Public Service

An old friend — too long out of touch — contacted me the other day, out of the blue.

We are back in DC after 4 years in Santa Fe (which we miss every single day)

A post as a government official isn’t a dream job, it’s a call to service. Government is a machine, like anything else: it is one that can accomplish great things, or do great harm. The direction is set by whose hands are on the levers of power; the rate of progress, or the speed of the catastrophe, depends on the people behind the scenes. Thus the slow-moving train wreck of the previous administration, peopled at the top by incompetents, losers, and grifters. (In some notable cases, all three at once.)

This time around there are, in the White House and the OEOB, people who have put their lives on hold in order to be a part of something larger than themselves. My friend doesn’t need the experience, nor an added bullet point on the resumé, nice to have but unnecessary when you can already have your pick of jobs in your chosen profession.

We are, finally (if only temporarily) in the company of adults. We need more, at every level: it’s a thankless job, for which not everyone is well suited. You have to be a little selfless, and at least a little bit more idealistic than cynical. You have to believe that government can accomplish great things, and you have to understand, for example, that national health insurance is far cheaper than making the Emergency Room the provider of last resort.

If only that attitude were the prevailing one in the United States Congress, and especially in the Senate, where holding power is more important than using it for the purposes written into the Constitution: to provide for the common good and promote the general welfare. I for one am tired of seeing public service used for private gain.

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