I have a confession to make. Night after night it seems there is a story about some government, local or federal, agency that is accused of wasting tax payer money. Each story features a government agency and how they spent money on (gift cards, trips, restaurants, hotels, etc.) The report is trying to get the general public to feel outrage that the government is spending our tax-payer dollars on such extravagant and unnecessary items. These stories just continue to fuel the fire about excessive government waste and spending and I don’t think it’s all black and white.
So my confession is that I used government money to have a cake made that looked like a birth-control pill pack. That’s right, a birth-control pill pack cake. See picture. It was years ago and I was working for a government grantee at the time. We were tasked with holding a training conference for family planning clinicians from all over the country. They work for little money and crazy hours. Their work is rarely rewarded. Trust me, public health clinicians are in it for the love of their patients, not the glory of the cash.
I was in charge of the reception and I found a bakery who created a birth-control pill pack cake. It took a lot of interesting explaining on the phone, but I made it happen. Calm down-it wasn’t expensive. I followed the federal procurement rules of bidding the job out. I’ll tell you the joy I that witnessed on these hard working government workers faces was amazing and worth every dime of my awkward explaining to get the cake made.
In every one of the reports I’ve seen about government waste, nobody ever stands up and says that sometimes rewarding employees (federal and private sector) for a good job is a positive thing. Government employees aren’t part of some forced Chinese labor camp. They deserve rewards like private sector employees do.
Good employee moral is a great thing for improved productivity. Government employees deserve incentives and recognition like everyone else. Now I’m not saying that we should go crazy and every day be a team building exercise at a 4-star spa. I’m just saying reporters, lay off a little and general public, relax. This country, and especially our government, is depressing enough as it is. If some government employees want to go have a day team-building exercise somewhere fun or get a gift card at an office party, chill out about it. We seem to forget that these things also help the local economy when the government group purchases the gift card at a local business.
The general public’s rallying cry seems to be that they want the federal government to operate more like a private business. If that’s the case, private business spends an enormous amount of money providing incentives for their employees. I worked for a large corporation, granted it was the 90s when times were good, and the amount of money that was spent keeping us happy was obscene. Those days are long gone for everyone in both the private and public sector, but occasional team-building exercises and gift cards aren’t a “scandal”.
I’m not working at the place where we put on the training anymore. Like I said, it was years ago. I understand there is another conference this year. Because of all of the outrage over government spending, I heard this conference will not have any food provided for the attendees, no promotional items and of course, no birth-control pill pack cake. Let’s not forget that without these things, the hotel’s billing will be way down, the promotional item company doesn’t get any business and the government employees don’t get any perks to help energize them when they go back to doing their low-paying jobs.
I think with all of these stories there is a happy medium. Nobody wants excessive government wasteful spending, but there is need for some things that may seem “frilly” to some people. If they keep our government employees happy and if they are within reason I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. There are many bigger ways to cut government spending without sucking the air out of employee incentives and recognition. Maybe going for the bigger fish like defense spending, our space program and government redundancy is a better way to go looking for the big story on government waste. I’m sure if there was a little digging into those big areas, lots of tax-payer money can be saved.
For now, let them eat cake…oh wait…no don’t let them eat cake. That’s wasteful government spending. Now, they will eat nothing and like it.