Big Government

It’s Not Just Government, Americans Don’t Like Government Workers, Either

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Like an abused spouse increasingly appalled by a long-time partner's behavior, Americans are falling out of love with the federal workers who enforce an endless litany of mandates, taxes and intrusions into their lives. New data from George Washington University's Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration finds that, in addition to losing faith in the federal government itself, as other polls have revealed, a record number of Americans are losing faith in its loyal minions.

Summarizing their research at Government Executive, William C. Adams and Donna Lind Infeld, who are professors at GWU, write:

American confidence in federal employees has hit a new low, according to a nationwide poll of 800 registered voters released today by The George Washington University. More than one-third of survey respondents—35 percent—voiced "little or no confidence" in federal workers, up sharply from 23 percent in 2011. Only 19 percent of voters said they have "a lot of confidence" in federal workers, while 41 percent indicated "some confidence" and 5 percent were unsure.

Loss of confidence in government workers
The Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration

Adams and Infeld worry that "Eroding respect for federal service is not a trivial matter. Essential compliance with laws and regulations is built on trust in the fair, responsible implementation of those laws and regulations." Of course, one might rebut, when "a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism,"* people might begin to chafe a bit not just at the institution that harasses them, but at the actual people who seem willing to conduct the harassment in return for steady paychecks and benefits funded by the folks on the receiving end.

As always, there's an ideological divide in opinions of federal workers, but disillusion is spreading beyond the bounds of those traditionally skeptical of government.

Most of the skeptics, as in past surveys, are conservative Republicans. Almost half, or 45 percent, said they have little or no confidence in federal workers, up from 32 percent in 2011.  But wariness is spreading. Now independents are nearly as mistrustful, with 41 percent lacking confidence, up from 28 percent in 2011. Even Democrats are less assured, with responses of "very little confidence" doubling from 12 percent in 2011 to 24 percent in 2013. The biggest shifts in opinion took place during the past year.

The past year? What could have happened in the past year to so erode respect for federal workers? Could it have anything to do with revelations of NSA spying? Politicized IRS targeting of government critics? Harassment of inconvenient journalists? FBI overreaching? Obamacare? All of the above and more?

In fact, Adams and Infeld explicity speculate that such eye-openers are the reason for plummeting approval numbers, saying, "Workers who do their jobs effectively and equitably do not make headlines. But embarrassing, alarming and proscribed behavior does."

Interestingly, 73 percent of respondents say they would still encourage young people to consider federal jobs. Maybe it's because they figure government employment is the only place left that's reasonably safe from government workers.

*pangloss90 correctly points out that "He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance" is an even more appropriate quote from the Declaration of Independence.

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53 responses to “It’s Not Just Government, Americans Don’t Like Government Workers, Either

  1. Americans don’t hate government employees enough…yet.

    1. Wait until their health care experience feels like their DMV experience.

      1. Speaking of which, my wife was just renewing her license Monday. She some guy comes in, ask a very simple questionvery nicely, and the old bag at tge window treated him extremely rudely. It would have had to been pretty bad for my wife to bring it up.

        1. Huh. I don’t get these DMV stereotypes. I’ve never had that type of experience. Usually I barely have enough time during the wait to fill out the form, and even if I can’t finish before my number comes up, the clerks have no problem – and I’m not even wearing my ID that says I can get to their Datacenter from my cube…

          1. Depends in part on the DMV center. I had one near me that wasn’t full service and was run very efficently. The state in a cost cutting move closed that one down and now I have to go to a smaller, less efficent but full service center and the sterotypes certainly apply there.

      2. Of course a couple generations from now no one will know the difference.

  2. Like an abused spouse increasingly appalled by a long-time partner’s behavior, Americans are falling out of love with the federal workers…

    That’s not true. We just walked into a door, that’s all. We’re clumsy that way. Plus, we got nowhere else to go.

    1. “Fell down some stairs.”

    2. “They’re more likely to kill you if you leave.”

  3. Interestingly, 73 percent of respondents say they would still encourage young people to consider federal jobs.

    And, at least that may will repeat the exact same voting patterns that elected the people responsible for the deteriorating behavior of government.

    1. Sure young people would be smart to consider federal jobs. Where else can slide by doing mediocre work for 40 hours a week, receive regular raises and promotions, awesome healthcare, then retire with a pension that private sector workers can only dream of?

      1. You mean “sit around for 38 hours a week playing solitaire and doing mediocre work for 2 hours”.

        Not that I mind, necessarily. It’s better than if they were diligent.

        1. Not that I mind, necessarily. It’s better than if they were diligent.

          Hhahahahahahaha!

  4. The bureaucrat class is more toxic for liberty than the political class.

    1. Quoted for truth. Quebec is run by a bureaucrat class and the results are pitiful.

      I can’t do much without permission from some bureaucrat.

      1. I was discussing this with some (non)libertarian people. In addition to the Civil Service being an unelected, unaccountable, and practically unassailable, fourth branch of government, they are also an end run around the idea of separation of powers. Several administrative agencies have legislative, executive, and judicial powers.

        The rule of law. It was nice while it lasted.

  5. I cringe when I hear co-workers and acquaintances talk about encouraging their children and younger relatives to go into governmental service. They talk about state jobs like they’re some kind of gold ring. They go into all the awesome benefits and salary, etc., never apparently questioning the source of the money nor whether there’s any value generated by the “work” done.

    1. I am married to a Federal worker. Yeah sure, she has great pay and benefits but she does absolutely nothing all day long. When she does do “work,” it is just pushing paper.

      We’re going to give it all up though. She wants to be a SAHM and homeschool.

  6. Of course, one might rebut, when “a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism”

    One might be an idiot. Absolute despotism is an actual thing. I think it’s time to stop abusing language for the sake of hyperbole. Skepticism of AIG executives getting fat bonuses essentially paid for by taxpayers is not the same as a “lynch mob,” and regulations you don’t like duly enacted in a democratic system aren’t the same as absolute despotism.

    1. That is right Tony, keep living in denial. Keep pretending that DOJ isn’t out of control, keep pretending the IRS isn’t a political tool of the White House, keep pretending there is nothing wrong with the bureaucracy or that our legal system isn’t out of control. Keep denying the problem while in the real world more and more people lose faith in government.

      Good luck selling government as the total solution to every problem to a population that no longer believes in or trusts government and while being the party that will defend the indefensible when the subject is government employees and abuse of power. Have fun.

    2. Being spied on at will, imprisoned for possessing a plant, murdered without trial, indefinitely imprisoned without trial, and forced to purchase a product are all forms of despotism.

    3. Tony!

      Ah, Tony erects the strawman in an effort to deflect. The discussion is about federal employees. Focus. Snap, snap.

      And….

      Psh!

      1. Hey Beavis. He said “erect.” Hehehehehehehehe

    4. Skepticism of AIG executives getting fat bonuses essentially paid for by taxpayers

      But Tony w/o spaces, I thought your lord and master, Emperor Barry I, said that not only did AIG pay back its bailout, but that the Treasury made a profit off of it.

      Or is profit only good when the government does it?

      1. Was it a better investment than using the money to pay down part of the debt? I think we lost money on the deal because of the borrowing costs.

    5. The absolute Despotism that inspired those words was less onerous than what we have today.

  7. Why govern by consent when you’ve got firepower?

    1. The social contract comes out of the barrel of a gun. __Mao Tse Locke

      1. I’m picturing one of those cartoon guns with a flag that unfurls out of the barrel when the trigger is pulled, reading, “FYTW.”

  8. Of course, one might rebut, when “a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism,” people might begin to chafe a bit not just at the institution that harasses them, but at the actual people who seem willing to conduct the harassment in return for steady paychecks and benefits funded by the folks on the receiving end.

    Unfortunately, those who don’t feel harassed don’t really give a shit about those who are. Majority rule, worshiped and glorified as if it is the epitome of freedom, is really just a mechanism by which persecution of the few by the many is rationalized. Human nature is such that people will always need someone to hate. In the U.S. we have institutionalized persecution of people by race, gender, and sexual orientation. We also target people when they do things we don’t want them to do, such as get high, sell sex, gamble, etc. Generally speaking, democrats hate republicans and particular large corporations (like Walmart). Republicans hate democrats, immigrants, racial minorities, and people who don’t like having god crammed down their throat.*

    * Don’t let it fool you, though. Democrats and republicans have more in common than they do differences.

    1. What’s that saying? See or hear no evil? Not my problem and since I don’t see it, you’re an extreme, evil, teabaggin’g racist paid for by the Koch brothers.

  9. Really, you’re going to go with a DoI quote for this and it’s *not* “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance” ?

  10. Adams and Infeld worry that “Eroding respect for federal service is not a trivial matter. Essential compliance with laws and regulations is built on trust in the fair, responsible implementation of those laws and regulations.” force

    fixed.

    1. Why bother with consent when you’ve got a gang of thugs at your beck and call?

  11. What stupid morons. Federal workers are more trustworthy than those that work for private companies. Why because federal workers believe in something better than themselves. They are often under paid compared to private workers.

    1. That’s a joke, right?

      1. It has to be since the low pay make them apathetic and unmotivated, draining whatever independant drive the thick slabs of bureaucracy hasn’t done in already,

  12. What stupid morons. Federal workers are more trustworthy than those that work for private companies. Why because federal workers believe in something better than themselves. They are often under paid compared to private workers.

    1. [Citation needed]

      1. It’s true if you’re a lawyer or scientist, but your typical bureaucrat makes quite a bit more than a comparable cubicle jockey.

        http://www.cbo.gov/publication/42921

    2. So you’re saying private sector employees work for money and federal workers work for something else? Well if they really believe in something better than themselves then why do they need raises or benefits? Why shouldn’t they be even more underpaid? After all they are working for something better.

      1. Intentions trump results.

    3. So, Tiffany, which federal agency do you work for?

    4. I guess you’ll be back here in 4 hours when your lunch hour is over

  13. Don’t forget about the fine folks in the TSA. It’s hard work feeling up grandmothers, stealing electronics from luggage, confiscating water bottles, breaking colostomy bags, and treating the people paying the bills with contempt while failing to catch any real weapons.

  14. So what is it that’s breaking reasonable?

  15. State and municipal jobs are where the real money is.

    1. Yup – and the power.

      My landlord was telling me he got a notice from the city not only informing him that the flowers under my sign (which was approved by the city under the condition he plant flowers under it) were dead and that he was to choose from a list approved from the municipality.

      Recap. THEY tell you what flowers to buy.

      Because.

      Fuck you we say so.

      Bureaucrats micromanage business. And putzes like Palin and Tony think there’s ‘free enterprise.’

      Trust me. We’re NOWHERE near a free enterprise system.

      I would love for someone to do an exercise whereby they ask business owners what they would do if there was no government intervention and match it to what the government compels them to do.

      I bet the difference would shock even the most committed of statist sock puppets.

      1. Everyone is free to ask permission and take orders! What more to you want?

        1. Assume the position.

          The candidate running for the party that wants to change the mentality tried to play the ‘you gotta understand their perspective’ angle. I almost told him to fuck off. I don’t have to understand irrational behavior from bureaucrats.

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