Federal quiz clue: Marilyn's toes

Wednesday - 5/21/2014, 2:00am EDT

Over the years, federal workers — from employees of Capitol Hill to the Internal Revenue Service — have won a lot of money and looked very good in the process on the popular TV game show "Jeopardy!" Most recently Kirstin Morgan won some big bucks while taking a short break from her job as a strategic analyst with NASA in Huntsville, Alabama.

In the process of winning big on national TV, some of the federal "Jeopardy!" participants also gave a very human face to the civil service. Their poise, charm and smarts probably shocked those people who claim feds are faceless bureaucrats who couldn't cut it in the "real world." In fact, they made out very well and probably smiled all the way to the bank!

So what if Uncle Sam got into showbiz? (Some would argue that's already happened). What if the federal government had its own version of Merv Griffin's famous creation?

If so, one of the categories might be questions about specific numbers and their importance to specific groups. Like these numbers:

  1. 1.8 percent

  2. 1.35

  3. 1

  4. 3.3

  5. 6
For the jackpot, the correct answers are:
  1. What is the amount of the proposed military pay raise the House is considering?

  2. What is the current amount of the still-to-be-decided cost- of-living adjustment for federal and Social Security retirees?

  3. What is the size of the pay raise white-collar federal workers are likely to get in January?

  4. What is the amount of the 2015 raise House Democrats say federal workers are owed and should be getting.

  5. What are the number of toes Marilyn Monroe had on her left foot (according to a popular, though false, urban myth)?
(The last was a trick question designed to...keep you on your toes! I don't often make jokes but...)

The point is there are a whole lot of numbers flying about out there. The 1.35 percent figure for retirees is real enough. But incomplete. It represents the rise in inflation, so far, that will determine how much federal and military retirees — and people on Social Security — will be getting in January as a cost-of-living adjustment. There are still five months to go in the countdown, so odds are the actual 2015 COLA will be more than 1.35 percent.

The 1.8 percent amount is what many politicians want to give members of the uniformed military service next year. The figure is contained in the National Defense Authorization Act the House is working on. The raise has a good chance. If approved, federal union leaders would no doubt use the "pay parity" argument, meaning federal workers and military personnel should get the same percentage pay raise. It has worked in the past. Sometimes.

Five Democratic House members have proposed a 3.3 percent raise for civilian feds but it isn't given much of a chance. If it did pass, pro-military groups might use the pay-parity argument too. So what's next?

Today the leadoff guest on our Your Turn radio program is Chris Farrell, with the legislative department of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees. He tracks current legislation and is a goldmine of information about how the process works (or not) on Capitol Hill. He's also been-there-done-that on many legislative skirmishes ranging from proposals to deliberalize the retirement system, reduce future COLAs and raise employee contributions. He'll also explain how COLAs can be delayed, deferred or come in diet versions. And why employees can't retire at the end of the year to get a bigger COLA than their pay raise.

Listen if you can (1500 AM or online), and if you have questions email them to me at mcausey@federalnewsradio.com or call in during the show at (202) 465-3080. The show will be archived here.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

The first office cubicles debuted in the mid-1960s and were originally designed to give workers more freedom at the office providing "individualized, autonomous space for workers." Also, the first file cabinets were originally designed to hold horizontal stacks of files.

(Source: Vox)


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