Layoffs/Furloughs: Conspiracy or Coincidence?

Thanks to a generous Congress and a pro-fed President, 2009 was the best year in terms of improved benefits federal workers ever had.

This year, however, is shaping up to be what could be one of the worst ever for members of the federal family.

The question is this: Is all the high-level, high-profile talk about a pay freeze, furloughs and now layoffs, just a pre-election political pile-on? Or is it for real?

If you are into conspiracy theories consider the following:

  1. National newspapers (USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times) run a staggered series of stories about overpaid federal workers. Some or most of the data came from conservative think tanks who believe government is too big, too intrusive and too expensive.
  2. A proposal to freeze federal salaries is defeated three times in Congress this year. The last time by a very narrow margin on procedural issues. Another vote is expected in the post-election session.
  3. A Republican member of Congress will ask the lame duck session of Congress to furlough federal workers for 10 days next year. And to trim congressional pay too.
  4. On Friday, President Obama, defends federal pay levels as fair. But he said government may consider a hiring freeze, layoffs and furloughs even though it would mean cuts in services. He said government data shows that feds in upper grade jobs are slightly underpaid compared to their private sector counterparts while lower-skilled feds are slightly overpaid. He made the pay and furlough comments during a meeting with the Trotter Group, an organization of black columnists.
  5. On Monday, The Washington Post ran a Page One story headlined “A Negative Poll for Federal Workers.” The study by the Post said that 52 percent of its survey respondents said government workers were overpaid, 33 percent said feds are paid the right amount of money and only 9 percent said they thought federal workers are underpaid. The Post is the hometown newspaper for the largest concentration of federal workers in the country. Unlike other papers, the Post didn’t say feds are overpaid, but rather reported on its survey (done via a random telephone survey of 1,002 adults with a margin of error of 2.5 points) of what has become a political hot-button issue.

So where did this all come from? And will it fizzle after the election or does this puppy have legs?

Does this sudden interest in the pay, and numbers, of federal workers come naturally as a byproduct of the toughest recession most people have ever experienced?

Or is there somebody or some group up there on the grassy knoll directing an attack on feds?

Or all, or none, of the above?

To reach me:

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