Destroying Government to Save It

Some members of Congress believe that the best way to improve government services is to break the spirit of people who work for government. Senior Correspondent...

The quickest way to remodel your neighbor’s unsightly (to you) house is to burn it to the ground. This gives him the incentive to rebuild. Or better yet, go away.

The above model works best if you hate your neighbor and/or if your son-in-law is the only builder in the area.

Many on Capitol Hill have adopted a slash and burn approach with their career federal workers “downtown” in the Executive Branch. But their plan to improve government and reduce the debt which they (politicians) helped run up while hauling pork to their home states leaves something to be desired. At least among their constituents who work for Uncle Sam.

In addition to freezing federal pay (for two years so far, but maybe for as much as five) in a joint White House/Congress deal, some members want to automatically downsize future pay and pension increases, furlough workers anywhere from 10 days to a month a year, freeze hiring and eliminate government retirement benefits for feds hired in the future. And farm-out to the private sector things like collecting taxes.

Many members of Congress believe that federal workers are paid too much, more than ordinary nonfed folks, and that their pensions are out of sight. (The fact that 56 of 100 Senators and about half of the House of Representatives are millionaires is not lost on some cynical feds.)

The way to make government better and cut costs, some politicians believe, is to make government service so unattractive that people will leave their jobs ASAP and nobody worth having (the operative phrase) will apply. That would leave it to contractors to take over more and more government functions. We have models for this both at home and in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 3-plus decades of covering feds, I have never known them to be this angry or upset. So fearful for their jobs and their government. Unlike past flaps, where terrible things were proposed then forgotten, it is not easy to be reassuring these days.

Here’s an e-mail a lot of politicians should read:

    “I have to say that many of the proposed changes, freezes, etc., would make paying my mortgage pretty much impossible. I am worried enough about the high 3 changing to high 5, and now maybe this?? If they are going to cut off our legs, then they need to just do it so I can leave gov’t service now. I’m 39 and served 9 years active duty as a Naval officer and the rest as a federal employee. I’m a grad of the Naval Academy, have a grad degree from Georgetown, and have served a lot of time in the war zones. I tell you this so you can confirm what you already know…that some of us are NOT overpaid and, believe it or not, actually might deserve the whopping 93K that I earn in the overpriced DC metro area. I have good options out there, but I enjoy serving my country. Congress refuses to acknowledge that perhaps some of us are educated professionals with with sobering real life experiences. I cannot believe the arrogance of them repeatedly throwing us under the bus.” Sorry But Sad

Is this the kind of civil servant we want to drive out of government?

High 5 and FERS Phaseout

Nobody in Congress has yet introduced a bill that would calculate future retirement benefits on an employee’s highest 5-year average salary. But insiders say it’s coming. Meantime, a Senator has proposed eliminating the FERS retirement program for people hire after 2013. For a rundown on what’s happening on Capitol Hill listen to our Your Turn with Mike Causey radio show. Our guests yesterday were Steve Watkins, editor of the Federal Times and Steve Losey, senior writer. To get their take on what’s next for you click here.

To reach me:

Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

During an interview with the BBC about their new “Breed’n Betsy” machine, Mike Steele, from the School of Veterinary Sciences at Bristol University touted one of the benefits of the device: “No student is in a cow for more than five minutes now…”.


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