Federal Employees News Digest

The Golden Age

Prediction—with a caveat— about you and your job and the next four years. First, about pay and benefits. Then, all-important (but often overlooked) job security.

The prediction is that the next four years may be the Golden Age for folks who work for Uncle Sam. I say this (remember I’ve got a way out) not because he is a Democrat, which he is, but that he is a Washington insider. As opposed to former President Donald Trump, who got elected in large part because he was the ultimate outsider. 

Many of the best presidents for feds were Washington insiders.  JFK, LBJ, Nixon (forget about Watergate) George H.W. Bush, Ford. Best in the sense of improvements in pay and benefits.  The insiders, so the theory goes, know how D.C. and the bureaucracy works. Bush went out of his way to praise and work with the Senior Executive Service (a creation of the Carter administration).  Nixon cut deals with the presidents of the largest federal union and the largest postal union in return for a rare endorsement of a Republican.  JFK and LBJ were said to pick up the phone (someone else having found the correct number and dialed it) to talk directly with experts at State, CIA, Interior, Agriculture and Defense.  Asking their opinions or advice on various things. One of JFKs top aides called, directly, the pilot of a Florida based recon aircraft for information and advice.  He called the driver of the airplane, not his boss. That kind of insider.

Outsider presidents include Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. And Ronald Reagan from California.  Also George W. Bush of Texas and Barrack Obama, whose time in the Senate was relatively brief. And Donald Trump, real estate tycoon, New Yorker and TV star.  All had great credentials and did some good things. But they were never fully comfortable with the Washington bureaucracy or how it works. Clinton and Carter were apparently stunned at the high level of pay of the typical Washington area fed compared to state worker salaries in Arkansas and Georgia at the time. Carter was never comfortable with federal union that reluctantly endorsed him. But with minimum warmth.

In January, FedSmith.com published a report on federal pay raises over the last 50-plus years.  Author Ralph R. Smith crunched the numbers and said during that period feds got 123.10% in raises under Republicans compared to 61.10 under Democratic administrations. The average was raise 4.05% under Republicans and 3.65% under Democrats. Doesn’t seem like much but, as Einstein once reportedly said, one of the true miracles of numbers is the value of compounding.

Part Two of the Golden Age (with a caveat loophole) Prediction

A friend once said that financial happiness was “having slightly more money than your neighbors.” Or words to that effect. Makes sense. He also told me that his parents both worked for the government during the Great Depression of the 30s.  She worked for the city of New York. His father was a U.S. Customs Service employee.  Both had steady jobs during the long, long period of tough times. When unemployment hit record levels. And there were no safety nets from the government.  Landlords could evict tenants for nonpayment of rent. There was no such thing as unemployment for most. No special Treasury checks. Tough times few of us today can imagine.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of thousands of Americans have lost jobs. About a quarter of the media friends I have are still out of work; most early in 2020. State and local governments, facing a shortfall of revenue, have laid off employees by the tens of thousands. But Uncle Sam is hiring. Big time. And the government has rarely been more important—war or peace—than now. President Biden has proposed a $2 Trillion (with a T) program to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, return jobs to the rust belt and advance efforts to minimize climate change. But even the administration-friendly Washington Post pointed out a disconnect:  It said that taxes (the plan calls for a tax hike on the wealthy) “won’t cover (the) cost before 2036.”

That’s scary even if you work for a company that has a monopoly in printing U.S. currency.

Still, many think happy (or happier) days are here again. Or about to be.  They say the government—under Trump and Biden—rose to the occasion in vaccine development. And that tens of thousands of normally faceless “bureaucrats” have been elevated to hero status.  For good reason.

The caveat?

What if it doesn’t happen?

Then back to the drawing board. If there is still time!


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