Every year, Uncle Sam sponsors the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), the government’s officially sanctioned one-stop-shop for its personnel to donate to the cause of their choice through direct payroll deduction. Every year from Thanksgiving to New Years you’re inundated with emails, meetings, kick off events, more emails, and unofficial peer pressure to give, give, give. I’m told that it’s better now than it was “in the olden days,” when signing up was damned near compulsory (unofficially, of course).

We got a bulk email this afternoon thanking everyone for participating this year, but noting ominously that we had only achieved 72% of the stated local goal and that as a result babies would go hungry, kittens would be drowned, and veterans of the Spanish-American War wouldn’t get the recognition they so richly deserved. OK, maybe that wasn’t exactly what the email said, but taking a bit of artistic license, that’s what I read. At any rate, I could have done without the reminder that there was still time to dig a little deeper.

I don’t generally give to CFC, preferring to do my donating directly with the groups I’m interested in supporting rather than through a 3rd party. This year, though, even that didn’t happen. After three long years without a raise, losing 5% of last year’s salary to furlough days, and spending a week sitting home because of how “non-essential” I am, I opted out almost completely, shepherding my limited funds available in case they needed to be deployed much closer to home. If that sounds at all bitter and jaded, well there’s a good reason for that.

There are a lot of worthy causes out there, but when push comes to shove, I’m my own favorite cause… and when the elected powers that be continually tell federal employees that they’re a drain on society and busy themselves dinking with our pay and benefits at every opportunity, it’s a good assumption that I’m just not feeling the spirit of generosity. There’s just something about being kicked in the stones repeatedly that seems to not set one afire with the joy of “giving back.” In fact, to me the only surprise in this whole story is the CFC didn’t miss their mark by way more than 28%. If nothing else, it’s an excellent example of actions having consequences.

Sometimes you can’t be too cynical…

(c) University of Florida

(c) University of Florida

Government work tends to be one of those odd environments where up is down, good is evil, and logic is nonsense. It feels, at times, like a none-too-subtle combination of Groundhog Day and Dante’s Inferno. Maybe that’s an exaggeration… but only a little. I can say that with a degree of certainty because that’s the kind of day it’s been today.

At just after 11:00 this morning I was handed my formal notice that the United States Government plans to furlough me one day a week beginning on July 8th. Exactly 148 minutes later I received an email congratulating me on ten years of service to the government and notifying me that I’d be getting a certificate at the next office awards ceremony. You’d have to work pretty hard at sending two more discordant messages to your employees. Timing, as they say, is everything… even when it comes to giving with one hand and taking away with the other. I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m not in a rush to agree to parading across the stage, smiling for the photo op, and pretending that I give a good goddamn about another certificate in my three ring binder.

I’m sure at some point in the distant past, a nice suitable for framing certificate was a fine motivational tool… but unless I can barter that certificate for goods and services, under the circumstances, I think you can understand why I don’t think it’s worth the paper it’s printed on. I’m going to improvise, adapt, and overcome… but don’t expect that I’ll be thanking anyone for the opportunity.

And people wonder why I’m cynical about almost everything.