Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


July 7, 2014

STUMPTALK: Demand better from government workers

CROSSVILLE — In a recent congressional hearing we learned that the VA awarded excessive bonuses to nearly all of their doctors and administrators. In a recent column we mentioned that the civil service employment provisions should be revised so that federal employees in the executive branch could be fired if they don’t perform to the satisfaction of the president. The president would then know that he (or she) will be solely responsible for any failures of the administration and would be more likely to demand hiring competent employees and insist on satisfactory performance.

The current system was established more than 100 years ago and was intended to provide for the hiring of workers based on merit. Merit has little or no influence anymore and the competent workers in the government deserve better. Many workers now simply put in time, get hefty salaries and bonuses regardless of work quality with virtually no risk of being fired. They then retire and receive generous lifetime incomes.

Look at the bonuses paid to the administrators of the Veterans Affairs even after the egregious failures in that system that caused some of our veterans to die while waiting for an appointment. If we can’t depend on those employees to perform their duties in a competent and responsible manner, how can we expect good work ethics from employees who work in areas where the life of those being served are not dependent on employee performance.

A report released by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) revealed that one thousand veterans died while waiting for health care at a facility where the director of the facility was granting $10 million in bonuses.

The private sector employers have the ability to reward or punish their employees based on the quality of their work. Voters have the ability to fire our representatives but we have no control over the public sector employees. 

We have seen evidence that the IRS has given bonuses to employees who were guilty of illegal drug use; unemployment benefits fraud and even tax evasion. A recent Treasury inspector general’s report stated that with few exceptions, the IRS does not consider tax compliance or other misconduct when issuing bonuses or other performance benefits.

Those who were able to watch the examination of John Koskinen witnessed Mr. Koskinen’s total disregard for the important and serious nature of those hearings. His failure to recognize his responsibility for honesty and his disrespect of the Congressmen was evident to all who watched. He seems to think he is not responsible to the people who pay his salary.

In addition to better pay than workers in private industry, federal workers receive 10 paid holidays, 13 to 26 days of annual vacation and up to 13 days paid sick leave a year providing up to 49 days off every year with full pay.

Office of Personnel Management data shows that it is five times as hard to get fired from a federal job as from the private sector and even harder to make it stick with all of the appeals available. You might remember the General Services Administration employee pictured in a hot tub sipping wine during a lavish 2010 Las Vegas boondoggle who was allowed to retire with full benefits. You might not know that his co-worker who was fired was reinstated, after the appeals process, with almost a year’s back pay. And we must not forget Lois Lerner who has been shown to have committed a crime by not saving copies of her emails as required by law and she has been allowed to retire with full benefits when she should be facing prison.

The federal employment system needs a complete overhaul.

• • •

Stumptalk is published weekly in the Crossville Chronicle. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. To contact Stumptalk, email coordinator Jim Sykes at

Text Only
  • Lion and the Lamb: A promised land?

    Back in biblical times there was a group of people who believed that God had promised them a segment of land on this planet that would be theirs forever. Who could have known back then that this ancient promise and territorial justification would be used by their descendants today to claim the same segment of land?

    July 29, 2014

  • We the People: Bring back the American dream

    Our economy continues to expand. The stock market is at record levels, yet many ask why so many of us are struggling?  Barely half of us believe the American dream is attainable.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tidbits: Taking a low-tech break

    Feeling increasingly strangled by my electronic leash, with phone, text messages, email, social media and a variety of other forms of communication always at my side, I took the weekend off.

    July 28, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Governing before and after mass corruption

    Laws in America were originally written simply. Every citizen could read them quickly and understand their meaning. The founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of the United States, none of which was longer than 4,500 words.

    July 28, 2014

  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014