Federal Employees News Digest

What makes you happy as a fed?

Has anybody ever told you could make a lot more money on the outside? That somebody in the private sector—maybe a government contractor—really knows how to treat a person like you? Not like a cheap, faceless bureaucrat but as a human being with skills, talent and feelings.

Maybe the retirement package wouldn’t be as good as CSRS or FERS. More likely there may not be a retirement package.  But with the bigger bucks you would be earning you could do it yourself with SEP-IRA and more (hopefully) money to invest or save.  And at a place which wasn’t so uptight about rules and restrictions.  And with a sometimes whacky 535-member board of directors as erratic as the U.S. Congress.  And a CEO who, in theory, could be booted almost anytime with or without a multi-million dollar golden parachute.

So what if you get your wish? Would that make you happy?  Or is there a dark side to leaving the government?

Years ago, under President Clinton, many of the government’s investigations functions were privatized.  Some of the feds who switched became millionaires. And now we have a backlog, but….

When it comes to being privatized it is, like investing in an unknown but potentially hot stock, best to get in early.  And then maybe out before things settle down.

 The U.S. Postal Service started out as a step toward privatization.  And most of the groundwork was laid by a Democratic administration.  The stated idea was to take the old Post Office Department out of the cabinet and out of politics.  It would be self financing and cost the taxpayers nothing other than whatever they spent on stamps.  But a funny thing happened.  First the internet. Then e-mail.  To the point where many school children aren’t taught penmanship because they type, not write.  Also, can you say Amazon?  How do you shop and communicate now vs. then?  To make sure the independent USPS wouldn’t be independent for long Congress also required it—but no other agency—to prefund many costs and benefits for current and future employees.  So much for turning a profit.

 Now some insiders are saying that the long knives are out again, hoping to privatize and or carve up the giant USPS.  The idea would be to skim cream from the top, and leave what’s left of the federal postal service to do the dirty work.  To send a Florida to Alaska letter for the price of a first-class stamp.  Which no private sector (or privatized) firm would consider.  In survey after survey the USPS is ranked at or near the top in popularity and performance in poll after poll.  Whatever happened to the don’t-fix-it-if-it-ain’t-broke rule.  Actually nothing.  They just break it, on purpose, then fix it.  Like the drug companies and cooperating doctors who gave us the opioid crisis which  has killed an estimated  400,000 people mostly in “flyover” land,  while financing some nice homes, pools and cars in coastal homes and villas in Connecticut and California.

 So who’s next for a possible privatization takeover?  How about the IRS.  Congress has (again) authorized the use of private debt collectors who, using IRS data and leads, get a share of what they collect---at a cost to taxpayers.  Meantime congress continues to underfund the one operation in the government that actually makes (as in collects) money.  This program has been tried, and crashed and burned. Twice before.  Obviously Congress (maybe the administration too) want to keep revising, crashing burning the program until it works. Again with contractors getting the cream and left-over-revenuers doing the heavy lifting.

Or maybe it’s the FAA. Couldn’t the private sector do better, faster, cheaper? Especially if it got the high end operations (funded by user fees on the airlines which you would wind up paying anyhow) while leaving a skeleton crew of government FAA’ers to do the real work. Or what’s left of it.

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Contributors

Edward A. Zurndorfer Certified Financial Planner
Mike Causey Columnist
Tom Fox VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service
Mathew B. Tully Legal Analyst

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