Just half a month into September, President Donald Trump already has directed federal agencies to restrict federal funding to cities that aim to reform their police departments; placed a huge tax burden on federal employees in 2021 by deferring payroll taxes starting immediately; asserted that federally-mandated diversity training is racist in aims; and opined that military members and veterans, many serving out of uniform in the federal civil service, are suckers and losers. What are federal civil servants to make of all of this?
Expressly interjecting politics into funding is to exchange merit-based decisions for politically biased ones. At the National Science Foundation, where I am union president and a scientist, that means not funding science research today in New York, Washington or Oregon because of political pique and not funding science in Oklahoma, North Carolina or Texas tomorrow as political winds shift. American research, innovation and global science leadership will die if political activism by individual civil servants is institutionalized.
Burdening civil servants with large tax bills next year by deferring payroll taxes for a few weeks this year creates real financial pain for employees forced to pay double taxes in 2021. This predicament is unwelcome and short sighted.
Diversity of thought, experience and perspective is the hallmark and foundation of a vibrant democracy and makes us stronger and resilient. In my years of federal service, I have never experienced racist diversity training. The training is constructive and provides the tools for self-introspection. What the president alleges is simply unrecognizable.
Finally, American men and women choose military and civil service for many reasons. Self-aggrandizement, however, is not one. If the president and others in his orbit cannot understand what is in it for us, I prefer they keep their bewilderment unexpressed and not insult us or give us phony public praise, because I and my military and civil servants are not suckers or losers.
David J. Verardo is president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3403, a federal scientist and a military veteran.