President Donald Trump made shrinking the federal government a cornerstone of his campaign, winning cheers at campaign rallies by promising to “drain the swamp,” his term for the staff of the network of agencies that keep the government functioning. Unlike, say, the wall on the border with Mexico, this is a promise he’s managed to keep. By the end of his first year, The Washington Post reported, all but three agencies—Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Interior—had fewer employees than they started with in 2017. By the end of 2018, Trump had changed civil service rules to make it easier to fire federal employees and canceled pay raises for 2 million federal workers.

Federal government workers are beginning to feel the strain, according to a new survey from the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service and the Boston Consulting Group, and as reported by The Washington Post. Federal job satisfaction “has tumbled,” as “the number of employees who would recommend their agency as a good place to work dropped at 60 percent of federal offices,” the annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings found.

2018 is the 15th year of the survey, which includes all of the Cabinet and intelligence agencies, plus 415 smaller government departments.

The results came after three years of improving ratings during the Obama administration. For the 2018 edition of the survey, “less than 40 percent of agencies improved their ratings on the scorecard of job satisfaction at federal workplaces,” a decline in comparison with figures of over 70 percent in the last years of the Obama administration, and even Trump’s first.

Just a third of the employees in the office within the Department of Health and Human Services, which among its duties oversees the fight against the opioid crisis, reported satisfaction with their jobs.

Among the largest year-over-year declines in satisfaction as listed by agency were those at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with a 25-point decline, and the Import-Export Bank, with an 18-point drop. The Education and State departments and the Environmental Protection Agency also had low scores.

Conservatives, who have long been eager to shrink the size of the federal government, largely were unsurprised and unbothered by the results. Grover Norquist, a conservative anti-tax activist since the Reagan era and a key force in passing George W. Bush’s tax cut of 2001, told NPR in that year that he didn’t want to abolish the government but instead hoped to “reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

Interviewed for the Post story this week, Norquist downplayed the survey results, saying federal workers are merely adjusting to a new era of deregulation, and he added, “You’re measuring a swing and a change. … It can make you grumpy.”

The president and chief executive of the Partnership for Public Service, Max Stier, thinks this is more than a case of grumpiness, and one that could eventually hurt Trump. “It’s a workforce that is not getting the leadership it needs to perform its best,” Stier told the Post. “Employees believe their leaders are not listening to them.”



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