A rather instructive NPR article tries to raise sympathies for the plight of US federal government workers in 2013:
There are reasons for federal employees to be unhappy. Thanks to sequestration, most have taken unpaid furlough days and work for agencies that are under de facto hiring freezes. This is the first year government employees have received an across-the-board pay raise since 2010 — Obama signed an executive order Monday to bump up base pay by 1 percent.Note that it's extremely hard to fire government employees, and similarly difficult to reduce their pay and benefits. This is in marked contrast to the experience of private sector workers, who have seen a real squeeze in pay and benefits over the past five years and rising unemployment. It's also in contrast to state and local government workers, whose pension payments have grown to dominate local budgets and hence have seen their pay and/or benefits squeezed.
I can certainly understand disillusionment after a while working at certain government agencies. The EPA is one of my personal bugbears, because it's almost perfectly designed to obstruct businesses with no consideration at all for cost/benefit tradeoffs:
At EPA, for example — which saw the largest drop in employee morale among large agencies this year — the bulk of the work is devoted to supporting state environmental departments. Members of the public may or may not support its policies, but much of what EPA does is largely invisible to them.I like that weasel "may or may not". In January this year the Supreme Court took a rather dim view of the EPA's attempt to block homeowners from even contesting their direction:
The justices said the order would be read as a strong threat from a powerful agency, not a mere warning of a potential problem. "It said this is an order," observed Justice Stephen G. Breyer. Justice Antonin Scalia said the action "shows the highhandedness of the agency."The EPA was unanimously reversed by the Supreme Court on this matter, a bipartisan measure of how demented their attitude was. If I was working for the EPA and cared at all about how the public viewed my job, this would rather sting. Oddly, the authors of this article don't mention this kind of event as a cause of government employee disillusionment.
Justice Elena Kagan said it was a "strange position" for the government to insist the property owner had no right to a hearing.
Finally, of course, the truth comes out about why government employees don't just find another job and quit:
Federal employees enjoy decent pensions and generous health benefits — perks they may be loathe to give up, turning them into "golden handcuffs," Edwards says.This is not a terrible problem for a federal employee to have, considering the alternatives. Unlike a state or city employer, there's no danger of the federal government running out of money to pay the salaries and benefits of its employees any time soon. There are any number of unemployed or disposably-employed people who would love to have the problem of frozen wages, in exchange for a reasonable salary, good benefits and close to zero chance of being fired. The irony is that, to make the federal agencies better places to work, the right approach is to fire the hangers-on and under-performers - but there's no chance in hell that this is going to happen. Federal employees are stuck with Floyd Remora as long as they work there.
"They're there for the salaries and benefits," he says. "They're not there because the jobs make them happy."
I'm just curious; if federal employees were allowed to vote on their agency being mandated to fire the lowest-performing 2% of employees each year, as long as they were allowed to hire people into the vacancies despite a hiring freeze, would they go for it?