Federal Pay Cut: What A Good Idea!

Tuesday - 3/23/2010, 4:00am EDT

Regardless of where you stand (stood) on health care reform, chances are you are glad the 14-month marathon is over. At least on Capitol Hill.

Now Congress can focus on other issues. For many members, getting reelected will be priority number uno.

Having just spent, or pledged to spend, jillions (to-be-collected from the taxpayers), somebody in authority is bound to call for a federal pay freeze next year. Or maybe a cut in federal pay (as happened in the 1930s). Or both.

Pay cuts and/or forced furloughs have become commonplace in the private sector.

(For purposes of disclosure, the guy I sleep with every night and shave every morning took a 5 percent pay cut earlier this year. So did everyone in my, uh, his, company. And they are among the lucky ones.)

Reporters, editors and others with prominent a well-known publication that covers the federal beat took a 25 percent pay cut. Ouch!

Staffers with some large newspapers and radio stations have taken a 20 percent pay hit. Or agreed to furloughs to cut costs to prevent layoffs. Since misery loves company this may explain the upsurge in media attention to "overpaid" federal workers. Or the recent call for a 10 percent pay cut.

First: It ain't gonna happen.

Still...

Beating up on feds is safe. And fun too. Especially as we approach the Ides of April and are deciding which shirt off our back we will send the IRS this year.

Long-time feds have heard it all before, although the drumbeat seems to be louder (and longer lasting) than in the past.

Several of the places that I know have taken pay cuts are unionized. They have contracts. In those cases, workers had to agree (as in vote) to take a pay cut, or their executive boards agreed for them. Clearly the majority felt it had to be done. In return their employers promised to make other cuts, and to forego bonuses for bosses. Most have an end date for when full pay will be restored, but not retroactively.

So it might be interesting to find out what it would take to get federal workers to agree to a temporary (depression style) pay cut. What wasteful or marginal programs in your shop or agency could be put on hold, or killed, to save money.

Would you, if there was a very good reason, voluntarily accept a temporary pay cut?

What would it take to convince you as a fed, and as a taxpayer, that a pay cut - or even freeze - would help?

And help what?

And if it's a good idea, should there be any exemptions? Would you be happy, or nervous, if the air traffic controller handling your 747 wasn't happy, or was nervous over how he/she is to make the rent?

Should the VA doctor or nurse working on your mother or grandfather feel our private-sector sacrifices?

And how about those CIA people having the time of their life in Afghanistan and Yemen? Surely they would welcome a pay cut. Every day is casual dress day. And they probably can't spend much where they are. Surely their families back home would understand.

And as a grand gesture, all people - press, politicians, bankers, etc. - who are advocating a federal pay cut, or freeze, should lead the way. As in "ask not what you can do for your country" but what you (and them) are actually going to do.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

Just in time for March Madness comes MentalFloss's Jayhawks, Hoyas & Owls (Oh My!): How 21 Schools Got Their Nicknames and this NUF: the Sam Houston State Bearkats used to be known as "the Normals".