Drain the swamp?

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

Fed­eral work­ers wor­ried about Trump plan

IMcLEAN, Virginia (AP): ELISSA BAUMANN lives 850 miles from the nation’s cap­i­tal, but when she hears Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump and his sup­port­ers say they will “drain the swamp,” she wor­ries she will be sucked down into the muck.

Baumann, a chemist with the For­est Ser­vice, is one of the nation’s four mil­lion or so fed­eral work­ers and is watch­ing anx­iously as Trump looks to set his agenda in mo­tion.

In terms of pol­icy, Trump has sug­gested a fed­eral hir­ing freeze and hinted at elim­i­nat­ing or sharply cur­tail­ing an en­tire Cab­i­net agency, the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

In terms of rhetoric, he tar­geted the fed­eral bu­reau­cracy and reg­u­la­tions. And then there’s his “drain the swamp” catch­phrase.

Trump’s al­lies say that was di­rected at lob­by­ists, donors and po­lit­i­cal cronies. Some fed­eral work­ers fear he means a broader group.

“I be­lieve that is di­rected at us. And it’s mis­di­rected,” said Baumann, who lives in Madi­son, Wis­con­sin, where she also serves as a union of­fi­cer for the For­est Ser­vice. The prob­lems in Wash­ing­ton “have noth­ing to do with the peo­ple out­side the Belt­way” who are do­ing hon­ourable work un­der dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances, she said.

Like most fed­eral work­ers, Baumann works far from DC, where less than 10 per cent of the fed­eral

Mwork­force is sta­tioned, gov­ern­ment data show. Mary­land and Virginia are large fed­eral em­ploy­ment cen­tres, but so are Cal­i­for­nia, Florida, Texas and Ge­or­gia.


Greg Guthrie, an in­for­ma­tion spe­cial­ist with the Na­tional Tech­ni­cal In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice (NTIS) in Alexan­dria, Virginia, said that af­ter the ini­tial shock of Trump’s win, he has adopted a “cau­tiously op­ti­mistic” stance. Trump won as a cham­pion of the work­ing class, he rea­soned, and he hopes Trump will ad­vo­cate for the fed­eral work­ing class as well as the pri­vate sec­tor.

Guthrie’s co-work­ers are sym­pa­thetic to tech­nol­ogy’s dis­rup­tion of the labour force, he said. The NTIS pro­vides re­ports and re­search to a va­ri­ety of cus­tomers. In­ter­net search en­gines now fill some of that role, prompt­ing se­na­tors to in­tro­duce the ‘Let Me Google That For You Act’ in 2014 to kill the NTIS. But Guthrie said his agency has rein­vented it­self and now helps gov­ern­ment agen­cies use big data.

Guthrie said fed­eral work­ers can adapt when given the op­por­tu­nity.

“I don’t like some of the terms I’m hear­ing, like ‘drain the swamp,’” said Guthrie, also an of­fi­cer in his union. “Some­times it’s couched as if we’re these lazy, un­nec­es­sary relics. That’s not true. We’re peo­ple who work hard.”


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