Federal employees are working under a pay freeze and facing possible reductions in their numbers. What's caused the new attention?
Why is the federal employee suddenly a scapegoat?
For the past few months, we've been hearing a litany of complaints: Federal workers are overpaid, lazy and too numerous, come the cries from some quarters.
None of these claims hold up well under scrutiny. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that federal employees are paid less than their private-sector candidates in many jobs. No credible studies really call the capabilities or dedication of federal employees into question. And whether the workforce needs to be reduced seems to be more a matter of opinion than fact.
But the current political climate holds some clues. Conservative candidates won elections last year on platforms of drastically cutting federal spending, and while federal employees don't really account for a whole lot of that, the cliche of the overpaid and incompetent bureaucrat plays well with some constituencies.
We're hopeful that, over time, the spending-cutters will find new and better-chosen targets for their efforts. Meanwhile, federal employees will endure a freeze on raises and attempts to legislate a smaller federal workforce. It's happened before, and we're confident that they'll do just fine.