Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Spoils of War

Seems more and more like the change of administration means open season has been declared on federal employees.
Federal employees have long been the whipping boys for certain members of Congress.

There doesn't seem to be a problem they can't distract us from by taking aim at dedicated servants of the American people.

They shut down the government and don't pay us (but they still get paid) any time they don't get their way on an issue. (and make no mistake, we all still work, because they don't want you to know how much you actually need the government).

And when it comes to cutting the budget, it is always feds and not real areas of spending bloat (like insisting the military continue to buy equipment it neither wants nor needs because the companies making that equipment have wisely spread out the jobs across multiple states. This isn't a military need. This is a pork barrel jobs program). They freeze our pay for years. They threaten our pensions. They cut hiring when we are already at historically low levels and are stretched thin. And the farm out our work to contractors who cost more (but can be fired more easily) and sometimes even give us the likes of Edward Snowden.

And now, they want to be able to fire us without cause.

I get it. We have all dealt with THAT government employee. The one retired on active duty. The one who snarls at you when you need government services. The one who collects their pay but you can't really tell that they actually do work. I get it. I have dealt with those people too.

But the majority of us are actually dedicated, patriotic and hard-working. We know most of us could earn more in the private sector but we choose to serve. To serve the country, to serve the people, to serve the Constitution. I have never met anyone more patriotic than the hard-working federal employees I have the fortune to serve with.

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) has put forward HR 6278, which he calls “Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency Act.” According to the Washington Post, Rokita considers the bill “a tool for … President [-elect Donald] Trump to use in draining the swamp.” What it really does is eviscerate civil service protections for all new federal employees, meaning federal employees hired one year after enactment or later “shall be hired on an at-will basis.” And the bill is crystal clear on the meaning of at-will status: “Such an employee may be removed or suspended, without notice or right to appeal, from service by the head of the agency at which such employee is employed for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all.”

That's right, for NO CAUSE. And they will not have any right to appeal.

Of course, I posted this on Facebook, and many of my friends immediately chimed in with, "So what? Lots of businesses do that."

And that is their right as business owners. But the government is different.

The Civil Service is intended to be non-partisan. We serve all Americans regardless of their or our political affiliation (can you imagine if we didn't? I'm sorry, but I refuse to send social security checks to people from Party X. Government tenders will only be given to those from Party Y). The protections for federal employees are meant to keep us non-partisan, to keep us from facing political reprisals. That was the idea behind the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883. Previously, federal positions were essentially the spoils of war, granted to supporters of the winning party. It is also the thinking behind the Hatch Act of 1939, which prohibits federal employees from participating in certain types of political activities.

I notice they aren't trying to get rid of that.

So here is where we feds stand now.
* The transition team has asked for the names of people who have worked on particular issues, such as climate change in the Department of Energy and gender and LGBT issue at the Department of State (and were asked to "ferret out" those working on LGBT issues).

* The Holman Rule has been reinstated, meaning that any member of Congress can target ANY federal employee and cut that person's annual salary to ONE DOLLAR.

* Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is pursuing measures to fire feds faster, freeze federal hiring, decrease federal contributions to federal retirement and disqualify federal employees and contractors who are “seriously delinquent” on their federal taxes. (Never mind that federal employees are delinquent on their taxes at a far lower rate than the general population. Or that is it hard to collect back taxes on people who lose their jobs.)

* Employees could be required to contribute more to their retirement, meaning an up to 5% pay cut.

* Employees could be fired without cause and without the right to appeal.

* And then of course for those of us in the Foreign Service, there is the added bonus of threats to withhold 50% of our security budget unless our embassy to Israel is moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

No wonder people are afraid.

Our jobs, our lives, have become the spoils of war.

But yeah, thanks for your service.

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