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Chicago Tribune August 16, 2016

Government should be run by experienced 'insiders'

I am rather surprised to read that many voters are choosing a candidate to vote for because he or she is not an "insider." Having served as a federal employee, both in the Chicago regional office and Washington, now retired after 35 years, I would advise against using this measure.

While individuals may not be satisfied with current public policy, I don't think the wisest way to change this is to turn government over to a complete amateur who may have no experience or training. As a matter of fact, doing so may have rather tragic or harmful results. Public safety and security are inherent functions of government, matters too important for someone getting on-the-job training.

One can engage in criticism of how government is run at the federal, state and local level, and cite examples. But, for every example, there is a counter-example, and one never arrives at the truth. Seniors get their checks each month, food is safe to eat and passports issued, millions of times, month after month, without incident.

Although there is no way to accurately measure this, I would maintain that the United States is the best governed country. The career civil service employees who do this, however, are regarded as indolent, complete incompetents. Any salary they are paid, although usually less than their private sector counterparts, is regarded as theft.

A study was done in which citizens, when leaving a public office building, were asked if they were helped and assisted, and had their matter resolved. Over 90 percent responded positively. When the public was asked their opinion of government services in general, however, the answer was found to be just the opposite.

The assertion that businesses by definition always operate in a superior to government is invalid. While the workforce in both performs often in identical fashion, the number of business failures is not evidence of universal, quality operations in the private sector. Businessmen also sometimes cannot adjust to operating within the confines of law, rule and regulation, and think that anything goes, which it doesn't in government.

During my career, I have worked with many newly elected officials and political appointees who were intelligent individuals, but who often totally lacked any related experience, and were somewhat lost or overwhelmed when it came to performing their administrative duties. Some acclimated quickly, while others never did or even cared to, since they might not be there after the next election. Fortunately, there was a core of "insiders" who were able to keep the agencies operating without incident.

On occasion, an administrator was appointed who believed the best government is no government, and immediately undertook to "streamline" an agency and effect a re-organization, contracting out entire departments to private companies, or eliminating as many positions as possible. It often took years to restore the workforce, and skilled, seasoned employees were let go without any thought given to the consequences. Rapid change should not by itself be taken as being "reform."

The primary qualification that I personally look for in a candidate is whether or not they have any experience in government operations, at any level. If not, they are not likely to get my vote. Government is too important, regardless of what the operation may be, to be turned over to someone who has not climbed the career ladder.

Charles Paidock, Chicago, IL

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National Federation of Federal Employees
Chicago, IL

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Public safety and security are inherent functions of government, matters too important for someone getting on-the-job training.