An Open Letter to 800,000 Federal Employees of America

By Felix Schein

I flew for work earlier this week. There is nothing unusual about that. I fly most weeks. But this week my trip was unusual in that it was largely dependent on the charity of others — the army of TSA officers at two airports, air traffic controllers from the Federal Aviation Administration, and a handful of government inspectors who took the time to perform various aircraft safety checks despite not receiving a paycheck.

I also ate this week. Again, there is nothing striking about that. But here too the charity of others was required, or at least I hope so. Just as I wouldn’t want to fly through the night sky without the comfort of knowing an air traffic controller was on the job, it is my hope that the meat, dairy, and produce I consumed this week were inspected by various food safety officials from the Department of Agriculture who work to ensure it is safe for us to eat the food that ends up in our stores and restaurants.

On a positive note, I didn’t get sick this week, so maybe it is okay that everyone at the Food and Drug Administration has been furloughed. I also didn’t have time for a hike so I suppose I survived our national parks being shut down. But what should happen if there is an earthquake next week here in Los Angeles? Is it fair to assume the phones at Homeland Security and FEMA will go unanswered?

Like most Americans, I don’t spend my time thinking about all the ways government positively impacts my life. Also like most Americans I do, occasionally whine about things like lines at the post office and occasionally complain about various perceived inefficiencies. I have also repeated the claim that the federal government just doesn’t work that well. But when you think of it, the mail always comes.

It’s that last point I would like to revisit. The truth is, once you get beyond the White House and Congress, our government works pretty well. Planes aren’t falling out of the sky, our food supply is amazingly safe, and we can reliably fill a prescription without worrying whether what we’re buying will kill us or not.

And that’s just scratching the surface. I read today that, “thanks to the political storm in Washington, scientists have been unable to post an emergency update of the World Magnetic Model, which cellphone GPS systems and military navigators use to orient themselves.” (Source: The Washington Post)

I had no idea that such updates were necessary or that government officials made them, but they’re another example of government working well — when it works. And an example of how much we need and rely on this unseen functions to literally get about our days

From all of us at RALLY, thank you to the countless federal employees who have been coming to work these past few weeks — and doing so without pay. Your selflessness has allowed us to do our work, a big piece of which is getting Washington to do its job. Maybe when it does, people everywhere will remember why a functioning government is of value.

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