Government Employees Feel the Danger of Anti-Government Anger

By Knickerbocker, Brad | The Christian Science Monitor, March 27, 2010 | Go to article overview

Government Employees Feel the Danger of Anti-Government Anger


Knickerbocker, Brad, The Christian Science Monitor


Anti-government infused threats against the IRS and gun violations on federal property are going up. Many government employees see the over-heated political debate these days as a personal danger.

Sandy Ressler is worried. So much so that he felt compelled to headline his recent blog post on govloop.com this way: "I work for the government and I am NOT the enemy."

As a 25-year veteran of the federal bureaucracy - he's a program manager at the National Institute of Standards and Technology - he's concerned that the country "is becoming more and more polarized."

Mr. Ressler sees the recent suicide pilot who crashed his airplane into an IRS office building in Texas and the shooting attack on security officers at the Pentagon as "canary in the coal mine type of behavior." Along with many other government employees, he worries that anti-government rhetoric - fueled by the red-hot debate over healthcare reform, the virulent attacks on Barack Obama's personal character and legitimacy as president, and the more violent fringe of the "tea party" movement - puts government workers in the crosshairs.

Statistics back him up.

The threats are increasing

"Weapons violations on federal properties increased by 10 percent over the last year; threats against IRS facilities are up by 11 percent," reports Gregg Carlstrom in the Federal Times. "And while threats are up, the level of protection at federal buildings is down. The Federal Protective Service has shrunk by 15 percent over the last seven years; hundreds of IRS buildings have no security at all."

As it is with members of Congress, the individual tends to be viewed more favorably than the institution. A Gallup Poll last year showed that while only 20 percent of those polled had a positive impression of the federal government, 60 percent said their personal contact with a federal employee had been positive.

But at a time when bipartisanship seems to have died in Washington (along with much of the cordiality that once marked legislative debate), that is small comfort for many federal employees.

"The public sees 'government' as Capitol Hill, the presidency and elected officials," Hannah Bowers, an analyst at the Veterans Affairs Department, told the Federal Times. "[And] the only time government workers are mentioned in the media is when one of us is caught for some sort of unethical behavior."

The recent attacks on federal offices and employees have gotten the attention of Congress.

"There are over 2 million members of the civil service, and every one of them is entitled to a reasonable degree of personal safety and respect," says Rep. …

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