Why are Feds so Sad in Bed

Monday - 3/21/2011, 4:00am EDT

Monday Morning Brain Teaser. Today's question: Which occupational group has the highest rate of horrible nightmares?

  1. Lumberjacks.

  2. Federal civil servants.

  3. Food tasters for Moammar Gadhafi.

  4. Window washers in New York City.

  5. Professional Fishers

  6. Day care providers

FederalNewsRadio's scientific advisory board is still analyzing the data, so it will be awhile before we have an official answer. But if I had to guess I would say it's a tie between the window washers and federal employees. Maybe give the edge to feds as having the most unhappy dreams. Think about it...

The board of director of companies that employ and supply window-washers to skyscrapers DON'T want them to fall. There would be lawsuits, paperwork, hearings, insurance, etc. That's why they give their people good equipment and check up on them.

By contrast the government's board of directors (Congress) that employs, firefighters, astronauts, revenue agents, bomb experts, DEA/FBI personnel, disaster relief workers and scientists engaged in vital sometimes dangerous work seems indifferent, often downright hostile, to their career colleagues. Of late they've been holding their paychecks hostage, keeping them on two and three week life support while partisan politicians (currently on vacation) try to gain the upper hand.

The two-year federal pay freeze (supported by the White House and Congress) was just for starters. Now there is talk, serious talk, of extending that freeze, of reducing starting retirement benefits and of changing the systems used to set federal pay and compute retirement benefits. And charging them more for health insurance coverage. And of course furloughs without pay.

Changing the way federal pay raises are determined (in effect reducing them by half a percentage point) would reduce raises $50 billion over the next 10 years. Doing the same to retiree Cost of Living Adjustments is projected to save $24 billion by 2021. According to projections from the Congressional Budget Office the change would mean federal and military retirees future raises would be reduced $1,000 to $3,900 over the next 10 years.

Issuing federal workers and retirees vouchers to pay their health premiums would, CBO says, save the government $43 billion over the next decade. The vouchers would replace the current system whereby the government pays about 72 percent of the total average premium each year. Under a voucher system, workers and retirees would be driven into lower-premium plans, or pay more than 50 percent of the premium for so-called Cadillac coverage.

All of the above ideas have surfaced before. And didn't happen. But this time the mood in Congress, which is supposed to reflect the mood in the country, is a lot more serious. A number of newly elected officials say they've come here for a short time to do a job. They don't plan, they say, to become lifers like so many long-term members of the House and Senate. And they don't care, they say, about stepping on a few toes while they're here.

Most of us applaud that kind of political tough talk, provided our toes aren't part of the deal.

For a look at the proposals that are giving some feds and retirees nightmares, click here.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

As a federal worker, you know you're not allowed to participate in those March Madness pools on Uncle Sam's time. It might help to know you're not alone. The pools are banned other places too... including, according to ConnecticutMag.com, the campus of ESPN in Bristol.


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