Reagan Administration officials out to tame Disneyland East (a.k.a. Washington, D.C.) may be missing a political point that many critics of the Washington bureacuracy tend to overlook.
That point is that the bureaucrats are out there, not here. In fact 87 of every 100 of the feds that some folks so love to kick around live in the real world outside of D.C. and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs.
Those "real" feds live (and vote) in places like California (260,000 of them); Texas and New York (each with about 130,000), and in Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Washington, Alabama, and Ohio. And other places congressmen get elected to represent.
So when an administration (Carter, Reagan, whichever) boots a Washington-based fed in the rump, some people in Kalamazoo and Kentucky get it too.
All this is by way of saying that Washington area feds aren't alone in feeling angry, frightened and double-crossed by administration plans to change their retirement system and revise rules determing who gets pay raises, promotions and job security.
Interior Department workers in Saipan don't like the changes. State Department aides in Frankfurt and London don't like the proposed changes. Even some Secret Service personnel--and nobody is more loyal to the president--think the boss is being unfair to them.
On April 17, we asked readers to vote on a variety of proposed changes. We cut off the vote seven days later.
We asked people in or out of government if they thought the changes were fair, whether they liked them or not, whether they would work, whether they would come into government if they had it to do over again.
We're still counting the ballots. More than 40,000 of them. So far feds (96 percent of the people responding said they worked, or once worked for the government) are overwhelmingly opposed to the retirement change, split on supporting the concept of counting performance over seniority, but unanimous in saying such a system wouldn't work in their office. We will give you a final tally here next week.
Most of the responses came from the Washington area. The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service did not put that column out on the wire, so it did not appear in other cities. But a lot of people got the word anyhow.
As a result, we got votes from Italy, England, Colombia, Germany and the Mariana Islands. The overseas feds who sent them took an even harder line than most of their Washington colleagues.
Almost all of the overseas respondents said this administration is treating them much worse than the Carter administration ever did.
We also got votes from Baltimore (lots) and Sparta, N.C.; New Orleans; Chicago; Pittsburgh; Oaklawn, Ill., and Denver. The postmarks are fascinating: Alameda; Napoleonville, La.; Sioux City; Anchorage; Dayton; Moses Lake, Wash.; Northfield, Minn.; Spokane; Oklahoma City; Yazoo City, Miss., and Dodge City. Also from Detroit; Aurora, Ill.; Sacramento and Altoona. And 131 other towns and cities as well.
Unlike their Washington colleagues, most of the out-of-town feds said they would not support a fairly administered system that ranked performance over seniority. A majority of Washington area voters said they would support such a system if it were run fairly, although most said they did not think it would be.
Judging from the results of our poll, federal workers outside of Washington think even less of the president's proposals than folks inside the Beltway. And folks inside the Beltway hate the changes.
That out-of-town reaction isn't lost on members of Congress who are hearing from feds in their districts. That may be why nobody on Capitol Hill is rushing to introduce the retirement proposals, and why important people--Democrats in the House and Republicans in the Senate--are planning to squash pending changes in RIF rules and within-grade pay raise requirements before they get off the ground.