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Stop Blaming Federal Workers; Commentary With Max Stier

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A recent Washington Post-ABC News national telephone poll found that 67 percent of Americans are either dissatisfied or angry with how government is working.

That’s the highest negative score in 16 years.

As commentator Max Stier notes, many people are directing that anger at the federal government and by extension, Washington, D.C.

Stier is president and CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. Partnership for Public Service

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There are many reasons for the dissatisfaction and anger...partisan gridlock in Congress, high unemployment, record budget deficits, Wall Street bailouts.

But unfortunately, some politicians, activists and commentators have been fueling the public unease and directing the anger towards our public servants.

These are our friends and neighbors in Washington, Maryland and Virginia - more than 300,000 of the nation’s federal civil servants - the very people on the frontlines guarding our national security, caring for our veterans, protecting the environment and providing important services to the American people.

The stereotypes come all too easy:

·The federal workforce is too big and should be cut to save money;

·Federal workers are overpaid and make far more than people in the private-sector; and

·Feds are bureaucratic, pencil-pushers.

To be certain, the federal government has its faults, but facts matter.

Take the size of the civil service. The number of full-time federal civilian workers is expected to be at 2.1 million this year. That’s fewer workers than in 1967, and today, we have 107 million more Americans.

Cutting federal workers to save money sounds like an easy fix. But history has shown that workforce reductions often undermine the ability of federal agencies to deliver services and protect the public.

Then there are federal salaries.

Direct comparisons show most professionals in government make less than their private-sector counterparts. And the federal workforce is older, more educated and has fewer minimum wage jobs than the private-sector, making aggregate pay comparisons across the sectors misleading.

Another frequent refrain centers on complaints the government is bureaucratic and not innovative.

Yes, there is red tape, but there are many amazing stories of creative federal workers and programs.

There’s Eileen Harrington, a D.C. resident, who created the National Do Not Call Registry to stop annoying telemarketing calls for 200 million Americans.

Thomas Waldmann’s cutting edge discoveries at NIH in Bethesda have led to treatments for previously fatal forms of leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple sclerosis.

Don Burke and Sean Dennehy, both from our region, broke down barriers at the CIA in Langley, developing a Wikipedia-like clearinghouse for intelligence sharing.

Caricatures of our federal workers and attacks on government have been recurring themes in American history, but our public servants are vital to the nation’s health, welfare and security. And it’s worth reminding folks that for us in the D.C. area, the dedicated public servants being denigrated are our friends and neighbors.

I’m Max Stier .


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