Bonus Christmas holiday?

For many long-time federal workers, the horror du jour isn’t sequestration-triggered furloughs or layoffs. Nor are the vets particularly worried that the next Congress might actually impose some of the draconian cuts the current Congress failed to enact.

Experienced civil servants, who have lived through a variety of changes, reforms and streamlining efforts, realize that their benefits have been threatened before — in some cases, for decades — without any changes being made.

Survivors of the federal service know that politicians talk a lot but are easily distracted. Usually by unforeseen domestic and foreign events, like hurricanes and revolutions.

Feds with double-digit time in government know that Presidents (like Ronald Reagan) who come in promising to slash the number of civil servants wind up with even more on the payroll because situations change. Or that presidents who were expected to expand government (like Bill Clinton) actually cut the number of feds dramatically.

So, while some newcomers, politicians trying to score points and the misery-loving media ponder the worst-case scenario of sequestration, real feds are worrying about things you can touch, taste and feel. Real possibilities. Such as the burning question:

Will the President give federal workers (but not postal employees) a long Christmas weekend?

Christmas this year falls on a Tuesday. In the past, most (but not all) Presidents have either given feds the entire day off on Monday or permitted them to leave work early. Merchants love it when millions of civil servants have an extra day off. So do people who operate hotels, run restaurants or other venues in fed-heavy areas. In a tough economic year, giving a million-plus employed people an extra day to shop, dine or travel can mean the difference between break and make it.

Do feds think about things like this? Absolutely. We got our first query on the subject in July. Since then, a number of long-time feds have also popped the question: Are they going to get the day off?

The answer is that probably nobody knows for sure. At the moment.

There are other things, some of them very important, at the head of the future decision line: Like who will win the presidential election? Like the unemployment and economic numbers. Which candidate or surrogate will commit the next big political gaffe? Will Israel bomb Iran? When will the NFL try real referees?

After the President himself, the most important person in the bonus holiday decision is probably from the Office of Personnel Management. Many top political appointees pay little attention to the people side of their operations. Some, including at least one former OPM director, don’t like “bureaucrats,” period!

Here’s where we head out on a limb…

The current OPM Director, John Berry, is a fed. He worked on Capitol Hill, at Interior, at Treasury and was director of the National Zoo. President Obama has invited him to cabinet meetings, a rare honor for an OPM director. Unlike some of his predecessors who correctly felt they needed a bodyguard, Berry understands and likes feds. So what does this mean?

Check this space about two weeks before Christmas.

We should know.


By Jack Moore

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