3.3 percent pay raise: What are the odds?

Monday - 4/21/2014, 2:00am EDT

Over the past three years, prices for most things have gone up. Health premiums have increased. Not dramatically, but up. The cost of living is up. Not dramatically but up.

During that same time period, white-collar (nonpostal) federal workers have had one pay raise. A 1 percent increase this year.

Huzzah!

Federal pay has not been stagnant. Tens of thousands of workers have gotten within-grade pay raises worth about 3 percent during the last four years. A few at the lowest (starting) levels have gotten two raises. Some even three.

But as far as across-the-board raises for everyone (except for those GS-15s capped at $147,100), we are talking about a 1 percentage point gain in 48 months.

President Obama has once again penciled in a 1 percent raise for January 2015. Federal unions, as in the past, have expressed extreme disappointment.

A handful of House Democrats have introduced a bill that would give feds a 3.3 percent raise next year. Many people say an increase of that size — modest compared to past years, massive compared to the last four years — is overdue. And only fair. They say that the country continues to slowly emerge from a massive recession and that — after furloughs and shutdowns — feds deserve an increase.

In recent years, the House and Senate have become a majority- millionaires club. Some are saving money, making a point, or both by sleeping at the office. A January 2011 report by CBS News indicated that one-fifth of the newest members of the House of Representatives were sleeping at the office. It said at least 21 of 96 freshmen (not freshwomen) were sleeping in the office. That would be 19 of the 87 new Republicans and 2 of the then freshmen Democrats.

Living rent-free in DC, with maid service, a walk-to gym and other services saves a chunk of change. A big perk not available to the average federal worker or any American taxpayer.

Some people say that the influx of new House members was a contributing factor to the furloughs and then the shutdown. Many members didn't remember and weren't around for the shutdown of 1995-96. It turned out to be a public-relations disaster for congressional Republicans. Many of them left. President Clinton, despite later problems, remained.

Groups that represent federal workers, managers and executives are always prepared for the worst while putting on a brave face. In public, all of them, understandably, have endorsed the 3.3 percent pay raise proposal as modest, fair and long overdue. But in private they are less hopeful. Many say that while they deserve much, much more, feds will be lucky to get another 1 percent adjustment in January.

Keep hoping, by all means. But don't spend that 3.3 percent just yet.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

A greeting card that plays "Happy Birthday" when it's opened contains more computing power than existed in the world prior to 1950.

(Source: OMG Facts)


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