The federal government once was a safe place to work

Paul Peroutka

October 05, 1990|By Paul Peroutka

MY MOTHER would turn over in her grave if I could tell her that my place of employment, the federal Social Security Administration, could actually be shut down because Congress and the president can't approve a budget.

I can hear her now: "Paul, if you get a job with the government, you'll never, ever have to worry about your security. You will always have steady employment, steady income, guaranteed advancement. And the federal government will always be right on target concerning the special needs and facilities for its handicapped employees. Son, you could never pick a better place to work."

From 1986 to 1989, I worked in a disabled employee's slot as a computer analyst at the Health Care Financing Administration, a sister agency to SSA which is also located inside the large complex in Woodlawn. I left that position to pursue writing, which greatly displeased my aging mother. I know this because she told several people directly, even on her death bed.

Last August, two short months ago, I returned to government service as an SSA employee. Unfortunately, our government has thrown a monkey wrench into my attempt to appease my mother posthumously.

First there was the possibility of major furloughs if Congress couldn't reach agreement by Monday. Then I woke up this morning to find the administration-backed budget plan had been scuttled in the House -- and the federal government could grind to a halt while politicians squabble.

I am one of those people who use the Mass Transit Administration's "Mobility" service, which provides transportation for more than 3,000 disabled people. The schedules of all of these employees would be severely disrupted in the event of a furlough or a shutdown, as would those of the 6,000 employees at the Woodlawn complex. Armageddon is a more pleasant concept than the chaos that would result.

So I mean to point out the huge inconveniences that could ensue, especially for disabled federal employees, if Congress and the administration cannot resolve their differences. Congress has shamed itself beyond reproach by painting the scenario that we might all fall under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law and be pillaged by its effects.

Since I consider myself to be a government employee with normal intelligence, I have never really believed that Congress would fail to reach a solution. Now I have serious doubts. The federal government is no longer a safe place to work.

Paul Peroutka, who has cerebral palsy, writes from Baltimore. B

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