Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

June 9, 2014

STUMPTALK: Not the time to take adversarial positions

By Jim Sykes
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — Unless you have been in a coma, you are aware that the Veterans Administration Medical Centers have problems and they are not providing adequate care for our veterans. Many of the veterans now being denied timely and proper medical treatment are the survivors of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. This tragedy must be used as the spark that leads to meaningful reform.

All of us must come together to make sure that these veterans receive the treatment they have earned and deserve and that those who were in a position to provide these services and failed to do their duty must be held accountable even if that means a prison term. That will show workers in the veterans hospitals that they have been given a sacred trust to serve and care for these heroes.

Anyone working in the veterans hospitals that cannot accept this challenge must either resign or be removed. We must not allow politics to become involved and any politician who attempts to involve politics should be removed from office.

We should also use this as an example to show all of our public employees that we expect them to do their jobs as efficiently as possible, including our representatives elected at the local, state and federal levels.

We should no longer accept the claim from government agencies that they need more money and if only given more money they will do the job right this time. Instead of determining if the agency actually needs more money, the politicians take the easy way out and give them more money. Then these civil servants hire more staff and become qualified for even higher pay and more benefits. These same civil servants now have more excuses to attend more costly training events while the problems are repeated. None of us can give in to this inevitable call for more money. The veteran’s hospitals have been given sufficient funds to care for our warriors and they must be made aware that we expect nothing less.

The civil service system was created more than a century ago to prevent an incoming administration from firing government employees. The practical effect has been to shield civil servants from being held accountable. Most agencies have now become bloated with employees in the hope that the newly hired employees will actually do some work. After their probationary period, the new hires learn very quickly that they are not to become too efficient, as that would make the others look bad. 

One possible solution would be to allow the president to fire any federal employee in the Executive Branch for any reason, or no reason, with no right to appeal. This would make the president truly responsible, and accountable, for failures during his term of office. The president would also become accountable for bureaucrats who do nothing useful. The president would still not be able to hire the merit system employees, and so he would have no power to reward his party faithful with government jobs, as had been the case before the Civil Service System.

This tragedy to our veterans could be the spark that leads to meaningful reform that is long needed and much deserved by all citizens without regard to political party. Whether you’re a conservative wanting a smaller federal government or a progressive who believes we need a more active federal government, we all deserve a more reliable and efficient federal government that provides only the services delegated to it.

As long as the bureaucracy in Washington, DC, is maintained as-is, it will be more about serving the priorities of bureaucrats than the citizens of our country.

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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 sykes113@frontiernet.net.