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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 12/ 6/2010

5 Myths about federal workers

By Ed O'Keefe

Our colleagues at Sunday Outlook, with the assistance of Partnership for Public Service President Max Stier, used the popular "5 Myths" feature to dispel some tall tales about the federal workforce. Here's a quick recap:

1.) Federal employees are overpaid compared with private-sector workers: "Government analyses show that federal employees make on average 24 percent less than their private-sector counterparts."

2.) The federal workforce is bigger than ever: "The workforce is now slightly smaller than it was in 1967, at the height of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, and today there are 100 million more Americans to serve."

3.) You can't fire a federal worker: "In the 2009 fiscal year, 11,275 federal employees were fired for poor performance or misconduct. ... besides those who are formally terminated, there are a sizable number of employees who voluntarily leave after they are counseled that their performance is unacceptable."

4.) Most federal workers are paper-pushing clerks: "The vast majority of federal workers hold white-collar professional, administrative and technical jobs, and aren't just college dropouts archiving triplicates of your tax return."

5.) Pay or hiring freezes would help slash the federal budget: "We cannot come close to balancing the budget simply by cutting federal staffers or their salaries."

Read the full essay and leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | December 6, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  From The Pages of The Post, Workplace Issues  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: New sick leave rules for federal workers
Next: Troops have until Dec. 18 to apply for back pay


ya, sure.

Posted by: newagent99 | December 6, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

I'm a fed. While #5 is certainly true, every bit helps. What did Obama do with all the supposed money we just made from the GM IPO? Spend it or pay down the debt?

Posted by: Jimmy371 | December 6, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Regarding #2, what is the definition of "federal workforce"?? I'll bet that doesn't take into account the hundreds of thousands of contractors we hire, instead of federal workers.

Posted by: Jimmy371 | December 6, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse


No, they're not paper pushing clerks anymore. With computers, they're solitaire-playing clerks.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | December 6, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

@ getjiggly1. I have seen your constant bashing of fed workers. You are prolly just disgruntled reject.

Thanks Ed for attempting to enlighten. But until we get the masses onbaord with these realities, the bashing and lies will continue.

But as they continue with slashing positions, cutting raises, messing with pensions... WATCH what happens in the next year or two. All I can say is that you'll be sorry. There are thousands of seasoned employees just fed up with all the bashing, led by the Caito groups and the GOP. You'll be very sorry in the end!

Posted by: darbyohara | December 6, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

The bureaucrats will rise up, and with a collective cry, go back to their naps.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | December 6, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse


When you hear that knock on your door and US Marshalls blame lazy Feds for the typos etc that led to your arrest on Possession of Cocaine w/Intent to Distribute, Attempted Murder of Federal Employee and various other charges under the RICO statutes.

Think of the next few days as a vacation and adventure. You enjoy bunking with a diverse population and even the Ritz doesn't have stainless steel toilets. How many 5 star resorts offer games during single sex shower time like pick up the bar of soap? And you can enjoy free tats!

When you get out thank Federal employees for your little vacation. Hopefully your case of mistaken ID will gets straighten out before trial. But maybe not they have to play soltaire.

They know who you are and where you live. Have a great day punk!

Posted by: lotusxidriver | December 6, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Good article but it is obvious that 99% of those who attack federal employees do so b/c it sounds "cool" to do it and making federal employees seem lazy and idiots can give off the impression that THEY are to blame for our financial issues

It is a joke and it is repeated constantly on right-wing boards

Posted by: Bious | December 6, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse

What is the reason they are working for the feds instead of the private sector if they are taking a bath to work for the feds. They are going to move to DC like my brother-in-law and work for the feds because they don't have the required skills to get a job in the private sector. Plain and simple. This article portrays every federal employee as a top-notch, highly skilled person when I saw guys sitting in the National Gallery of art sitting on their butts all day watching anyone that would show up in their particular room. You won't see that in the London Art Museum. Van Goghs hanging on the wall and nobody around. Besides, how important is the work that they are doing? This article doesn't address that. You could get rid of half the federal bureaucracy and this country would go on without missing a beat.

Posted by: wz08mk | December 7, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

"You could get rid of half the federal bureaucracy and this country would go on without missing a beat."

This actually happened. The entire federal government closed for a week last February due to snow. Any "work" that was missed was made up in mere days. The only problem was they kept paying people to not work.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | December 7, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

getjiggly1 - Yes, the Federal govt does periodically closed due to the weather/crisis/or political shenanigans but do you also know that many Federal workers in DC and in other parts of the country telecommute and are more than willing and able to continue working regardless of the conditions to which they are subjected?

And wz08mk, did you check to see if those guards in the National Gallery or Art were Federal workers or contractors? They were more than likely contractors and they do what they are paid to do, no more, no less.

It's easy to bash and blame Federal workers because they are the ones you see everyday but they work for you day in and day out regardless of the political party in power. Without them, eventually the govt would come to a screeching halt, National parks and monuments would be closed and even more illegal immigrants and drugs would come streaming cross the boarder.

Posted by: sstasiewicz | December 7, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

That's the whole point, sstasiewicz, we don't need all of them working all the time. Cut 50%, cut 20%, cut something. But instead as soon as the topic comes up, we have bureaucrats pissing all over the internet about how you will die if a we have even modest personnel reductions. It's all lies.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | December 7, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

It's nice to see that the Washington Post is completely infiltrated by the federal unions. They might want to get a fact-checker though, because according to USAToday, 20% of feds make 6-figures.

Posted by: sideeffex | December 7, 2010 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Actually Wz08mk, I did apply for private sector jobs and they wanted me over the 20 somethings that applied and knew nothing. Unfortunately, I needed the job only part-time and they offered me the job if I ever got laid off!!! That is a myth! Some private sector employees get jobs by knowing someone or nepotism so get over it!

Posted by: cmauro3927 | December 8, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

People are so misinformed about Federal workers. After 25 yrs in Federal service, I can tell you that most Federal workers I knew were the most hardworking people I have ever seen, and they do it at considerably less pay than their counterparts. when Government shuts down, only non-essential workers are affected. The top brass always show up, so work never really stops. It would not be realistic to think that when you are dealing with thousands of workers, some will be better and some will be worse. Stop bashing people who value public service over the corporate dollar.

Posted by: pat65florida | December 9, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

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