I get my news from a variety of places and a source I’ve always enjoyed is public radio. It’s in-depth and, unlike the news network playing in bars and break rooms in many workplaces, NPR reporters are calm. No yelling, no angry grandpas and no news anchors wearing U.S. flag label pins — just quality news coverage on a wide range of issues.
The other morning I discovered another gem on NPR — the Ask Cokie segment.
Because of her life experience — decades as a government reporter — Cokie has extensive knowledge of how our government works. And in Wednesday’s episode, she explains how a presidential election affects our federal civilian workforce. As she notes, when the country began, presidents — like Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson — ‘fired’ all the government employees when they were inaugurated — filling the positions with people loyal to them.
That shifted, she said, after the Civil War when a sex scandal helped launch the Civil Service.
When the government prints money it comes out in huge sheets. My daughter and I toured the Treasury Department when she was in fifth grade and we were able to see the large sheets being processed. We also were able to see that humor exists even when you are handling large sums of cash surrounded by armed guards. On one skid of $100 bills a worker had placed a sign for tourists to read that said, ‘free samples.’
Today, those large sheets of bills are precision-cut by machines, in the 1870s it was done by hand — with scissors — and the Treasury Secretary declared that women (who he could pay about half the going wage) were simply better with scissors than men. But, as Cokie explains, the hiring process was not as simple as applying for a job — which created a problem.
…it was members of Congress who got to appoint these women, and there was all kinds of allegations that the men required sexual favors in return for the employment…It was a complete scandal. There were hearings (and) the minority report said that the Treasury has been converted into the most extensive whore house in the nation.
The situation led to the creation of the Civil Service.
Today, only about 4,000 of the 2.8 million civilian workers are impacted in a presidential election.
Cokie, who is not a fan of president-elect Donald Trump, was criticized earlier this year when she co-wrote an anti-Trump opinion piece — causing NPR to clarify her role as commentator with the network.
In Wednesday’s segment, she offers another criticism of Trump — explaining why his idea of ‘freezing’ the federal workforce is not necessarily a good idea.
The problem with that is that it freezes people in place who might not be the ideal people to be frozen. For instance, right now in the federal workforce, there are more people over the age of 65 working in IT than under the age of 30.
Of course, what the Orange One will end up doing is anyone’s guess.
Ask Cokie airs on Wednesdays.