As an immigration attorney, I have plenty of contact with “government bureaucrats:” USCIS and ICE officers, DHS attorneys, CBP officials, and Immigration Judges, to name a few. Some of them can be annoying (why can’t they always just do what I want?). A few are downright mean or incompetent. But the current attack against government workers gives me pause.
John Boehner recently dismissed concerns that proposed budget cuts would cost tens or hundreds of thousands of government jobs: “So be it,” he said. And in Wisconsin, the Republican governor has used the budget crisis as an excuse to bust government employee unions. It’s all part of a philosophy of government that stretches back to President Reagan, who famous told us that “government is the problem.”
My view is that the current climate of disrespect for government workers is dangerous to our democracy and reflects a naiveté bordering on stupidity.
Ours is a nation of laws, and those laws are enforced by government workers. Whether their responsibility is to enforce immigration laws, protect the environment, educate our children or ensure that our food is safe, government workers implement the law. They are not always perfect, to be sure, but generally they have helped perpetuate a democratic system based on the rule of law. Thus, the attacks against them are dangerous to our democracy.
Also, these attacks are incredibly naive. Anyone who has spent time in a country that does not have an established, (relatively) corruption-free bureaucracy understands how crucial it is to have honest civil servants. If you want to know why the United States is different from any number of third world countries, look no further than the people who enforce our laws. The idea that attacking them and devaluing their service is somehow patriotic is ridiculous.
While I can’t say I always love the government workers I interact with, I recognize that they are an indispensible part of our system of government. The recent attacks against “government bureaucrats” are not only wrong-headed, they are downright unpatriotic.