mostly feds and retirees -- say the White House plan to cut pay and reduce pension benefits in an effort to help trim the budget would damage the civil service.

Two weeks ago we asked people what they thought of proposals to cut federal pay and change the U.S. retirement system. Did they think the cuts are necessary and helpful, even if they will be personally affected by them; or did they feel the cuts are unfair and doing more harm than good to government operations?

In four days we got more than 12,000 responses. Please, no more. The polls are closed. We are still counting and will give you the final totals as soon as possible. First returns show that feds -- and many of their private sector neighbors -- feel that civil servants are being asked to bite too much of the economic bullet.

That such a poll would produce these results isn't surprising in a civil service town. But what politicians should be aware of is the depth of feeling, the sense of betrayal, that many government workers feel. That comes through in letters many people enclosed with their ballots.

Most of the letters don't reflect the knee-jerk reaction of selfish bureaucrats trying to hang onto a gravy train. Rather they are from people, who happen to work for the government, who feel their bosses -- Congress and the president -- are about to betray them.

Here is a sampling of readers' comments:

* "What kind of survey is this? You make the same mistake as the administration . . . assuming civil servants are either for or against all proposals! Ever hear of a split ticket?

"I vote for the 5 percent pay cut and for reduced or delayed raises for active and retired persons. Regular raises were not part of my 'contract' when I signed on with Uncle Sam. Even though I don't like the idea, it is fair.

"Retirement is another matter . . . apart from the sheer stupidity of deliberately creating a geriatric set, when government needs to get rid of deadwood, increasing service time 25 percent is a breach of contract. Job security, early retirement . . . possibly a misguided desire to serve were the cornerstones of civil service when I joined 27 years ago. Certainly it wasn't salary! Layoffs and assorted abuses seemingly intended to destroy our pride in what we do have taken care of two of the three cornerstones. Here goes the last. Morale? What morale?

"While I'm about it, you aren't high on my most-admired list -- both for your lousy survey and your flip attitude toward serious issues. I don't want to sleep with the president . . . just work for him under reasonable terms."

R.G.H., in Falls Church.

* "Please remind the president, and Congress that the civil service retirement system is just that: a retirement system, not an income supplement like Social Security.

"Changing the rules in mid-stream is another broken promise . . . to those of us who kept the wheels of government rolling while politicians politic -- at our expense.

"The cuts will result in people doing only what they are supposed to do . . . no extra effort. Sick leave use (and yes, abuse) will increase. Morale and productivity will take a nose dive."

B.G.B. Front Royal.

* "Nobody wants cuts, but everybody wants a balanced budget. During 13 years of government service my pension contribution was $4,202. Since retiring I have received $14,868. Multiply that by thousands of short-term workers. The cost is unreal. People should work at least 20 years before they can retire."

Feeling Guilty in Md.