Government speechwriter defends the value she provides

I know a lot of speechwriters who want to shrink the government, but I’ve never heard one suggest that we cut the federal rhetoric budget. 

Last week in the weekly Executive Communication Report, I shared just such a proposal that I’d come across.

After noting with surprise that the head of the small-ish U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission has a speechwriter, the unnamed blogger at the Future of Capitali$m blog proposes a bill that would forbid “any executive branch official below Cabinet secretary rank” from having a speechwriter: “Nothing against speechwriters—I have known some hardworking and talented ones—but, like everything else in Washington, they have a way of expanding at taxpayer expense ….”

I asked speechwriters how they would defend the speechwriter job at the CFTC.

“Wow, this really got my blood boiling this morning,” wrote a reader who asked to be identified only as “a hard-working federal senior speechwriter who is giving the taxpayers a good return on their investment.

Here’s the commentary I fired back to the blogger in the comment section on the
blogger’s site:

Every single assumption about the work speechwriters do, and the value they bring to federal agencies, is wrong in this cavalier commentary. I’m reminded of the offensive old saying, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

Why not just get it over with and fire the entire U.S. civil service?

It’s hard to know where to begin, so here are just a few points.

(1) 99+% of executives in the public and private sectors cannot write well, and they sure don’t know the first thing about writing an effective speech that can hold an audience’s attention while driving home a clear message.

(2) Speechwriters are extremely necessary and effective in helping federal agencies explain to taxpayers why their programs and policies matter. The communications bridge created by speechwriters is an essential part of the national conversation between the government and the public. You want transparency? This is part of it.

(3) Most government speechwriters earn a quite modest professional salary. I’d say the average is in the $60-$80k range, with some earning less and yes, some earning considerably more. Suffice to say, firing all the federal speechwriters ain’t gonna do much for the deficit.

Enough said, I’d say.

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