Washington, D.C.— A strong majority of Americans value highly the services provided by the government workforce and believe the wealthy in the country should pay their fair share before sharp cuts are made in federal agency resources and in the number of employees providing those services. These are among the key findings of a survey conducted for the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) by the polling firm Ipsos Public Affairs.
“The results strongly support the belief that government should invest more in resources and manpower for the important work federal employees do every day,” said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley. “Regardless of party affiliation, respondents believe in the importance of adequate resources and manpower for vital public services and the need for the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share to retain those services.”
The survey was conducted for NTEU in advance of a media effort designed to provide facts to address a variety of myths that adversely impact federal agencies and their employees in serious ways, both short-term and long.
President Kelley noted that substantial numbers of survey respondents, from both major political parties and across demographic lines, supported by majorities between 58 and 86 percent providing more resources and manpower for such government activities as ensuring the safety of food and medical devices, providing border security and veterans assistance, and making sure that nuclear plants and materials are safe and secure.
“Some political rhetoric would have you believe that Americans today have an ‘austerity at any cost’ view of the federal budget,” the NTEU leader said. “The fact is that most Americans, when asked about specific services, believe the government should invest more in providing such services.”
She added: “It is clear that a super-majority of Americans understand and value the work carried out by federal employees and believe in a balanced approach to federal budgeting.”
On that question, more than three in four of the 1,000 survey respondents said they believe that wealthy Americans should pay their fair share toward deficit reduction and economic recovery—and two-thirds said that Congress should raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans before cutting funding for public services.
At the same time, an overwhelming majority—84 percent—agreed with the idea that the federal government should hire the most highly-qualified persons to fill jobs.
Along with debunking the myth of cutting federal spending at any cost, President Kelley set the record straight on these points:
• Myth: The federal workforce is larger on a per-capita basis than at any time in the nation’s history.
o Fact: The federal workforce has declined, on a per-capita basis, from one employee for every 78 U.S. residents in 1953 to one employee for every 147 residents in 2009.
• Myth: The vast majority of federal employees are based in Washington, D.C.
o Fact: About 85 of percent federal employees work in other cities and towns across the nation.
• Myth: Most federal workers are so-called ‘paper-pushers’.
o Fact: The federal workforce is the most highly-educated in the nation, with professionals in virtually every discipline.
• Myth: Federal workers have not contributed their fair share to deficit reduction.
o Fact: Federal employees have contributed $60 billion over 10 years toward deficit reduction through a two-year pay freeze, and another $15 billion in pension contribution increases.
• Myth: Cuts in the federal workforce would have no adverse impact on Americans.
o Fact: Federal workforce cuts will hurt American families through fewer food inspections, decreased monitoring of air and water, and fewer people protecting consumers in the financial markets, just to name a few.
“Simply stated, each of these is a myth without a grain of truth to it,” the NTEU leader said.
“These myths often are driven by political ideology, and when they take hold, they lead to bad public policy decisions,” Kelley said. “This survey shows the public understands that the federal workforce makes meaningful contributions to our nation every day, and that these contributions impact in positive ways their life, the lives of their family members, and the life of their community.”
As the largest independent federal union, NTEU represents 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.