Public's View of Federal Workers

October 21, 2010

A poll released this week by the Washington Post found that 52 percent of Americans think federal workers are overpaid and 49 percent said they thought federal workers work “less hard” than private sector workers. Also, 75 percent said that federal workers receive better pay and benefits than similar private sector employees. 

Post columnist Joe Davidson says the last result in particular left Office of Personnel Management director John Berry “steaming”: 
He said he was frustrated that “the Heritage and Cato misinformation campaign has obviously gained traction.” The two Washington, D.C., think tanks have produced widely discussed reports indicating that federal workers are paid too much. A “pretty prolonged misinformation campaign over the last six month leading up to this,” he said, “has worked.” 
It’s not surprising that Berry – an individual who has spent his entire career working in government – doesn’t appreciate the fact that regular Americans aren’t enthusiastic about funding generous pay and benefits for federal workers.
While federal workers have received raises in recent years, millions of private sector employees have lost their jobs or have had to take pay and benefit cuts. Joe and Jane Lunchbucket might have less money for their family, but they still have to cough up money to pay for federal raises. If Berry is steamed, many of the nation’s taxpayers are getting burnt to a crisp, as the poll suggests.
An article at underscores why Americans think the federal workforce is privileged. Berry’s OPM is “butting heads” with federal worker unions over the ridiculously bureaucratic process of firing employees. Although the article should be read in its entirety to appreciate the eye-glazing details, the fight boils down to OPM’s ability to remove workers who provide false information on official federal documents.
See this Cato essay for more on federal employee pay


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