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Community News Network

June 17, 2013

When trust in Uncle Sam takes a beating, workers are bruised

WASHINGTON — Uncle Sam's reputation has taken a beating lately, and it's his staff that will feel the pain.

The recent spate of controversies - revelations about the massive collection of electronic data by the National Security Agency, the Internal Revenue Service's political targeting and conference scandals, and the seizure of Associated Press telephone records - undermines confidence in government.

That can't be good for those who make the government work.

The sad thing is these scandals represent only a small part of what government does. But they are high-profile items that can adversely shape public opinion. With budget cuts and furloughs, the job of federal employees is tough enough without the added burden these issues bring.

A Pew Research poll found trust in government near historic lows in January, well before these scandals broke. Almost three-fourths of those surveyed said that they can "trust the government only some of the time or never. Majorities across all partisan and demographic groups express little or no trust in government."

Gallup released a poll in late May, before the NSA revelations, indicating 54 percent of those surveyed said the federal government has too much power.

Meanwhile, confidence in the IRS has taken a big hit.

There's no way the view of government is going to improve with these developments getting all the ink and airtime.

Here's one bit of cold comfort: In a poll released Thursday, only 10 percent of those surveyed told Gallup they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress. The federal workforce can't rate much lower than that.

We asked a variety of federal employees and others how these controversies affect the public's perception of the workforce and the workers' morale. Here is some of what they said:

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