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Maybe a Demoralized Civil Service Is a Good Thing

Following up on Laura’s post on the Bush administration’s efforts to “burrow” political appointees into permanent civil service jobs:

On the bright side, maybe we can take solace in this article that appeared in The Washington Post yesterday:

In numerous federal agencies, civil servants complain that they have been thwarted for months or even years from doing the jobs for which they were hired. Federal workers have told leaders of the presidential transition team that they feel rudderless, their morale affected by the Bush administration’s opposition to industry regulation, by steep budget cuts or by the departures many months ago of Bush political appointees in high-level positions. Although they fear publicly identifying themselves, numerous federal workers said in interviews that they are down but also excited about new leadership.

“Many we talk to are wary but cautiously optimistic that with this change in administrations they will get to do their job again,” said Jeff Ruch, executive director of the nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “In the environmental agencies we deal with, they weren’t allowed to do their jobs because the Bush White House operated on a very centralized basis. The rule was: That which the White House doesn’t want to hear shall not be said.”

Federal employees said they are not a passionately partisan group, but some are hopeful about an Obama presidency, assuming that their lot will improve. Several took heart from Obama’s statements on the campaign trail that he wanted to make federal government work “cool again.”

If ideological Bushies are overzealous in their efforts to continue to stymie federal employees eager to actually do their jobs under a new administration, perhaps we can look forward to a new era of whistle-blowing and even mutiny within the civil service. That would be entertaining, and it could shed some new light on how the Bush administration undermined the independence of federal agencies.

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