Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Penny Wise?

It isn't surprising.

Disappointing, yes. Infuriating, definitely. Morale killing, absolutely.

But not surprising.

Congress has once again decided to save some budget dollars on the backs of federal employees, extending our pay freeze for a third year.

According to a piece today in the Washington Post saying that a third year of the pay freeze is all but certain, Rep. Paul Ryan, ignoring the pay freeze and furlough days, said, “Immune from the effects of the recession, federal employees have received regular salary bumps regardless of productivity or economic realities.”

But of course, we know that isn't true. The furloughs alone could cost federal employees as much as 20 percent of their pay. Did you plan your budget based on making 20 percent less than you do? Of course not. And neither did we. And our problem is doubled, since my wife and I are both federal employees.

Add to that a third year of pay freezes which is now eating away at what we will be able to live on in retirement. Because of course, our retirement pay is based on our income at retirement...income that is substantially reduced by pay freezes.

So we are not immune.

No, the only federal employees immune to the effects of the recession are members of Congress. They are the ones with no threat of furlough, no threat of salary freezes, and no threat of losing pay or benefits should the government shutdown. In fact, they are the ones who continue to receive their annual pay raises.

Also not suffering, their staffs. Who continue to get bonuses because "they work really hard" and they "work really long hours." Well so do I and so do most of the folks I have served with. For many of us, me included, a 40 hour week would be a luxury. It would be like vacation. Sixty to 80 hours is more the norm.

And of course, these are the same folks who have been quoted as saying such things as that they couldn't take a pay cut because their families depend on the $174,000 per year to survive. But I guess ours don't depend on our substantially lower than $174,000 salary.

But you have probably heard how we federal employees make so much more than the private sector. And this is true for our blue collar colleagues. They do make more than their private sector colleagues.

Not so for white collar federal employees. We, on average, make about 24 percent LESS than we would in the private sector. This is a price we willing pay for the privilege of serving the country and for the benefit of job security.

But let me tell you, it is hard to feel privileged to serve those who openly despise you. And it is hard to feel secure when they are freezing your pay and cutting your salary.

I love my job. I love the work I do and I believe in it. I think what I do matters. And I love where I live. I love serving.

But I would be lying to you if I didn't find myself thinking about how much easier life would be in I took all the experience, all the languages, and all the training that I have gained in my nine years in the Foreign Service, and went to work in Public Affairs or media relations for some big company at some substantially larger salary. And I would have the added bonus of getting to be closer to my family, and to get to see my dad and inlaws more often, to get to watch our nieces and nephews grow up.

And all that experience I would be taking with me? That was paid for by the taxpayers, so they would have to pay to replace me. They would have to bear all those costs all over again. And I guarantee that is a lot more than what they are saving by freezing my salary.

Which is certainly pound foolish.

1 comment:

Connie said...

While I believe that we all have to do our part, tighten our belts, etc., the hypocrisy of cutting the workers while the leaders slide on by, truly bites. As when I served in the Army, I wonder now, like you do here, how they could justify this sort of nonsense that drives good, loyal, well-trained people to seek jobs that value and pay for their skills elsewhere? It is very poor business. We should protect our investments. When dealing with those who choose to serve, the low cost of 'playing fair' really does go a long way, and we do see what is going on back there.