Back to the good old days

Do you remember what your work-wise, midsummer nightmares were this time last year?  For many, they ranged from losing pay to losing your job, to losing part of your pension plan or — worst case scenario — all of them.

And chances are, if you were paying attention, and especially if you were relatively new to government, all the talk about draining the swamp was very real and is very scary. That’s because it was very real and still is. Just because it didn’t happen doesn’t mean it can or won’t.

Even if you were on vacation this time last year, chances are you were thankful that the very real shutdown threatened for April didn’t materialize. But you were probably somewhat concerned about the very real possibility of furloughs and/or reductions-in-force actions in some agencies.

During previous furloughs triggered by sequestration, workers at the IRS and a dozen other agencies lost up to 20 percent of their paychecks. During shutdowns, people got paid but sometimes with delays of up to two weeks. And don’t forget about the dismantling of the federal retirement program by congressional Republicans — all legitimate threats at the time.

Advertisement

While there was good cause to be sweating job-related bullets in mid-2017, things turned out pretty well. The very real threats to the Federal Employees Retirement System and Civil Service Retirement System programs got lost in the last-minute congressional shuffle thanks, in part, to heavy lobbying by groups representing workers, retirees, managers and executives. And a 1.9 percent federal pay raise was approved for January 2018, enough, in many cases to match or offset higher health insurance premiums for the new year.

Earlier this  year the Trump administration called for a dramatic downsizing of FERS retirement benefits with no more annual inflation catch ups, higher employee contributions and a zero pay raise in January.  Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.)  and Sen.  Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) are cosponsoring a flat 3-percent pay raise for all nonpostal feds in January.

So while 2017 and 2018 look alike on the legislative front, the wild card is time and political priorities:  This is the most critical midterm election in decades.  A record number of incumbents are either leaving, retiring or are facing the toughest political fights of their careers.  Will they have time to target the federal benefits package, or is the clock running out for them?

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

Argentina’s Peronist and Radical Civic Union political parties have their own varieties of beer served at select restaurants and party headquarters, including the “Evita” lager, “17 de Octubre” black porter and “Montonera” pale ale.

Source: Public Radio International and MercoPress