Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Drawing From The Same Well

I know I sound like a broken record. But seriously, how long do federal employees have to be the country's whipping boy?

Yes, I know we have to solve the debt problem. I know we need to make cuts.

I also know that they already cut Foreign Service Officers' pay when we go overseas (by about 8%). I know that they are talking about cutting it further (by another 16%).

I know they have already frozen our pay for two years. I know they are also talking about freezing it for another one to three years. Meaning no cost of living increases for up to five years.
I know that is already cutting hard into my retirement.

And now, they want to freeze our annual step increases as well.

This isn't about the money now. I am by no means well off, but I can live on what I earn.

This is about several things.

First, this lowers the amount I will receive in retirement because retirement is based on my highest few years' salary. And they won't retroactively give me credit for what I would have earned.

Great you say, but at least you can expect a pension from your employer.

That is true. But one of the reasons I am working in this career, instead of making the approximately 25% more I could expect to earn in the private sector is because I like the security of a pension. This is a choice I made with my retirement in mind. If they are going to take that from me, I should work elsewhere.

And yes, you probably heard that federal employees are actually overpaid. This is only true among the very lowest paid federal employees. But among those federal employees who are doctors, lawyers, scientists, and yes, diplomats, we earn far less than we would in the private sector. And we do it because we want to serve the country. But we also make a conscious choice - lower pay now in exchange for job security and secure retirement.

If you take away the job security and the secure retirement, people will leave. Great you say, we need smaller government. Fine, but I bet you'd be surprised how much you need some parts of government. The Foreign Service, for example, is far from overstaffed. We are stretched thin. And we are the ones who help you out when you get robbed overseas or lose your passports. We are the ones who work with governments to forge agreements to keep our businesses competative and our military out of wars. I assure you, we are worth far more and save far more than we cost.

And when we leave, we will have to be replaced for that very reason. But it costs a lot more to recruit and train a new person, even at a lower salary if you are willing to forego experience, that we cost currently.

And here is the final point. Constantly whipping on those who are serving the country is not going to save you much. We are an easy target, but we are a miniscule part of the budget. The real areas for savings are also the untouchables. Just witness the recent wailing and gnashing of teeth over cutting the defense budget. A budget that is as large as it is because we have been at war. Wars that are now coming to a conclusion. It is a natural place to cut. But no one wants to. Because that might mean cutting jobs, and we'd rather cut federal jobs. Because we all know that an unemployed federal worker won't collect unemployment like an unemployed person elsewhere in the private sector...oh wait.

So let's make the hard choices. Let's deal with the debt. But let's recognize that punishing federal workers over and over again won't solve the problem. If you cut our salaries, we will spend less, which will hurt the economy. If you cut our jobs, we will join the unemployment lines and increase the overall unemployment numbers. If you cut our retirement, you make us one more person needed government assistance at the end of our careers.

These things you will do.

But balance the budget? That you won't do.

Because you are only cutting what is easy, what is politically expedient, what looks good to your constituents, but what does nothing substantial for fixing our budgetary problems.


Matt said...

Yep. The proposed elimination of the Annuity Supplement is a killer, too. Take that away, and retirement becomes unaffordable before 62. This a renege on a contract, in my view. Without the retirement benefits, the sacrifices you make as a family over the course of a career ARE NOT WORTH IT. Unfortunately, it's too late to bail, if this happens, and I don't have a time machine to go back and choose a different road. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail. It's hard not to take this personally.

Sadie said...

right on! you said it and said it well.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for continual insight. As an aspiring FSO (currently on the register), I think I'll write my government officials now.

Jen said...

Exactly! Mentioned you today and thanks for a great post! http://dinoiafamily.typepad.com/the_dinoia_family/2012/02/what-next-health-insurance.html

Bfiles said...

here, here!

hannah said...

My mother wrote a letter in October to our Rep and both Senators complaining about pay cuts to federal employees and the foreign service. Here's the handwritten note she got on her response from Sen. Boozman.

"Debbie we are spending 1.3 trillion dollars in deficit every year. The State Dept was asked to cut their budget as was defense and other agencies! They chose to make the cuts in this way..."

Thanks, dude...

Digger said...

Did he miss the part where ALL federal employees had their pay frozen? That this was not a State Department decision?