The public thinks government stinks.
When Gallup asked more than 1,000 people for their views on 25 industries in August, Uncle Sam’s shop claimed the 24th slot, one step above the oil and gas industry and just below banking.
Sam’s 23 percent positive rating this year is six percentage points higher than last year, which was the worst rating on record. Overall, “the change since 2003 has been substantial,” Gallup said, “with a drop in positive ratings of 18 percentage points and a rise in negative ratings of 25 points.”
Matthew Biggs, legislative director of the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, which represents federal employees, blamed the low rating on “how effective the Republican propaganda machine has been in attacking federal employees.”
Yet even among Democrats, negative views of the government beat out positive views, 41 percent to 35 percent. It was lopsided among Republicans, 85 percent negative to 7 percent positive, and it wasn’t close among independents, 56 percent to 25 percent.
Gallup said it’s not clear how perception of government will affect this year’s political campaigns: “The Republicans have an edge in voter sympathy with their criticism of government in general, it would appear, although the fact that Romney’s new running mate [Rep. Paul Ryan]is himself a sitting member of Congress could in theory negate some of that advantage.”
Kirsten Kukowski, press secretary of the Republican National Committee, tied the low rating to government waste and deficits. “It’s clear our country needs to get control of our government spending,” she said.
Campaign to shape views
Concerns like those reflected in the Gallup Poll led a coalition of federal employee groups to organize a campaign designed to improve the visibility and favorability of the workforce.
The Federal-Postal Coalition formed the “America Counts on Us” campaign to help shape public and official views about the nearly 5 million active and retired employees the coalition says its 30 organizations represent.
Those employees and retirees want to ward off additional attacks on their pay and benefits. President Obama, for example, has proposed extending until spring a freeze on basic federal pay rates. It was originally scheduled to expire in December. And House Republicans, led by vice presidential candidate Ryan, have voted to extend the freeze until 2015.
“Americans do not want to forfeit the high-quality work done by federal employees on their behalf, and they shouldn’t have to,” said Bruce Moyer, chairman of the Federal-Postal Coalition. “Yet, these services are placed in jeopardy each time an elected official threatens the pay and benefits of federal and postal workers.”
Every billion counts
As we blogged in the Federal Eye on Tuesday, a few billion bucks might not be big money in Uncle Sam’s piggy bank, but when you run the kind of deficits he does, every billion counts.