How can we address Americans’ anger toward the government?

Home Forums Acquisitions How can we address Americans’ anger toward the government?

This topic contains 15 replies, has 11 voices, and was last updated by  Christopher Whitaker 8 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #142659

    See infographic – public dissatisfaction worst since ’97. What can we do?

  • #142689

    I disagree the premise of the question

    When you have a group of far rightwing political operatives actively targeting government agencies in order to score political points, we will have this problem. And, since government agencies can’t exactly run ads defending our own records – government agencies are incredibly easy targets.

    Prime Example: The EPA

    The EPA incurs the wrath of Republican presidential candidates because it does it job – enforce regulations drawn up BY THE CONGRESS. Instead of targeting Congress, the candidates hit the agency – because the agency doesn’t have a staffer set up in a war room to shoot back press releases pointing out that it’s trying to keep the water you drink from CATCHING ON FIRE. (We can however put it on youtube )

    I would like government agencies to be able to hit back on some of this stuff, but in the meantime we have to depend on awesome people like Jon Stewart to step in:

    And it’s not like anything that anyone can do will help fix the government agency that has the lowest approval rating EVER

    which would be Congress…

  • #142687

    Ed Albetski

    You know, I’ve read SO MANY responses to questions like this on GovLoop these past few years all saying we all have to work harder, yadda, yadda, yadda, and set an example, blah, blah, blah, and frankly I don’t see where that does a damned bit of good. I for one am sick and tired of reading responses that sound like “Boxer” the horse in ANIMAL FARM telling us that all we be well if we work harder. Contrary to what some would have you believe, work will not set you free. Organizing politically might. After the nonsense in Wisconsin and other states of revoking collective bargaining for state workers, one would think we might have woken up. Federal, state, city, and county workers are being victimized. Eventually they will come for you. Regardless of party, creed, or other labels, we should only vote for candidates that will ensure our livelihoods and our pensions. No one else is going to watch out for us; we might as well watch out for ourselves. And this will only work if we do it together.

  • #142685

    Terrence Hill

    We need to toot our own horn as much as we are able. Despite the many restrictions regarding how we communicate with the public, we need to let them know that we perform important functions. Here are some ways to do that:

    Advertise the winners of the “Service to America” Awards and other public service awards.
    Let the local and national press know about the services offered and delivered to the public.
    Get groups of employees involved in engaging with the public in local communities.
    Spread the word via mainstream social media – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.

  • #142683

    Carol Davison

    We need to produce results and add value showing America the value of our service. As a Training Officer I always have to show the value of my involvement in organization’s training budget and time before they have confidence enough in me to give me access to it. I also had to overcome leaders’, employees and union leaders resistant to whatever performance management system, training standard, etc I am implementing. As I build relationships of trust with my internal constituency, I am able to achieve results. Additionally we need to be the first to condemn fraud, waste and abuse unlike the Muslim leaders who were accused of not condemning terrorism (some did). We need to be the first to criticize $18 muffins. None of these suggestions necessitates working harder. One of the things I do as a leader is stop doing anything unnecessary until I am adequateley delivering that which is vital. The most difficult part of this is developing and maintaining relationships. Maybe we need to work to develop relationships with the Mitt Romney, Michelle Bachmans, and Sarah Palin’s It could be that its less “busywork” than we are producing now. I don’t see behaving in our own self interest as instilling America’s confidence in our service.

  • #142681

    Mark Hammer

    There are a number iof international organizations, and international surveys, that regularly rank nations with respect to things like corruption, trust in government, and trust in general. The U.S.A. typically comes out well ahead of many places…thank goodness…but behind a number of others. Many Scandinavian nations come out on top. One of the consequences of this greater trust is reflected in the 83% voter turnout rate in the recent Danish national election (apparently fairly consistent with prior elections). So clearly, addressing and defusing anger towards government has many repercussions, including greater democratic participation.

    With each passing year, the propensity for ordinary citizens to be ignorant and suspicious of government, even in nations where one might expect communications technology and open news media to facilitate transparency and patience, increases. I think there are a few things responsible for this, that CAN be addressed.

    1) People suspect what they don’t understand. Government, both the legislative and bureaucratic sides, needs to be more transparent, but especially coherent. Throwing up web-sites in the spirit of “open government” won’t do it. Bureaucrats and legislators and websites have to make a point of clearly communicating what they are doing/deciding, and why they are doing/deciding it. This includes elucidating options, and explaining what is gained and lost from the choices made. If citizens are informed enough that they can think “Well that’s pretty much what I would have done too”, they will not fill in the gaps with suspicions. This means not just being forthright OR clear, but being both. It also means reminding oneself, constantly, that every year brings with it more people who are completely unaware of what you communicated the last time. What people frequently DON’T understand the most, are the seeming inconsistencies or incoherencies between what happens here and what happens there. Be aware of, and explain, the seeming disconnect and you’ll go a long way toward making citizens less irritable.

    2) People get iritable about things they don’t think of as time-limited. Stated another way, people are more patient about things they believe will pass in time. Nobody seems to ever say “We’re gonna try this for awhile. And when it looks like we’ve gotten past hump X, we’ll go back to what we were doiong before.” or “We’ll only institute policy X for as long as we need to.” Everything seems to be introduced as “how it’s gonna be from now on”, and tends to generate greater resistance as a result.

    3) Admit mistakes, and fix em. Nobody ever seems to say “We did what we felt, on the basis of the evidence at the time, was the right thing to do, but we see in retrospect that we were wrong.” There seems to be no tolerance for error. That, in turn, elicits efforts to slip out of accountability. People seem to misinterpret “accountability” as meaning the ability to be able to blame people for things, and since its always about blame, rather than recognizing and rectifying (and being provided with the resources to rectify) mistakes, no one ever admits mistakes, so they never get fixed.

    4) People hate paying taxes when they don’t take stock, or aren’t aware, of what they get for them. As we’ve collectively discussed here on many an occasion, far too much of the public sector, and its positive impact on their lives, is completely invisible to citizens.

    5) Finally, I think we need to distinguish anger from impatience. Certainly impatience will bring you to anger. But the anger so many seem to feel is borne of impatience. Signing a few pieces of paper can get you a home and a Ferrari, so why can’t fixing the nation’s concerns be done just as quickly? Well, putting yourself into debt for the sake of a car can be done in a jiffy. Paying for it takes a lot longer. Articulating the steps that need to be accomplished (see #1 above) can help to make people more patient.

  • #142679

    Jay Johnson

    This is one of my favorites – 45% of people would rather choose Congress randomly from a phone book. And that was almost two years ago, who knows how high that number is now!

  • #142677

    Ed Albetski

    The anger people have directed at the public sector is being fanned by political agitators with their own agenda. We are the target of a political campaign to discredit us and all we do. Fault is found with us even for doing our jobs because our very mission is suspect in their eyes.

    Yes, we should do our jobs. That is advisable if we wish to be paid. But voting for candidates and parties that support us is not selfish, it is common sense. Voting for someone who is out to destroy our livelihoods is foolhardy. If those against government workers can organize politically to harm us, we certainly have the right to do the same in our own defense.

    Educating the public in what we do would be a good tactic if it were possible, but how do we shout over the strident voices of our attackers? This would take a multi-million dollar publicity campaign. Whose budget could foot that? And in real life the TSA, the IRS, and even the DMV are not helping us. I don’t see government produced YouTube videos getting more hits than the wiener dog puppy in the hot dog bun or the starlet whose top slips down. I think doing our best to prevent the election of office seekers who wish to eliminate our jobs is a no-brainer. We can’t openly campaign (I can, I’m retired), but we can vote and we can communicate with each other.

  • #142675

    John Evans
    1. Right on, Christopher and Ed. The source of the misplaced anger is politicians and partisan think tanks spreading lies and misinformation for their own craven purposes. Preventing these types from being elected, or re-elected is crucial. As for being the first to decry $18 muffins, how about being the first to do a little homework ? There were no ” $18 muffins ” . This whole meme is nonsense. Rather than imitating the uninformed, we should strive to educate them. Education is the key. That, and political action.
  • #142673

    Interesting responses. I don’t think it’s b/c we’re political targets (even if we are). I think it is because of the quality of the customer experience combined with the incredible opacity of the bureaucracy and the concern employees have about what they can and can’t say. Also I think people do confuse our mission as political when it is actually enforcement, so their feelings toward the administration are vented at us.

  • #142671

    Alan L. Greenberg

    I’m retired now but I’ve been hearing things like this for nearly fifty years. The “government worker” is an easy target for media, our Congress and anyone else seeking some inflammatory publicity. This will never change. It comes with the territory.

    If and when our Congress becomes a functional organization, rather than a polarized, untrustworthy mob with differing agendas and a greater interest in what their constituents think of them rather than the nation’s needs, there will be a return of credibility. I wish I knew how to do this.

    I would like to see a few members of Congress stand up to voice their real opinions and not vote strictly party lines. I would like to hear a member say something like, “Yes, we should close some unneeded Post Offices in my district,” or “No, we don’t need that new federal construction project in my district.” That will be the day. I would also like to hear a member say something like “This legislation you are asking me to vote on contains too many giveaways unrelated to the purpose of the bill (but inducements to buy votes),” or “How can I vote for legislation that the majority of Congress has never read (i.e. health care).” Finally, I would like to see some members make sacrifices consistent with what they are requesting of the American people.

    I’ve long since learned that almost every statement coming from an elected official is orchestrated. Congress, not the federal employee, needs its own image makeover.

    (OK – I feel better now.)

  • #142669

    Should we ignore these sentiments because we disagree?

  • #142667

    But there WERN’T $18 muffins – That price tag was for the FULL price of the whole continental breakfast, plus tax as clarified by Hilton Hotels. 178 articles citied it, but only 32 publications corrected the story.


    Sites like GovLoop are not government busywork initiatives, it’s a site built by the gov community to improve gov. The entire site is geared to working harder/smarter/faster. To say that we need to work harder is superlative. I also might add that this one of the first sites to say that we had no problem with a freeze in pay.

    You know what the most common way the public finds about government waste/abuse… The GAO. A government agency that non-partisan that digs into what’s working and tells the truth regardless. If I’m not mistaken, the GAO comes out with a list each year that it delivers to Congress that talks about ways to reduce government waste – but need Congressional action…. but nobody talks about that.

    As far as the Muslim leadership goes – I have no idea what they did or didn’t do. The first Muslim-American I met was in Army boot camp :

  • #142665

    I would say no – but I’m also feeling particularly rebellious

    Three things..

    1) I do think that we do a poor job of connecting the OpenGov movement with the fact that it’s membership is largely government workers themselves. One of the experiences that Chicago is having is the fact that for many years the former mayor was stingy with information. When Rahm took over and hired a superstar team to open the books, the team found that city workers WANTED to open the books. We need to make it known that the OpenGov movement is headed by Govies

    OpenGov shines light on a lot of things and makes waste and ineffectiveness stand out like a sore thumb – which then gets fixed quickly. Which we as Govies LIKE

    2) We need to make friends with journalists. Not the media – journalists. Take a look at the PANDA project. Seriously, follow this guy on Twitter @onyxfish & @pandaproject

    These guys are going to use data to make journalism easier. Who should be the first ones to offer data? Govies. We need to make it as easy as possible for journalists to be able to connect the dots when some political candidates says the EPA destroys jobs the data that shows that the water’s one fire is readily available.

    3) Keep doing what we’re doing as far as Gov20 – We already know what to do and we’re already doing it at a large level. It may be behind the scenes, but there IS a push to make things better/faster/smarter. I see no reason to slow it down

  • #142663

    Peter Sperry

    If you think elected officials are so disfunctional, why don’t you change the situation by running for office yourself? You could add a voice of experience to the political debate. Citicizing elected officials is easy. Being one is hard. Are you up for the challange?

  • #142661

    Caryn Wesner-Early

    That might be more in line with the intentions of the country’s founders than today’s career politicians. Legislators were expected to take time away from their real jobs to serve the country for a while, then go back to their regular lives. No one foresaw the permanent re-election cycle, which makes Congress-critters spend a lot more time on trying to stay in than on doing what they were presumably elected to do.

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