Guest post: Kathleen Sebelius’ mentality

Eyal Mozes sent me the following in an email and invited me to quote him in my blog. Giving him a guest post is the easiest way to do that. The remainder of this post is by Eyal.

As you may know, federal employees either have gotten or will be getting back pay for the period of the shutdown, making the shutdown a paid vacation for them (at the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the National Institutes of Health where I work, they got their back pay last Friday; I don’t know about other federal departments, but definitely they’ll all be getting the back pay).

Contractors such as myself, meanwhile, will not be getting any back pay for that period. Depending on the specific government department, some contractors may “generously” be allowed to work overtime for pay (which is normally not allowed) for a limited time, to make up some of the pay we lost; there’s been no final decision about that yet. But it’s already been decided that there will be no back pay.

In this context, I’d say that the following email – received this past Friday by all employees and contractors at HHS – reveals a lot about Sebelius’ mentality.

From: Sebelius, Kathleen (HHS/OS)
Sent: Friday, October 25, 2013 10:21 AM
Subject: Important Announcement: Back Pay

Dear Colleagues,

I´m delighted to report some news that will hopefully bring you some solace and help us all put the discomfort caused by the government shutdown behind us. Today, in addition to your regular pay, all of you will receive back pay for the time the government was shut down. If you have a question or notice an error, I encourage you to contact your human resources office or e-mail

I know the last few weeks have caused unnecessary stress for many of you and the delay in receiving your paychecks has strained your budgets. You did nothing to deserve this hardship and you should never have been put in this position. That´s why I made the timely delivery of your back pay a top priority. And I want to especially thank the staff in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration who worked to process more than 100,000 files to make sure this got done on time.

I hope this back pay also serves as an indication of how much the President and I value you and your public service. The work you do on behalf of the American people is incredibly important. It makes our Nation healthier and safer. And although you often receive far too little credit, the shutdown reminded millions of Americans just how vital public servants are and demonstrated the broad ways in which all
of you make a difference in their lives.

Of course, many of our initiatives and projects were disrupted by the shutdown, and the short term budget agreement makes our jobs unduly harder. But it is our responsibility to redouble our efforts and focus all of our energy on getting our important work and programs back to full speed. Millions of Americans are depending on us to do just that. And although there are never any guarantees in Washington, the Administration is hopeful that there will be a long term solution by January 15, 2014.

Again, thank you for your patience and professionalism during these challenging times. And thank you for all you do every single day. Have a great weekend.


Kathleen Sebelius

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