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Government rates poorly in new polls

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

In case you missed them over the holiday weekend, two new national surveys present snapshots of an American public seemingly confused and contradicting itself regarding the size and scope of the federal government.

Colleagues Jon Cohen and Dan Balz on Sunday reviewed the top line highlights of a new poll by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University. The survey found Americans have a more negative view of government today than a decade ago and believe it focuses on the wrong things.

Despite the negativity, Americans still support the government's work on national defense, health care and fighting poverty, often at levels similar to a decade ago. Most also want their lawmakers to fight for more government spending to create jobs.

Dive a little deeper into the survey, however, and there's plenty that will bring pause to public servants. For example:

-- More than four in 10 respondents to The Post poll give the government a D or F. Just a quarter scored the government an A or B.

-- Although 82 percent believe the federal government has "a lot" or "some" impact on their daily lives, 52 percent think that's a bad thing. (Fifty-eight percent of Democrats think it's focused on the right things, while 80 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of independents think it's focused on bad things.)

-- Forty-four percent of respondents believe the government has helped them or their family; 54 percent believe it hasn't.

-- Most Americans appear to have little personal connection to the federal government. When asked, 55 percent of respondents think of it more as "the government" as opposed to 44 percent who think it's "our government." (A majority of Republicans and independents consider it "the government,"" while a majority of Democrats think it's "ours.")

-- Americans are also unhappy customers: 55 percent of respondents believe they get less value from the government than what they pay in taxes, compared to 37 percent who feel they get the right amount. Only 7 percent believe they get more value than they pay for in taxes.

Almost eight in 10 people believe it is possible for the government to run well and, although most believe the government is invasive, they want to see it more involved in protecting the environment, increasing access to health care, cutting poverty, setting educational standards, fighting terrorism and regulating gun ownership.

A poll published Monday by USA Today and Gallup reached similar conclusions: Six in 10 Americans believe the government has too much power, and 58 percent said it's doing too many things that should be left to individuals or businesses. Based on the questions asked, the poll split respondents into five groups with distinct opinions of government:

1.) The 'Keep it small' group: They don't want the government to regulate the free market or morality. They trust private enterprise and oppose President Obama, and many are tea party supporters. They're mostly wealthy, white and the very conservative.

2.) Morality first: They're mostly Republican, don't endorse a large federal role in addressing income disparities, but favor federal action to uphold morals and traditional values.

3.) The mushy middle: They split more evenly between the ideas of Republicans and Democrats.

4.) Obama liberals: They want government to take a big role in addressing economic disparities and a small role in upholding morals. They're the most suspicious of businesses, and they're the youngest respondents.

5.) The bigger the better: They're most likely to trust government and endorse its work to uphold morality and address income inequalities. This is the poorest and most racially and ethnically diverse group.

The Post/Kaiser/Harvard poll interviewed 2,054 adults between Sept. 22 and Oct. 3 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. USA Today and Gallup surveyed 1,019 adults between Sept. 13 and 16, and the poll has a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Question of the Week: Picking up on something we started Monday -- should federal workers have Columbus Day off? What other person/event deserves to be a federal holiday, if any? E-mail your answers to federalworker@washpost.com. Please include your full name and hometown and we may use your answers in Friday's Post.

Cabinet and Staff News: President Obama says "crumbling infrastructure" hindering growth. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urges military cooperation with China. An Obama nominee wins the Nobel Prize for Economics.

AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT:
USDA building damaged by fire closed Tuesday: The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service center in Riverdale, Md., will be closed because of a small electrical fire at the site over the weekend.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
Despite Army efforts, soldier suicides continue: 20 soldiers connected to Fort Hood are believed to have committed suicide this year.

Board of Elections gaffe may nullify New York soldiers' overseas absentee ballots: There are approximately 50,000 New York City residents serving overseas -- and 320,000 statewide.

EDUCATION DEPARTMENT:
Report: College dropouts cost taxpayers billions: The federal government spent $1.5 billion and states spent $1.4 billion on grants for students who didn't start their sophomore years.

INTERIOR DEPARTMENT:
Inspectors rarely surprised oil rigs: Surprise inspections dwindled to about three a year over the past decade, even as exploratory drilling far from shore increased.

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS:
Families, veterans call operation name on Arlington headstones propaganda move: Families and veterans groups say the slogans are little more than propaganda tactics, ways for politicians and the Pentagon to sanitize the wars and drum up public support.

New ad campaign targets veterans: The Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign Monday designed to encourage more military veterans to enroll for government benefits and services.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | October 12, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Public Service  
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Next: NASA contractors want retraction from Justice Dept.

Comments

Just another confirmation of the American idiocracy. Until Americans are better educated on civics and government, they will continue to demonize government while basking in it's benefits.

Improve education or dissolve the union.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | October 12, 2010 7:55 AM | Report abuse

I like medical care.

I don't like doctors who negligently kill patients.

I know this baffles government bureaucrats.

Who see no link between their job description and actual good performance.

Posted by: drjcarlucci | October 12, 2010 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Gee, no surprise. Liberal democrats are destroying this country, including the racist president we currently have. When is his next vacation anyways?

Posted by: rollmonte | October 12, 2010 8:03 AM | Report abuse

If you want a visualization of what negativity looks like in America, simply go online and look at the format of the Web Page of the Washington Post, or any other leading national news site. And instead, if you want a visualization of what a positive outlook look like in comparison, go to India's NDTV.com website, and simply evaluate the layout as you would a work of art at the National Gallery, and then tell me what we, the artists, were thinking at the time of it's creation. I dare you.

Posted by: jralger | October 12, 2010 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Polls seem to never ask the right questions--they are all general and not specific. Examples: Do you wish to go to the Social Security office and stop your Medicare coverage and Social Security checks because you believe in small government and the individual should look after themselves?; Do you want large corporate farms not to be checked for food safety--corporate egg farms,peanut butter companies, meat packers--look out for yourselves, the government is too big.; Do you want your children and grandchildren to breathe dirty air and develop asthma and other diseases and do away with the Environmental protection agency;do you want your local government to maintain interstate highways you use to take those nice trips, or the main U.S. highways through many towns; do you want the National Parks to be privatized and they can charge whatever they want when you visit them; do you want prisons to be privatized as in many in Arizona where the inmates easily escaped and killed two innocent people; do you want your airways unregulated so planes are having terrible accidents;do you want Medicare privatized and seniors given a government voucher to purchase from a private insurer--how much to you suppose the insurer will charge seniors with health problems and will they take you at all; do you want Social Security privatized so your insurance for disability is canceled, or survivors get no checks for their children if a spouse dies; and your insurance money in SS is given to Wall street to play with as they will and did in the meltdown. And the list goes on. Oh, you will say those things are too specific--can't have too much information about what will really happen with smaller government. The American people are the most uninformed in the world and the so called liberal media--a Republican invention--keeps them uninformed.

Posted by: jeand1 | October 12, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Americans do not like Gov't except when there is a tragedy like Katrina then expect gov't to be there for them. Yes,Americans do not like Gov't except when it comes to their Medicare and Social security entitlement programs. Yes,America does not like Gov't except when when they have been laid off in their job and they need unemployment Insurance ...Yes,America does not like Gov't.....

Posted by: johnnyk1 | October 12, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Bin Laden and al Qaeda don't have to attack America to destroy it. They have the conservatards doing the job for them.

Posted by: Garak | October 12, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

You know what I don't like? I detest the loud mouth extremists, hypocritical hate mongers who seem to garner the most news coverage; I dislike the MSM for failing to do its job by calling these idiots to the carpet for their stupidity and for giving the loudmouths a platform in the first place (for example, why is almost everything that Rush says covered by the media---FYI people, this idiot is not news!); I hate the fact that folks have been talking about the 2012 Presidential Election--hey folks, we have not gotten ourselves out of this recession!; I hate our spineless Congessional leaders (of both parties) who are playing junk politics as usual with the country's future...I live on the coast, I have an education from an "elite" institution and guess what? I am an American!
But, alas, no one called to talk to me.

Posted by: mykaladrian | October 12, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse


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Posted by: itkonlyyou316 | October 12, 2010 9:03 AM | Report abuse

jeand1, johnny1, Garak and my kaladrian have all analyzed and commented on the current situation brilliantly.

We Americans are spoiled brats. We are like teenagers who hate the parents who are providing for them, but still demand designer clothes, the latest electronics and $200 shoes. They are outraged if the parents suggest they get a job to help pay for the goodies.

We want the government services that we like but don't want to pay for them and many of us rant about how awful government is. Like I said, spoiled brats.

Posted by: colton | October 12, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

It is no wonder that Americans, of all political perspectives, no longer trust the government. In 1999 the U.S. congress sold our economic souls to Wall Street. S-900, the 1999 Financial Services Modernization Act, caused the collapse of the U.S. economy by repealing Glass-Steagall, which enabled "too big to fail" and it loosened derivatives rules allowing the destruction of the home mortgage market. The bankers running the Clinton administration ardently supported this rape of America.

At the same time S-900 eviscerated the Community Reinvestment Bank.

In the years after its passage congress and the Bush administration abdicated its oversight responsibility allowing de-facto deregulation of Wall Street to the point of financial anarchy that eviscerated the value of American households and small business.

A list of 221 still sitting members of congress who voted for the 1999 Financial Services Modernization Act can be found at:
http://home.ptd.net/~aahpat/aandc/congcrash.html

Among those who voted for S-900 are these candidates for governor around the country:

Sen. Sam Brownback - KS
Rep. Neil Abercrombie - HI
former Rep. John R. Kasich - OH
Bill McCollum - FL
Lincoln Chafee - RI
Nathan Deal - GA

Posted by: aahpat | October 12, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse


is a very good!

http://0845.com/4pC

Posted by: itkonlyyou316 | October 12, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

It is also important to accurately interpret the poll results.

For example, on the "gun regulation" question, 66% of those polled thought the federal government's gun control involvement should stay the same or be rolled back. Only 32% thought there should be "more" involvement.

Those numbers seem to contradict O'Keefe's statement that poll takers "want to see (the fed. government) more involved in . . . regulating gun ownership." The only way to get that answer is to interpret "more" and "the same" as simply "more."

Posted by: k_romulus | October 12, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

But, Why is The Anti-Christ Obama Destroying America. If you truly want to know what is going on; Then you will have to accept these things as the TRUTH. Once you understand the following things; All things will be understood. So I tell you Obama is Satan on Earth, Lawless One, or what ever else you want to call this Demonic Figure. His words describe him, He is a False Hope, If you listen to him you will love him. He carries a Bow without an Arrow. He will conquer all through his speech, his false hoods will capture all who sit and listen to him.
2 Thessalonians 2:11-12
11And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Posted by: makom | October 12, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Great, constructive comment, makom. Instead of joining those who make their points by calling the president a Socialist, Nazi, Communist, tyrant, racist etc., you choose Anti-Christ, Satan on Earth, Lawless One, Demonic Figure etc.

People like you make me want to bang my head on my desk until I can't feel anymore.

Posted by: colton | October 12, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Has anyone noticed this proliferation of polls all seemingly designed and structured to make the case that the single biggest cause of all of the world's problems is the federal government of the United States? The mainstream media, the mainstream pollsters, the mainstream everything this year has apparently colluded and organized themselves into one central theme--the federal government is evil and the wonderful, courage soldiers of free market capitalism must be defended against this vast evil entity.

Don't kid yourselves folks. These polls have their own selfish, ulterior motives. These motives are about to be explored in a new theory being posited in an upcoming TIME essay that says the single biggest gap in America is not the gap between the haves and have nots but between those trying to solve the problems we have and those who benefit from the continuation of the status quo. And I am not just talking about the business and financial interests here but the people who inhabit the mainstream media, the alternative media, the blogs, the think tanks, the political action committees, the political pundit class, the fund raising apparatus in both political parties and the pollsters who did this poll and a near Blitzkreig of similar polls all designed to muddy the lines between the government and its people.

This theory hold that their is a present a vast army of dependents--mostly involved in media activities of all stripes but also a numberless group of political activists on both fringes of the two main political parties, who benefit from the conflict we see in our society today and will resist any attempts to ameliorate that conflict. These groups, including the mainstream and alternative media, have become so dependent on this conflict, this perpetual bubble and fizz, that they have become incentivized to not only nourish and maintain it but also to invent it where it does not exist.

Posted by: jaxas70 | October 12, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Ah, Ed can't you write an artcile that goes above 6th grade? People do not like a disfunctional govt. that lies and doesn't perform or represent. They 'we' want honesty, fairness and tranaprency like Holland or Beliguim where folks work hard get great benefits and don't invade other countries in lies and force large debts to dismanlte social safty insurance programs.
Get a clue before you write ED!

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Posted by: itkonlyyou316 | October 12, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

5.) The bigger the better: They're most likely to trust government and endorse its work to uphold morality and address income inequalities. This is the poorest and most racially and ethnically diverse group

These are Obama's people. They don't pay any taxes and contribute nothing to society. They love the government because they get everything for free on our dime.

Posted by: bnichols6 | October 12, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: budonging | October 12, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

This is Biblical Vishion of the past from the Bible. The AntiChrist would would be from the Middle East Muslim. An our President last name is Obama. My Children, it is the last hour; so now many antichrists have appeared. Thus we know this is the last hour. God hears our grummling as many hear on Earth begging God to come forth. He will take what elite rich stole an give it back to us. Let those who lived a rich life. Now they will be the new poor an God wants them suffer just like we we are now. Held down by the rich against the poor.

Posted by: JWTX | October 12, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Contradictory? Hardly. The polls say that Americans value the federal government and care for certain programs, but do not think and trust the federal government to fulfill on their promises and capable of doing those programs or any programs well.

It's not so much a debate about national priorities, but how the government operates. The poll attacks the nationalized programs incapable of knowing and meeting individual and local needs, the endless layers of government bureaucracy, the out of control spending, the incredible sense of entitlement, the wildly lavish salaries and benefits, the impact of appointing countless undersecretaries and assistant secretaries, the complicated process, the lack of concern to explain the process, the Washington Monument syndrome lies, the partisanship, the quest for power and control, the basic lack of concern for the rest of the country.

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Posted by: budonging | October 12, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I think people have a negative view of government because of their negative views of the politacians who run government. Most of them have been in office way too long. How can you respect Congress a government that has denied cost of living adjustment for 2 years for social security recipients but nevertheless vote themselves raises every year? If they need the raises for their "cost of living" then what makes SS recipients different from them? We don't make $178,000 a year plus generous perks.

Posted by: lddoyle2002 | October 12, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Democrats are the party of government. So they give us John Kerry who compered US troops in Iraq to Nazis. Dick Durbin compared them to the soldiers of Pol Pot. Powerful Barney Frank struts around like a gamecock but denies his role in creating the crash. Barbara Boxer never met a spending bill she didn't like. Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd, Christopher Dodd and J. Biden had seats in congress so long that Democrats talk about "the Kennedy seat" and "the Byrd seat," forgetting that politicians are servants of the people. The arrogrance of characters like these give the congress not only a bad reputation but a bad smell.

Posted by: mhr614 | October 12, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

A simple question would suffice in place of the many -

Would America be America without the Government? Pick any other scenario of governance: anarchy, monarchy, or whatever.

Posted by: kishorgala | October 12, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

It is a love-hate relationship.

The American voter likes the Government, but he does not like it. He kicks politicians out, but he elects them. He kicks Republicans out and elects Democrats, then he kicks the Democrats out and elects Republicans. He is brainwashed one way and then the other way. The poor thing is not able to decide on his own. A majority of them, anyway.

And the magic wand still eludes him. The problems do not disappear overnight. There is no instant gratification that he has come to expect. There is no happily living hereafter.

This will continue. And that is a Guarantee.

Posted by: kishorgala | October 12, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Curing the Mortgage Mess


http://curingthemortgagemess.blogspot.com/2010/10/dynamics-of-american-ingenuity.html

Posted by: shmclinton | October 12, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Kind of like those stats in "Waiting for Superman" as we have declined in America our confidence has risen. When 54% of citizens don't think that the government has helped them we know we have a serious education problem. This is not the 1600s folks. Those roads, telecommunications, and firehouses didn't build themselves.

We benefit everyday from the investments that those before us made. No man is an island.

Posted by: theobserver4 | October 12, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

"The survey found Americans have a more negative view of government today than a decade ago and believe it focuses on the wrong things."
The GOP strategy of wrecking government and the declaring "Look we told you all along it wouldn't work" is succeeding.

Posted by: jbowen431 | October 12, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Many comment on social programs like social security and medicare.Relative to the tea party types demanding fiscal responsibility.We have promised the old taken their money and the old have conduced their lives accordingly,ie retirement plans.Sadly they have realized it is 'unsustainable' for their children as designed.That is the point.We were sold a pyramid plan,to compound the problem we have expanded the payouts and misrepresented the future cost,not to mention the disinformation every election season thanks to AARP a marketing firm first, a wing of the democratic party second.Tack on the Education department in similar shape since its federal mandate where has k-12 ended as of today another wing of the democratic party.The third rail of government the Media,who by silence has protected the programs at the expense of the public.Who really got the short end of the stick the poor of every stripe,those who paid for it will only suffer debt, what happens to the duped and abused?

Posted by: jmounday | October 12, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Many comment on social programs like social security and medicare.Relative to the tea party types demanding fiscal responsibility.We have promised the old taken their money and the old have conduced their lives accordingly,ie retirement plans.Sadly they have realized it is 'unsustainable' for their children as designed.That is the point.We were sold a pyramid plan,to compound the problem we have expanded the payouts and misrepresented the future cost,not to mention the disinformation every election season thanks to AARP a marketing firm first, a wing of the democratic party second.Tack on the Education department in similar shape since its federal mandate where has k-12 ended as of today another wing of the democratic party.The third rail of government the Media,who by silence has protected the programs at the expense of the public.Who really got the short end of the stick the poor of every stripe,those who paid for it will only suffer debt, what happens to the duped and abused?

Posted by: jmounday

***************************************************************************************************

The claim that Medicare or S.S. are unsustainable is absolute bunk. S.S. is STILL RUNNING A SURPLUS and is scheduled to continue to do so for another 20 years. Medicare is a tougher situation, but again there's been graft and kicking the can down the road to get it to the point that it's actually scary.

So if anyone should have to give up benefits it's the boomers who f'ed this country up beyond recognition and continue to actively do so. They're a classic case of I got mine and screw the rest of you.

Posted by: theobserver4 | October 12, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Blue state secession now! I'm not kidding!

Liberals and conservatives are wasting too much time and money bashing each other in Washington and elsewhere! We're in one of the worst recessions we've ever had and it's going to get worse once the Republicans sweep the midterms in three weeks. Liberals and conservatives hate each other so passionately that they couldn't possibly meet halfway on anything. Meanwhile, the whole country is collapsing under the weight of trillions in debt, millions of Americans are living in the streets while millions more illegal immigrants are taking their jobs, not to mention the jobs we lost to China. The Republicans are lucky no one even realizes that letting illegal immigrants into the country was their idea. Liberals need to realize that they are only exacerbating the crisis by allowing illegals to stay and increasing taxes to pay for the minimal welfare that homeless Americans are getting.

No, let's just split up the country and send the illegals home. The liberals can take the northeast and the west coast, the conservatives can have the south from Florida out to Arizona and the moderates can have the upper plains from Wisconsin out to Montana and Wyoming. Everybody is in their rightful place, no need to fight another civil war and we'll all live happily ever after.

Why prolong a failed marriage? What are we holding on to?

Posted by: manicdrummer | October 12, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Hmm, what has the Fed gov't done FOR me as opposed to AGAINST me in the last 30 years.

The balance sheet if firmly in the AGAINST column...

Posted by: illogicbuster | October 12, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

The "our money" or who's money do they think it is?" argument shows a basic ignorance of the both the Constitution and economics. Section 8 explicitly says it is a power of Congress "To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof". The federal government is therefore fulfilling it's obligation by creating ("coining") money and ensuring it has value. If it stops then our economic system will stop. Individuals don't "make money". They create value by working and when they work the government can increase the money supply to match and "regulate the value" created. If the money continues to circulate the value will be maintained and increase. If some hoard the money or gain it by non productive methods the government can tax some back (Section 8 of Constitution and 16th Amendment) and recirculate it instead of printing more which also helps to maintain its value.

If you think "it's your money" and the government shouldn't do this you are ignorant. This is the governments job. If you want the value of money to be maintained then insist that government doesn't print or tax money for wasteful wars and instead tax heavily non productive economic activities like speculative short term investment and support activities that increase the real wealth of our country and increase the value of American money such as investments in infrastructure health and education.

Posted by: markpastern | October 12, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

As long as the American consumer demands low prices, the outcome will be even lower wages. Do the math. Competing with third world labor wages and government subsidized manufacturers is not conducive to a prosperous America. So obvious only the hubristic can't see it; unfortunately that includes most American consumers and their "MY MONEY" (said in a tone that says I'm not grateful for the opportunities that let me make it.)

Posted by: callemlikeicm | October 12, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

After 20 years of "dining at the public trough*" I have decided one thing: Americans regard government like they regard dentists - they hate the dentist until a tooth hurts.

(* As accused by a geriatric busily spending his Social Security)

Posted by: samps | October 12, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

After 20 years of "dining at the public trough*" I have decided one thing: Americans regard government like they regard dentists - they hate the dentist until a tooth hurts.

(* As accused by a geriatric busily spending his Social Security)

Posted by: samps | October 12, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Looking at the government today,it looks like we are enslaved for the government.

Posted by: white640786 | October 12, 2010 11:25 PM | Report abuse

I have asked this question before: When polls or blogs are created to ask any question that pertains to "the federal government", just who does those Americans see/imagine? Do they imagine our politicians? Do they imagine cabinet members? Do they imagine the President? Do they imagine the average joe federal worker? This is very important because in part to get to the root of where people draw conclusions, you must first see WHOM they are concluding about.

Posted by: IGotLotsToSay | October 13, 2010 4:47 AM | Report abuse

I have asked this question before: When polls or blogs are created to ask any question that pertains to "the federal government", just who do those Americans see/imagine? Do they imagine our politicians (congressmen or senators)? Do they imagine cabinet members? Do they see leaders of our large agencies? Do they imagine the President? Do they imagine the average joe federal worker? This is very important because in part to get to the root of where people draw conclusions, you must first see WHOM they are concluding about.

Posted by: IGotLotsToSay | October 13, 2010 4:48 AM | Report abuse

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