Federal Pay Freeze: A November Surprise?

Friday - 6/11/2010, 4:00am EDT

Will Congress make a pre-election attempt to freeze the salaries of white collar federal workers?

Does a bear schlep in the woods?

The thought of skipping the 2011 federal pay raise (President Obama has proposed a 1.4 percent increase next January) is considered, by most people, to be madness. That is to most people who live Inside The Beltway.

But beyond I-495, out where most members of Congress get elected - and especially in low-wage, high-unemployment areas - socking it to the bureaucrats is always popular. Now more than ever.

Reality check: Over the past few months there have been a rash of feds-are-paid-too-much stories in major publications like USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times. Many smaller papers have picked them up, or rewritten them either as news stories or editorials.

People who suspect a plot, and the woods in DC are chock full of plot-suspectors, think the evil genius behind the federal pay freeze ploy works for a conservative think tank. And that it supplies like-minded reporters with data, suggestions and venom-shots. Some of the stories compare federal vs. private sector pay averages. Others say that even on a job-for-job match up, Uncle Sam's workers are well ahead of their hometown industry counterparts. Toss in the value of federal fringe benefits (something the Clinton administration wanted to do) in the comparisons and the feds come out on top, they say.

It is also possible that the overpaid feds stories are written by true-believers. That they've done their own research and reached their own conclusions.

It is also probably true that stories about bloated bureaucrats attract more attention, and readers, than a piece about the bravery of a NPS ranger or what the very smart people at NASA , DARPA or the National Institutes of Health or the CDC are working on. Or what they've done for us lately.

They don't understand the federal government doesn't do retail!!!

It is composed mainly of administrative and technical people whose jobs have little in common with greeters at Wal-Mart or many small businesses.

There are more than 20 groups - unions, associations, etc. - representing rank and file feds, managers, executives and retirees. Many, if not most of them, fully expect that Congress will take another shot at a 2011 pay freeze.

In some cases they concede that pay-freeze politicians are doing it out of genuine conviction that civil servants in times of high unemployment, furloughs and pay cuts should give a little.

In other cases the politicians would support a pay freeze knowing the public (voters) are in a throw-the-rascals out mode. Although they live and work in Washington (usually staying here when they lose or retire) and spend millions to keep getting re-elected, some find ways to be anti-Washington after decades here.

On Wednesday's Your Turn with Mike Causey radio show, Dan Adcock of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association and Randy Erwin from the National Federation of Federal Employees both predicted Congress will try again to freeze federal pay. Adcock said last month's 53-45 Senate vote against a 2011 pay freeze "was closer than we like."

So is it coming? Probably. Will the freeze take hold this time? Keep watching your hometown political thermometers.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

You've heard of African bees. They're the ones responsible for "killer bees" being so deadly. Even elephants are aware of their danger. ScienceMag.org reports "a new study shows that the pachyderms utter a distinctive rumble in response to the sound of bees, the first time an alarm call has been identified in elephants." And it says "BEES!"


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