Decrying Hacks: The Breaking of America

uss americaTwo articles I read in the news yesterday that are seemingly unrelated came together in my mind. The first was by Tom Keane in The Boston Globe about the rancor between our political parties.  He noted it wasn’t something new and talked about the pre-Civil War days when the members of Congress had difficulty restraining their open hatred for each other.

Keane pointed out appropriately that issue facing the nation back then was a monumental one: slavery. It was one that struck to the core of what our nation was about. There could be no compromise, tempers flared, physical violence awaited the misspoken word, swords would eventually be drawn and a bloody war would follow.

Keane’s point is that nothing like that great issue exists today. The problems that do exist are such that people interested in our country’s future should be able to work together and find compromise. The bitterness between the parties is not justified by events which we are facing.

The other article was in the Washington Post by Aaron C. Davis. It was about a government employee, a hack as some people would call him, Michael Arnold. He worked for the Navy’s Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) as a civilian employee. He was murdered last year at the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, DC.

He retired from the Navy because of the long separations from his family during sea voyages but returned to work in its civilian boat design agency. The article tell of his genius in designing a large ship and knowing every little bit of detail about it. He was considered “the Navy’s encyclopedia for ships like” the USS America, shown above.

Arnold was the guy who sat in an office in DC and whenever a problem came up on one of the ships he was involved in designing he’d be called. His skill and experience would allow him to quickly identify the problem and come up with a solution. The article noted how his loss will be felt for years.

I knew a guy like Michael Arnold. I met him in New Hampshire at one of those small lakes that dot that state. He had worked in the private sector for a while but had gone over to become an independent contractor working for the Navy. Bill C was very laid back and happy to be lolling around doing nothing or puttering in his garage with his home projects. I see him as always friendly, helpful and smiling. If I didn’t know more about him I’d figure he was just another country bumpkin content to live in the back woods.

But the man was a genius. When a ship at sea ran into a major problem in its engine room that couldn’t be solved by all those usually involved, Bill would receive a call. He would be flown half way around the world at times, sometimes going from his quiet spot in New Hampshire to the far Pacific, and be ferried out to the ship,. Within hours of his arrival, he’d have identified the problem and set things aright.

How then did these two articles come together in my mind? I was considering whether there was anything new over the past decade or so that would explain why there is such animosity afloat in our country. I wondered why people in Congress now cannot remain courteous and civil while working out what is best for America. It seemed there had to be something different that was driving this great alienation.

Then it occurred to me that too many people in the media make their bread and butter off preaching hatred such as calling people who work in the public sector by the derogative word “hack.” These spewers of the sewerage of bitterness, malice and ill will have seriously infected our public discourse to the extent that people like Michael Arnold upon whom our freedoms depend are maligned.

The idea that the “dreaded private sector” is all that matters in America and that we could do without the public sector is preached continuously. How much this ongoing belittling of those working for the common good in our public sector drives the great antagonisms in Washington is unclear; but it sure seems that it is stoking it somewhat and pushing us apart at a time we should be coming together.

Perhaps it is time we dial back the hatred hands and recognize that nothing good was ever built by people who like to tear things down.


8 thoughts on “Decrying Hacks: The Breaking of America

  1. There are great physicians, nurses, therapists, dieticians, etc at Walter Reed, Bethesda, and Veterans Hospitals: government workers. There are equally great healers at MGH, BI, B&W, Newton-Wellesley and other Tufts, Harvard, B.U. affiliated medical centers and facilities. So, we agree: there are great public servants in both the private sector and in government. But we can’t deny government itself needs (1) a thorough stem to stern housecleaning and (2) downsizing.

    1. Willliam:

      True – but we’ll never get the cleansing we need because the people who will be affected by it are those that will have to do it so we have to take the good with the bad and not throw the baby out with the bath water. (I like that expression.)

  2. The Continental Congresses were not formed by Government; they were voluntary associations of private citizens, public servants, who came together to form a government. They overthrew a government. The British Government was their enemy. The rebels were Patriots who pledged “their lives, sacred honor and fortunes” to one another in the cause of Freedom. Nearly a majority of federal and state “public employees” today, in my experience, put the concept “public service” far behind their own “self-interests”, salaries, vacation time and benefits. Most are “clock watchers” and “water cooler” finger tappers with college degrees; too much time on their hand; too little to do; too much paper-pushing. Government lawyers are the worst time killers and busy-work makers: witness the bumbling Fred the Fed who’s criminalizing civil behavior to fatten his salary and importance. Government has become too bloated, confiscatory, oppressive, intrusive, imperialistic and greedy. Yes, there are many great public servants in government, but too many excess selfish or egomaniacal or power hungry or lazy or useless Tories from the Me Generation, and leftover hippies and Vietnam War Hawks like McCain and his neocon ilk. Government deserves to be pared down. 2. The Patriots, private citizens, overthrew an oppressive government, and formed a new one. We should, without violence, overthrow the existing wasteful, imperialistic regimes in Washington D.C. and elsewhere in the states. 3. Federally, only the Military, Public Health and Public Health related Services (environment, national parks) and the Peace Corps should be strengthened. 4. Fifty percent of Federal Employees should be fired; the rest’s salaries and benefits cut in half so that average state and federal salaries/benefits will be equal. 5. The Feds don’t rule us; a majority think and act like they do. 6. Federal executives, judges, and congress should face pay cuts and smaller staffs and functions. The IRS should be gutted by 90%; IRS filings reduced to a postage stamp (first $30,000 exempt; all income/profit taxed at 15% thereafter. Excess tax revenues returned to the States. 6. Ninety percent of federal functions should be returned to the States, along with 90% of our tax dollars. 7. Praise the public servants among government employees; eliminate waste and red tape; cut down the size of government, across the board. 8. I want to see the Boston City Council vote for a pay cut and reduce their salaries to the same as the Cambridge City Council about $78,000 a year. (When was the last time government employees got pay cuts, layoffs, benefits cut? When was the last time private sector employees did? We’ve created an elitist caste among government workers, insulated from the rough and tumble of the market place they devalue private enterprise and true freedom from government intrusion/oppression. 9. A government job is supposed to be a public “service” position not an entitlement or get rich quick scheme. 10. Some government employees deserve praise; others condemnation; government itself has become too big and too rapacious; the Fed is an out of control imperialistic intrusive metastatic Monster.

    1. William:
      1.The Continental Congress was made up of people who were elected or appointed to represent the states as public employees while they undertook that role. I never said all governent workers were good but I believe without them we could not function as a society. I do agree that the lawyers add very little in some areas. As for them being clock watchers, etc., you’ll find that everywhere in public or private.
      2.The initial government employees, those in Washington’s army, along with help from the dreaded French gave us our liberty. We then had politicians come together and give us our founding documents. I agree there is a surfeit of people on the government payroll but if you overthrow the present government you’ll just replace it with a new group of similar people. The fault is with the people and unfortunately you can’t run the government without them.
      3. You can’t have a just society without judges. We need to protect our borders – try to stop the inflow of narcotics – run the planes – deliver the mail – etc.
      4. The greates part of our budget is fixed expenses so doing what you suggest will really do nothing. Just hope the president’s salary is not increased because then the cost of government employees with follow..True many are overpaid for what they do but they are working and do pay taxes – plus the government should also be able to carry some people who cannot get buy otherwise.
      5. True.
      6. Who would pay for the military – who would give us social security and medicare – giving the money to the states would just increase the state payrolls.
      7. Good idea.
      8. I know my son when he worked in the AG’s office took a 12 to 15%. It was four years later that he got caught up with what he had been paid. No one will vote to reduce his salary. What you say about being away from the ups and downs of private employment is true.
      9. Few get rich on government payrolls – some cops do all right making over 200,000 a year as do the college professors – the rest get by being paid commensurate with their ability – public employees will always be considered as overpaid.
      10. Ture about praise adn condemnation. The Feds are what they are. Despite what you suggest aabout it we still have all the freedoms that we’ve ever had. You look for perfection in the Fed system. Perfection doesn’t exist among humankind. So we havet to be content with something less.

  3. “Our freedoms depend” on government employees ?????? Where does that appear in the Declaration of Independance !????????

    1. Gazebo: The Declaration of Independence was a document drawn up by public employees. The Second Continental Congress was composed of delegates elected or appointed by the states to act on behalf of the people. They were all acting for the public benefit. The document from which most of our rights as Americans derive, the Constitution was also enacted by, you probably won’t believe this, politicians. All those who wore the country’s uniform were and are government employees. We will not depend on General Motors or Proctor & Gamble or Wal Mart to send any troops to fight the Islamic State.

  4. Obama’s post-campaign actions have run counter to his campaign promises of bipartisanship. So while I suspect that most of this “great alienation” has its roots in the George W. Bush years – or even the Clinton years – I believe it is Obama who has propagated it and taken it close to its limits.

    When some conservatives suggest that Obama’s mission is to destroy America, I do not laugh…or disagree. To some, this sounds extreme, of course, but sometimes extreme events happen under our noses.

    Great points you made about public employees. Many dedicated folks work in the “public sector.”

    1. GOK:

      You may be right that Obama has made the split between parties even greater but that could be because the other party forced him into that position. It takes two to tango so I find it hard pinning the blame on one side. Obama’s vision of America may differ from that of some consrvatives but to say he wants to destroy America seems to be going too far. I suppose we have to define what America is first. I think it means so many different things to different people.
      As for the public employees attacking them as if they are a drain on society never made sense. Like with all groups of people most are competent and some are hangers on. The country could not function without both.

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