Government Work Looking Better All the Time

Monday - 4/20/2009, 4:00am EDT

Thanks to the disappearing job market in the private sector, and the coming surge in federal hiring, some former feds are fondly recalling their time spent with Uncle Sam. And trying to get back into government.

In the news business, of which I know first hand, newspapers are folding or dropping their print editions. Some big city papers are buying out, or laying off, long time print journalists and replacing them with staffers from their once separate online editions. The print journalists tend to be older and are paid more, thanks to union contracts. The internet folks who are replacing them cost less.

At a growing number of radio-TV operations, higher-paid workers are being laid off. In other operations (I know two such people) workers are taking a 10 percent pay cut to keep their jobs.

In addition to retrenching, major outfits (can you say Ford and General Motors?) no longer make contributions to their employees' 401(k) plans!

For a variety of reasons, including the coming federal buildup, some agencies are seeing an influx of applications from ex-employees. CSRS employees who left government and took their retirement plan contributions can repay them to get time and credit toward retirement. But FERS workers who withdrew their smaller contributions can't unless Congress changes the rules.

That is in the works now.

It is part of the so-called Tobacco Bill passed by the House and due to be introduced in the Senate next week.

And The Mule I Rode In On...

The federal government clearly has a high percentage of workers who care, deeply, about mules.

I assume this based on reader reaction to Friday's column about pay raises, retiree COLA, horses and mules. The column, I realize in hindsight, took a cheap shot at mules vis a vis race horses. Turns out there are mule races after all. Who knew?

The defense-of-mules e-mails also reminded me of the three years I spent living with an Uncle and Aunt on their large, hilly farm in Kentucky. He had about 150 head of cattle and we use to round them up cowboy style. My steed of choice was a very large mule, named Tom. And his friend, Jim, could outrun any steer. And both were tough enough to keep me alive and in the saddle when things got lively and there was a whole lot of bumping going on.

In penance, we run the following pro-mule e-mails:

  • "Mules do race! And although they not as fast as thoroughbreds, the racing is just as competitive!! And you can wager on them!!!" Nick from the USPS

  • "Of course I have heard of Mule Racing! Go to http://muleracing.org for confirmation! The mule racers may be insulted by your column. Watch out, those mules can have a nasty kick! Of course your are in the sedate, conservative east. Those of us in the wild wild west know about mule racing. The web site talks about the races in Winnemucca. That's in Nevada." Linda of the IRS in Montana.

  • "Mules always get a bad rap. But it was mules, not horses, that did all the heavy lifting in both world war's. And they are much tougher and generally much nicer than horses. Except of course for the ones who bite." Carl, St. Louis.

Mule-riffic!

Finally, Louise Fenner from the State Department, sends this mule update: Here are some photos of barrel-racing mules during Mule Days in Drummond, Montana. Gihaw!

Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

The first plug-in hybrid car in the United States is ready to roll out in November. MIT's TechnologyReview reports the Fisker Karma will have 50 miles of battery-powered range and cost $87,000.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com