I was facilitating a class for a group in interns in a defense-related federal agency this week, and when I arrived to set up the meeting room I couldn’t find a dry-erase marker anywhere in the room.  Finally my contact arrived from the training department and pulled a package of markers out of her pocket.  “Keep a close eye on these,” she said.  “We can’t buy any more right now, and we don’t know how long it will be.”

I promised to guard the markers with my life, and then asked about a door stop for the meeting room’s heavy hallway door.  She pulled a rubber door stop out of her pocket and admitted that she was forced to hoard those too.

The atmosphere in the public sector is tense right now, and it’s not just about door stops and markers.  It’s about jobs.  When we talk about cutting back government and focusing on job growth in the private sector, I think we often miss the point that cutting back government is about putting more people out of work.  And as a former human resource director from the private sector, I disagree that the private sector stimulates job growth better than the government.  Private sector jobs may pay better overall, but especially with small, start-up companies they are often jobs with rotten or no benefits packages and a very uncertain future.  Government jobs typically are stable, pay competitively, offer solid training and development opportunities, and have great benefits packages.

Newsweek columnist Paul Begala had an article a few weeks ago called I {heart} government: Why now is the time to defend big government , in which he laments the ludicrous nature of Rick Perry cutting funding for volunteer firefighters while wildfires rage throughout the state of Texas.

“Some of this country’s bravest and best work for the government,” Begala says.  “Yet in the GOP debate at the Reagan Library, Perry simultaneously praised the Navy SEALs who killed bin Laden and claimed government doesn’t create jobs. Precisely whom does he think those SEALs work for? Enron?  If Perry hates government that much, maybe the next time his state’s on fire he can call a CEO.”

I applaud Begala’s witty and common-sense perspective.  I’m tired of hearing all the government-bashing, and I believe, as Bill Clinton said recently in an interview, that the public and private sectors must work together to create jobs.

And maybe when we all get a more balanced perspective I can have some markers and door stops to do my own job.

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