November Elections & Your Pay and Benefits

When they are up for reelection in November, most members of the House and Senate pretend to run scared. It shows humility, respect for their opponents and gives the media the equivalent of a sporting event to cover.

This it’s-gonna-be-a-tough-fight line also helps with fundraising. And it is generally true, even for politicians who keep getting reelected easily because they come from solidly Red or Blue states, or are in congressional districts that are so gerry-mandered that a real elephant — or donkey — could win if a member of the right party.

Normally, only a small number of House and Senate seats are ever really up for grabs.

But this year, not so much. And that could present problems for the federal workforce which, so far, has been an oasis of pay growth and job stability.


While the national labor force shrunk by some 652,000 jobs in May — with a modest 83,000 increase in new jobs last month — the federal government continues to hire people.

While cash-strapped states and local governments layoff and/or furlough public employees to save money, Uncle Sam is running help-wanted ads on television and the print media.

Overseas, some governments are talking about reducing current and future pension benefits and/or increasing employee contributions to those plans.

Public sector workers in Greece and other countries have struck protesting benefit cuts. In France the plan is to trim the government payroll by 100,000 jobs by 2013. It also wants high-level government officials to limit to 20 their number of personal aides — also known as horse-holders — and to fly less and take surface transport more.

So is Uncle Sam immune or will nervous-with-good-reason politicians propose unthinkable things, like changes in federal civil service (CSRS and FERS) retirement benefits, reduced, delayed or frozen pay raises and a slowdown in insourcing — moving “inherently governmental jobs” from the private sector back into government?

All of the above, of course, could be July crazy-talk. Things could be much better by September and our worries may shift from deflation to inflation. And it may not be hot in Houston or St. Louis this summer. All things are possible.

On yesterday’s Your Turn, a long-time pro-fed/retiree lobbyist said concerns about changes in federal pay and benefits are very real. Dan Adcock of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees says this is not a drill, and not the usual pre-election hype that politicians, special interest groups and the media need in order to survive.

If you didn’t (or couldn’t) catch the show, not to worry. You can listen to his 30-minute take anytime by clicking here.

Nearly Useless Factoid
by Vyomika Jairam

Princess the Prognosticating Camel of Popcorn Park Zoo in New Jersey has a 60 percent accuracy rate in picking the winner of NFL games over the past three seasons.

Elections might bring big changes for federal pay and benefits
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