunch with friends at work, the one thing we all agree on, is we're going to vote the left democrats out of office in 2010 and 2012. We've had enough!

    August 20, 2009 at 11:44 pm |
  6. Teronda

    Here Here David!

    August 20, 2009 at 11:16 pm |
  7. stuart petersen

    Bash Bush-The only way to try to cover,the failings of the inept Obama administration.I watch part of your program once every two months-guess I'll have to cut back.

    August 20, 2009 at 10:13 pm |
  8. Annie Kate

    Attack the wrong country? And who was the one that gave them the direction to do that – that's right – GW Bush – a GOP member. After the performance of the last 8 years the GOP should be apologizing STILL, but no, they act like they were not even associated with it – well, neither they or the Democrats did anything to slow him down or impeach him so the blame to me sits squarely on Congress's shoulders – once again.

    August 20, 2009 at 9:23 pm |
  9. Art

    You forgot that ALL (well except for the 2% that though they were auditioning for a reality show) politicians think that the American server them as opposed to them being the civil servants.

    But, then again there's no way I'd volunteer myself to be constantly back stabbed by people I'm working with and all the while dodging rotten tomatoes being thrown at them from the hoi poloi.

    I figure, from my stand as a cynic, is that the best we can do is keep both sides even in number so they can't do any lasting harm. Too bad that pretty much assures that they can't do any great good either :(.

    August 20, 2009 at 9:21 pm |
  10. Max

    Great job David.......I can name lots of federal governament agencies that work wonders with a minimal budget.....I am not concerned with the cost of a public health care system, i simply view it as the single most important issue EVER and as a right for every citizen, period. When your kid is seek do you worry about how much it would cost to cure him or her? Our country is like a huge, diverse family and we need to take care of one another no matter the cost....Wich by the way i think would decrease dramatically, with the public option, over time. The role of governament is to protect its people....that should include first and foremost our health care (lifes are at stake)....This should be our right without discrimination for those who cannot afford it. Furthermore we need to do this soon...We cannot let more of our citizens die while we try to find out what the right approach to this legislation is....After all this is the greatest country in the world. All we need is motivation and inspiration and we, as americans, can do anything....I conclude this comment (even though i have lots more to say) in the hope that someone out there is listening and agrees that this is the right thing to do, moraly, socialy and politically....Everywhere else in the industrialized world it is the most important right for all people, and they would refer to the "Hitler" approach only for those who opposed this right, not the other way around. Thank you....sorry about my lack of eloquence or bad spelling.....i only made it to highschool....

    August 20, 2009 at 7:48 pm |
  11. Charles

    Thanks for the uplifting words about our civil servants. While not one myself, I have friends and family that have service as civil servants, along with myself and family servicing in the U.S. military services. Keep their feet to the fire! P.S. - The military doesn't attack "the wrong country." They attack whatever country our civilian leaders tell them to attack. They always get into the "right country," though sometimes the civilians direct them to attack for the wrong reason.

    August 20, 2009 at 6:39 pm |
  12. D. A. Reuter, Puget Sound Region, WA

    Those of us who are in civil service believe in what this nation stands for, not the traitors in the GOP who want to transform our nation into a facsist one being controlled by an an oligarchy form of government, not a democratic one.

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism–ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power."

    Wake up my fellow citizen, learn about civics and stop believing in what you are being told by any special interest groups (they are depending on your self-imposed ignorance of civics to destroy our nation)

    August 20, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  13. steve

    Lighten up, Dave. Those types are always going to talk garbage. Remember– they're civil servants too.

    We may not get what they get to the same degree, but we get it:

    1. health care

    2. steady pay

    3. a nice pension

    The biggest differences, of course, are that we actually worked for those "perqs", and we deserve them. They did neither.

    August 20, 2009 at 5:51 pm |
  14. Eli Gio

    These 'comparisons' made by the republicans are simply some the most despicable cases of hypocrisy from the GOP... Instead of pointing fingers, the should look at themselves, after eight years of Bush INEFFICIENCY, as the CULPRITS of this economic crisis!

    August 20, 2009 at 5:37 pm |
  15. Daisy

    This has got to be my favorite commentary so far about the health care debate. So simple.

    August 20, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  16. Jim

    David- Practice what you preach & stop insulting the average Americans intelligence -When Those PAID to do their job DO IT We will calm down & not be insulting- otherwise expect our fangs & claws to stay out & them to keep loosing a piece of their backside until they learn.

    August 20, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  17. C.K.

    Hear, hear!

    August 20, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  18. William of Iowa

    Speaking of letter carriers – a Twin Cities postal worker, while walking his route, noticed a young man breaking into my daughters home and called the police. They responded and captured the robber while in the act. This was not a random event but something that had been going on for awhile in the neighborhood. Thanks to an alert postal worker a problem was solved. I thank all those who serve our country, whether in the military or civil service.

    August 20, 2009 at 5:08 pm |
  19. RLWellman

    I just have one comment. I don't think Fedex ever said they could run nationalized health care like the Government says it can. If Fedex ran it's company like the Post Office, they would have been out of business the first year. Fedex can't print more money or tax people to get more money.

    August 20, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  20. Robin Coppinger

    Republican talking heads imply that Democrats are angry and lack patriotism. It seems to me that perhaps they should look at their own party. They have been putting down many government organizations lately!! (medicare, postal service, etc) Not very patriotic – maybe they are pinheads!!

    August 20, 2009 at 4:41 pm |
  21. Tazman

    Oh David you are surely missing the point, probably on purpose. It is not the individual civil servants who are being insulted. It is what large politicised government bureaucracies and unions, with monopoly power and no ability to discipline workers turn into that is being insulted.

    A government run healthcare system would surely drown out any of the competition that makes the current system as slightly bearable as it now is. People who want a government plan like to bring up the military which is really ironic since they are always the first people to trash the military whenever they get the chance. In fact were they not trashing the VA Hospitals recently? Is that what we would have to look forward to?

    Lets make a few practical changes to the current system of insurance rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water shall we? We can do that and keep the government out.

    August 20, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  22. Jerry Thomas

    I actually find it hypocritical for elected officials to complain about government employees when they are in one of the best positions to do something about it.

    August 20, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  23. Johnny From SC

    David you absolutely nailed it. They down Postal workers, Pastors, Teachers, and all other american citizens. The only ones they praise are the CEO's that are lining their pockets. If you're not worth millions your not worth anything to the GOP. Well except when it's time for re-election.

    August 20, 2009 at 4:10 pm |
  24. Chris

    Agreed with every word! I'm fed up with all politicians right now but the thing that frustrates me more are the people who say that the government can't do anything right. Do I trust the government to do a great job at everything? Absolutely not, but there are plenty of businesses I would trust a lot less. I'd like to see any of these people who are complaining go a single day without government run organizations–what about the people who keep our roads safe or our water safe to drink or our food safe? What about the people who supply our electricity? The government is far from perfect but I doubt a single one of us could go a day without it and if people had the patience (and politicians had the heart) to do this correctly it might actually work out well for everyone (except, of course, for those poor people profiting off of high insurance costs and the people who can't afford it).

    Not to mention that, as a teacher and civil servant, who has put the thousands of dollars of the money I work hard to earn and my entire heart into my job, I'm a bit fed up with people who complain about civil servants. There are plenty of horrible teachers out there, but maybe if people's perceptions of public schools would change, maybe the public schools would have a chance to be better too.

    August 20, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  25. Jack L. Crain

    Too true.

    August 20, 2009 at 3:20 pm |
  26. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Clearly David you need to spend a few hours in line at the DMV to fully appreciate civil servants. I was in the military for 22 years. Uniformed service members are NOT civil service. The civillian employees of the DoD are. Try comparing their work ethic, pay and risk of harm. You would truly puke seeing what civil servants get paid for pushing papers compared to uniformed service members who risk their lives daily. If you want to take issue, how about Obama's recent claim that a doctor would rather amputate a diabetic's foot rather than save it because he would make more that way.

    August 20, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  27. jay starkey


    August 20, 2009 at 2:47 pm |
  28. GF, Los Angeles

    Excellent post!

    August 20, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  29. Tom from NH

    I agree with you that the civil servants should NOT be attacked but I must argue that it is not the men and women "in the trenches" that are failing, but the system that they are given to work with. Americans are resourceful and many are stilled driven by the pride of a job well done, BUT even with a resourceful dedicated workforce there is only so much that can be done when we allow the same old politics ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ISLE to run wasteful, inefficient and sometimes frankly corrupt programs.
    It is becoming very rare that a "common man" truly feels that the government has his best interest in mind.

    August 20, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
  30. Jenny

    You tell 'em, David. Just hope they listen.

    August 20, 2009 at 2:09 pm |
  31. Kerrie

    If I'm not mistaken, Obama made the FedEx, UPS, US Mail comparison.....

    August 20, 2009 at 2:06 pm |
  32. Melissa

    Actually, if the Republicans proposed the exact same thing, I'd be all for it. Its not the party that it comes from, its the party's tactics and behavior that are the problem. And if Democrats were behaving like this (I've never seen a Democrat run around painting swastikas on government buildings), I'd have a serious problem with that too. You can't be taken seriously so long as you are behaving like a child.

    August 20, 2009 at 1:57 pm |
  33. Michael C. McHugh

    The Democrats got caught flat-footed here. The Republicans stalled the bills in the Senate, and then organized their base to pack the town hall meetings, and spew all kinds of propaganda about euthanasia and all that. Being I pragmatic, rational type, Obama is always caught by surprise when irrationalism raises its ugly head, but historians like me never are. It takes a lot to shock us. Anyway, the Democrats had to scramble to organize a response, and are now playing catch up.

    This should be a lesson for them when they move on to cap and trade, immigration reform and so on. If the Republicans say that Obama is the main cause of climate change and that he is planning to give California back to Mexico, the Dems had better be organized for rapid response and rumor control. This isn't an ice cream social here, and the other side is not throwing marshmallows.

    August 20, 2009 at 1:57 pm |
  34. Michelle Walker

    First of all, wasn't it just in the last week or two that President Barack Obama made the public comment about how the Post Office is always in trouble? Why that means we should give him our rights to private healthcare in light of that is beyond me.

    Any goverment worker, including myself, that has any intellectual honesty would admit that the government does not run anything better, or cheaper than a private company. I work in State government and happen to specialize in cutting waste that is happening in the Agencies in my Department. In my 11 years of working in government I can honestly say that the majority of the waste is directly related to the political positions in our Department. The positions who are political appointees are where the real waste of our tax dollars lie. No price is too high to get them what they want. I'm sure the same is true to a higher degree on the Federal level. Wasn't it the Feds who brought us the $600 hammer?

    Medicare, Veteran's Care, and social security are bankrupt and running into the trillions in deficit. Why don't our politicians prove themselves worthy of the entire healthcare system by first fixing these programs, and the post office too while they're at it? Why not institute Medical Malpractice Tort reform? Why not make it legal to shop for health insurance across State boundries? Why am I considered crazy if I don't agree with giving them even more of my freedom to screw up the way they've done with every other industry they've tried to take over? I say absolutely no way! I work for government and see what happens from the inside. I would never dream of letting government take away my right to choose the healthcare that I want and need.

    August 20, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  35. Sabrina

    Thank you Anderson.......Bravo.

    August 20, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  36. Dennis Jones

    I applaud the writer of this article. I have always been a civil servants.
    Thank you for having our back. We do what we do because we care.

    August 20, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  37. JC- Los Angeles

    With our once proud nation run into the ground by corporate executives, politicians, the horrifyingly inept Federal Reserve and the seemingly oblivious connected few, it's beyond the pale to single out one deplorable faction.

    With a rank amateur, of book advance fame, practicing on the American people, it would criminal not to call him out.

    With the GOP adding some post-election color, in Jindal and Steele, to their beat down, it would be inexcusable not to call them out too.

    The bottom line is that no one knows anything about anything anymore.

    To suggest otherwise is simply uncivilized.

    August 20, 2009 at 1:20 pm |