2018: Brave New World or Same Old Same Old?

Unless you are planning to retire, or marry the son/daughter of a tycoon who will take you away from all this, odds are you’ll be doing the same job, in the same office, with mostly the same people this time in 2019. That may reassure some, horrify others, but it’s statistically true.

So is that a good thing?

Are you expecting little to change or do you anticipate that being a government servant will be less civil this year than it was in 2017?

Long-time feds who have been-there-done-that will likely counsel that harassing federal workers is not unusual when Republicans control the political machinery, just as ignoring federal workers is often the case when Democrats are in power. But many newer to government will have memories of furloughs, shutdowns and major threats to benefits—especially the jewel in the federal crown, the CSRS and FERS retirement programs.

House Republicans took a number of shots at the retirement plan last year. The White House also proposed putting FERS workers and retirees on a diet that would have forced them to pay more—up to 6 percent more of their pay—to get reduced lifetime benefits. And to disconnect those FERS benefits from their inflation lifeline by ending cost of living adjustments starting (had it been approved) this year. Going without the COLAs (cost of living adjustments) would have greatly reduced the income FERS retirees had to spend. Especially in period of high inflation.

Congress also took a serious shot at the Social Security gap payment for FERS retirees who leave (or are forced to retire) before age 62. That payment can be worth many thousands of dollars and is often essential for workers—air traffic controllers, LEOs, firefighters—forced to retire at age 57.

None of the proposed whacks to the retirement plan happened. Zero. Zip. Nada. But they could have. And many people feared for much of the year that some, maybe all, of them would be approved. Some feds said they would retire either by Sept. 30 or January 30 to beat (they hoped) effective dates for the new rules. Insiders warned that people should never retire simply because of what Congress or the White House MIGHT do. Some, maybe lots, of people did anyhow. As it turns out, for nothing!!!

So what’s it going to be like this congressional election year? More of the same? Less? Different attacks on the federal service or will politicians cater to the huge civil service portion of their districts in places with Veterans Affairs hospitals, federal prisons, Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps bases, IRS centers and major federal complexes? If so it could be a much more pleasant ride for feds.

Already one Senator, a Democrat from Missouri, has said that President Trump’s new budget will call for a 2019 federal pay freeze. But until it comes out in the budget plan, or in an early a.m. Tweet, we will have to wait and see.

Meantime we’re going to give it a shot this morning (10 a.m. EST) on our Your Turn radio show. Not to be outdone by other news outlets, we’ve assembled a front-line team to run through what happened in 2017, what didn’t happen but could have, and why. Also what might (as in M-I-G-H-T) be ahead for federal workers, postal employees, retirees, spouses and federal contractors in 2018.

My guests will be Nicole Ogrysko and Jory Heckman from our news staff. Nicole will also talk about coming changes in the Thrift Savings Plan. Jory will look at the so-called Trump effect on the civil service and retirements. Plus you if you want to call in or e-mail a question or comment before the show: Send them to me at: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com. We won’t use your name or agency unless you okay it.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By David Thornton

On an official Major League Baseball field, the distance between home plate and second base, and between first and third bases, is 127 feet, 3 3/8 inches.

Source: MLB.com