I’m not a big fan of bloated government. Lord knows I pay too much in taxes (as a self-employed person–nearly twice what you company folks pay for social security and medicare taxes!). But I also know plenty of hard-working federal employees whose jobs make our lives and communities better and stronger every day. If they’re gone for a few weeks we might learn to like them a little more. And maybe the US Government brand will get a nudge in the positive direction.
3 million visitors are expected to descend on the nation’s many free Smithsonian Museums during Spring Break next week. Hundreds of these museum employees preserve our national heritage. They maintain specimens and artworks, provide educational opportunities for our school children, and welcome visitors from around the world.
The US Department of Agriculture, USDA, is our largest federal agency outside the Pentagon, and works on everything from school nutrition to soil conservation. At the Agricultural Research Service, part of the USDA, librarians maintain the National National Agricultural Library (NAL) that serves as our nation’s resource on everything from food safety to rural development projects.
At the Department of Commerce, staff are busy promoting U.S. business interests around the world, but also here at home. They recently launched an initiative to promote businesses in the southwest, along the US-Mexico border. They also have their eye on future leaders, and with a host of volunteers who help them run the Presidential Classroom program for top students to study issues like the current financial crisis, hunger and poverty, and human rights.
Meanwhile, at the Centers for Disease Control, I have friends who are scientists at its National Institutes of Health where they are unlocking cures for cancer, lupus and Parkinson’s, among many many others. The CDC is also tasked with protecting our public health through immunization programs, emergency response preparedness, and initiatives on fighting obesity in children–which is costing us plenty with rising rates of heart disease and diabetes in kids.
The US Army Corps of Engineers is in almost every state working on projects related to emergency management, flood risk management, the environment, hydropower, and water supply.
And these are just a few. I know, everyone loves to trash talk The Government (as if it were a monolithic entity that lolls about on the couch watching TV all day). But if it shuts down, I’m hoping some of my fellow citizens and I will learn more about what many of my neighbors here in Washington (and across the country) do for the nation on a daily basis.