Mark Hammer

Respect for, or resentment towards, public servants has varied over time. Some of you may recall some public opinion survey work that Paul Light had done just after 09/11, where public servants and public sector employment received a real shot in the arm as far as public respect went. For a brief shining period, the public associated the public service with doing something important.

How soon we forget when times get tough, though.

I’d be curious to see if there is any sort of connection over time between prevailing unemployment rates, and attitudes towards government workers. Obviously, the sorts of tasks people associate with public servants have changed over time and included more things that people have a hard time wrapping their head around, in terms of its necessity. But my gut sense is that as things become tighter in the private sector, that tends to breed resentment towards the security that federal and state workers have. It’s a “What do they do that they deserve more than I do?” reaction.