President comparing someone to Hitler?! Is this REALLY Presidential? It’s been said before! By a President!

presidential-speechI, as many others watched the recent presidential news conference, was somewhat surprised at some of the language that the President  used in his monologue.  I, at times, could not believe the tone and type of language that he used, but after some research looked for some Presidential language that could be better.  However, I found the following quotes from a past US President.  Can you identify who said this quote…

“He is a Hitler at heart, a demagogue in action and a traitor in fact.  In 1942 he should have been hanged for treason.  In Germany under Hitler, his deal, in Italy under the great castor oil giver, or in Russia now he would have been eliminated.”(1)

…or this one?

“The White House is open to anybody with legitimate business, but not to that son of a bitch.”(2)

Or the fact that, at one point, this US President was just $10 away from being a member of the Ku Klux Klan?!

“At one point, …he enjoyed meeting with the white-sheeted brotherhood of the local Ku Klux Klan.  Coveting its electoral support, he was ready to join it, even depositing his ten-dollar initiation fee.  They demanded, however, that he support no Catholics in patronage positions.  He drew away — and demanded his ten dollars back.” (3)

He changed his mind, letting his better inclinations overcome his political inclinations. Whew!

It is also interesting that people thought of this President as “unfit, unwise, or just plain out of his depth…”(4)

I point these very real historical events and words to reveal that there are presidents that have spoken their opinions, had brushes with the side of society that we would rather not discuss or acknowledge, and yet have been considered some of the best presidents in our country’s history.  In fact, the US President that said (and did) the above is considered by the American Political Science Association’s Presidents & Executive Politics section as being one of the top 10 US Presidents! (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/02/16/new-ranking-of-u-s-presidents-puts-lincoln-1-obama-18-kennedy-judged-most-over-rated/?utm_term=.acae4803997f)

The US President that did and said the above?  Harry Truman!  That’s right, the man who ordered the bombing of the Empire of Japan and ended WWII in the Pacific.  A diehard Democrat, he at one point would not ride the Dumbo Ride in Disneyland because he did not want to be seen riding an Elephant, the symbol of the Grand Old Party (GOP)!(http://disneyparks.wikia.com/wiki/Dumbo_the_Flying_Elephant_(Disneyland_Park)

What does this mean?  It means that history judges differently than the present.  The idea that a person makes statements (or actions) that are unbelievably harsh, or uncompromising, does not mean that person is a bad President, just someone who fails to consider what they said (or did) when they said (or did) it.  I am not saying the current President is right when he said the things in that news conference.  I just urge people to check history and see the  relationship to others in that same office.  It will at least put historical context to the overall discussion.

It is very difficult being in a leadership position, especially THIS leadership position.  You are in the “fishbowl” at all times with people watching your every move.  Speaking your mind is not taken the same by everyone (or anyone for that matter).  However, the data does not match great Presidents with their speaking ability.  It matches it with their actions in office.  This is going to be an interesting 4 years.  I do not envy ANYONE in that elected position.  You lose in the present, but may win in the future.

(1)Kenneth Weisbrode, The Year of Indecision, 1946, Viking Publishers, 2016, page 145 (Truman was referring to Joe L. Lewis, Union Leader).

(2)Ibid., page 146.

(3)David Pietrusza, Harry Truman’s Improbable Victory and the Year That Transformed America, Union Square Publisher, NY, 2011, page 5.

(4)Weisbrode, page 149.

Learn, Offer, Value, Educate (LOVE)

 

 

The Job Is not Done Until the Paperwork is Finished!

paperwork

We often look at the cost of a program and see the outward benefits, but fail to see the underlying costs that are associated with said program.  Such is the complexities involved in any new program, especially when it comes to state or federal government programs.

A great example of this is the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare.  According to the current data, approximately 20 million people are now on health care that did not have health care in the past (even though there are approximately 6 million that no longer have health care that had it before, giving the NET at 14 million rather than 20 million, but that is another article for another day).  The focus of this article is the associated paperwork that ACA implements as a result of this new program.

Specifically, I would like to mention the 1095-B and 1095-C, Health Care Coverage form and Employer Funded Healthy Care Coverage Form respectively.  Because of various medical coverage, I received a number of these forms and my wife also received a number of these forms.  Now, let’s extrapolate these to the population of people in the US that currently receive these forms.

If the figures are correct that 20 million people get health care coverage, this would mean that there are (at least) 20 million pieces of paper that are generated EACH YEAR to appropriately document that these people have health coverage.  That would mean that there has to be printing devices to print these, mailing costs to mail these, and of course a department to ensure they track the distribution of these forms.

Let’s assume for a moment that it costs 1 dollar to print one of these forms, 30 cents to mail them, and the department in question consists of 20 people each making 50,000 dollars per year.  That would mean that the costs are as follows (per year):

20 million dollars to print

6 million dollars to mail

1 million dollars in salary

TOTAL:  27 million dollars

And this figure does not take into consideration more than the 20 million people who get this form that are currently on health care; in other words the ones that are already on health care coverage.  The costs could be 5 to 10 times what I listed per year.  And this is just for the paperwork!

Now, this is unbelievable low considering the Congressional Budget Office original estimation of the cost of ACA, which was over 700 BILLION DOLLARS for five years between 2014 and 2019 (https://www.cbo.gov/publication/44176).  However, it is important to note the “small” costs that are a part of this that will continue long after the large costs are mitigated (or just maintained as is often the case).

In the meantime, if one takes a look at programs like Social Security, we often do not realize the cost of these types of programs, which approach 1 TRILLION DOLLARS per year in benefits!  It is those types of programs that are associated with TONS of paperwork that, even though they are more digital, does not often decrease the costs of those programs since the maintenance of the documentation for these programs can often lead to additional costs against that program.

How do we correct these paperwork nightmares?  One way might be to introduce legislation that institutes a default choice — that everyone has health care unless proven that they do not.  Of course, I am sure there are other ways to reduce or eliminate these paperwork overflows.  Until then, we will be faced with funding the paper that will be a central part of our lives.

Learn, Offer, Value, Educate (LOVE)

Political Appointee? – Don’t Be a “Bucket Leader!”

drip

In a little more than a month we will have a new President and, in preparation for his transition, there are plenty of Political Appointees that either have already been selected, or are about to get their letter of congratulations.

As a former employee of the Federal Government in several agencies over 30 years, I can tell you that the anticipation of these new political appointees is similar to waiting for a root canal.  The pain seems to get worse as the time approaches.  Although I am writing this article so that the new appointees will get a little preparation before going to their new post, I also doubt that many will read the advice since some of them already know EVERYTHING that goes on in the government, even if they have never served a day of federal government employment in their life.

So, as a stage setting measure, let me tell you something about being a Federal Government employee.

First, most employees of the Federal Government are hard-working individuals that feel their employment makes a difference and they do their job with a dedication and loyalty that would bring tears to your eyes.  There are some that are lazy and apathetic, but I would dare say that those types exist in every avenue of employment whether they are public or private industry.

Second, most employees of the Federal Government have FORGOTTEN more than you will ever KNOW about how the government process works, especially if you have never been a government employee.  They understand the regulations and the different elements of getting the job done, and have done so in spite of these regulations for decades.  They know what they are doing and sometimes just acknowledging that knowledge is enough to keep them going for another year or so.

Third, think of the Federal Government employee like a sailor on an aircraft carrier called the USS Government.  As any Navy person will tell you, it takes miles to turn an aircraft carrier, and so the analogy fits with the agency that you are about to join.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, gets done in a year.  Here’s why:

August – Contracting, HR, Budget, Accounting and the rest of the people who make the agency work are getting ready for the new fiscal year.  Everybody is trying to spend the money that they were budgeted so that they can “clear the books” for the new fiscal year.

September – Remember August?  Well, it is worse now because those departments that are behind in their spending are REALLY spending now just to catch up.  It is chaos.

October – New fiscal year and everyone is clearing the decks.  The new budget is being vetted and everyone is taking a breath

November – Veterans Day, Thanksgiving is happening this month and people are starting to get ready for the holidays, but work continues given those holidays.  It starts to slow in productivity.

December – Productivity is slow, but work still continues.  People are starting to get ready for the real big holidays coming up.  Christmas happens and people are leaving for the holiday

January – New Years, Martin Luther King Day and productivity is still lower than normal, but slowly ramping up.  Snow is lurking on the East Coast and Mid-West, and maybe one or two snow days are in the mix.

February – Presidents’ Day and at least one big snow fall, calling for as much as a week away from work.  Productivity is still level but people are cautious about coming in to work on the East Coast, where most of the HQ locations exist.

March – Work in full swing and productivity is up.  No government holidays until May.

April – Same/Same.  Easter is in there, but the month is stable and the weather is warmer.  Full productivity

May – Memorial Day starts the summer vacation season, but for the most part May is productive

June – Summer vacations now that school is out.  Projects are complete or nearing completion (from those started two years ago as a minimum).

July – Starting to think about the new fiscal year.  Budget and accounting are starting to close out invoices so that the new year can be prepared.

August – “Which brings us back to DOE” (apologies to Sound of Music)

The above example does not mean that the employees do not work for the entire 12 months, but most of them work so hard you want them to take the time to recharge or else they will burn out and, unlike private industry, will just shut down enough to get through your tenure, still remaining in your office.  You want to ensure this burn out does not happen.  So, from this little example, you can see that there is a rhythm to this whole cycle.  As I told someone once, “it is not that you want to step on any toes, you just want to ensure that everyone knows the choreography.”  You have to know the dance steps so you won’t be embarrassed.  Trust me, you may serve upwards of 8 years, but your tenure can be cut short if you do not play well with others.

I have seen it.  I have seen political appointees removed from federal buildings in handcuffs and not in handcuffs.  I have seen them packing their boxes and no one saying good-bye to them as they took the exit walk out the front door.  You do not want to be one of those – right?  Here are some somethings to do (and not to do)

Do:

  1. Get to know the people in your office prior to espousing your philosophy of how things were done in private industry.  Federal Government is not private industry (and never will be).  There is no profit made here (no matter how hard you try).  When I say get to know them, I do not mean the 5 minute “tell me about yourself” horse poop.  I am talking about 30 minutes with each one after you review their personnel file so that you can find out about their quality of life priorities.  You are in this agency for a few years, they may be here for decades.
  2. I hate to say it this way – but sit down and shut up.  That’s right, no pontificating, no grand speeches, no talk about this is how things are going to go when YOU are in charge.  Let your actions speak much louder than your words.  If you want to give an entrance speech, say that you want to “learn from your troops.”  And THEN DO JUST THAT!
  3. Get to understand the agency’s process. READ THE AGENCY STRATEGIC PLAN!  Know the main points.  Understand that every year this plan changes so also understand the frustration that is associated with a “FNG” coming in to the place with THEIR plan rather than the AGENCY plan.  Do your homework now so you won’t be in a rut when you first arrive.
  4. I realize that you had all these perks when you were in private industry, but it is different when you get to the agency.  You may not have a driver or a car and may even have to get your own coffee.  If you are already doing this – great!  If you have not done this, you may want to do this when you first arrive and it will make a great difference in how people see you.  You are the leader – lead by example.
  5. Recognize good work (not just work for you).  People that are doing more than their share need that recognition.  Freely give it to them, preferably in public.

DO NOT:

  1. Ridicule in public – ever.  If you want to isolate your loyalty, then ridicule people in public.  If someone is silent in one your meetings and you want them to say something then ask them nicely.  “Sue, I would value your opinion on this issue” is much better than “If you have nothing to say, Sue, then maybe you should not come to these meetings.”  I have actually been in meetings when the political appointee said things like this to me.  I shut up (or never went to another meeting).
  2. Espouse your philosophy on the first day.  Your vision is something that needs revising and revisiting – period.  Some of these employees have already had their guidance at the beginning of the fiscal year.  You are popping in January (already at the 25% point of the fiscal year), so do not expect that people can turn on a dime.  Save it for the Spring and spend the January/February/March time frame giving your employees some time to get used to you.
  3. Be a “bucket leader.”  My father used this term to denote someone who comes in like a person placing their hand in a bucket of water and splashing it around.  When they remove their hand, the water will go back the way it was.  Unless you set the stage for long-term change, that is exactly what will happen after you leave.

Now, I am saying all this because I am assuming you WANT to make good impression or make long-term change.  If you are coming into the agency to build your resume and do not care about the government agency, then I cannot say I am surprised, just disappointed.  You will join some others that preceded you.  But I have to tell you that I have seen some political appointees that were fantastic, left a great impression, changed the agency for the long term because instead of changing something big, they focused on small changes that helped the overall process without interrupting the routine of individuals in a big way.  It is those appointees that made a difference.

Like I said in the beginning, if you just take a few of these points and use them it will make a great difference in your time at the government agency.  If this comes off a little strong, I am sorry for being presumptuous, but just thank God that I am a retired government employee and do not have to relive those transitions, and hope that these few words can help you make a very smooth transition.  Sometimes they are just like a root canal, but other times they are like a root canal without anesthesia.

Good Luck!

Learn, Offer, Value, Educate (LOVE) http://www.grectech.com