The value of job security: Follow the money

Public service, at any level, has changed a lot in the last year. Knowing what you know now, what is your advice for someone considering a career in government?

If a young friend or relative came to you for career advice, what would you tell them? Would you suggest a career in public service? Like you! Or, would you tell them to run, not walk, to the nearest private sector recruiting office. Where the action is. Where the big bucks are waiting to be had. Start out where the money is, and where the living is better.


But maybe not now. Or for a long time in the future. Not necessarily during a worldwide pandemic — that may be tamed sooner rather than later or be with us for years — is upending everything. In many ways, it is more like a combination of war and a depression where everybody, in a sense, is on the front line. And most of us are in uniform: masks!

COVID-19, In addition to being a killer, has also eliminated or temporarily vacated many millions of jobs in the private sector. Some will be back. Many won’t. Many workers who are lucky enough to keep their jobs have taken voluntary pay cuts ranging from “token” amounts like 2-to-5%, to reductions of 25% of more.

If public service is your thing, state and local government’s offer many more opportunities to serve. Not in variety, but in numbers. Some have good pension programs, excellent 401k plan deals, generous vacation packages and job security. Except now.

While Uncle Sam has stepped up hiring to meet problems stemming from the pandemic, many private firms have downsized or gone out of business. Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that 1 out of every 20 jobs in local government local government have disappeared because of the pandemic. It said that tax revenue in many state and local areas has dropped by 10%. Government revenue is down 43% in Alaska. And many other places are hurting and cutting local government jobs and services.

The definition of what the government is varies from place to place, and person to person.

When people in the Washington D.C. area say they work for “the government,” most of us assume the government is the federal part of it. In Austin, it could be either state or local — while in Huntsville, Alabama or Ogden, Utah, even locals might guess the government meant federal.

Whatever your definition of government is, the majority of government employees work in state, county or municipal jobs.

So suppose you were getting out of school today, or planning to switch jobs. And you very much want to be in public service. Maybe for a variety of reasons. Beyond just the bottom line you should check out:

  • Which one has the best retirement package? Most private companies no longer offer employer-paid pensions. For their retirees, it is Social Security and their 401k plan, which if they are lucky, will offer something like the 5% contribution available to feds.
  • What is the deal with vacations, holidays and can unused vacation time be accumulated or is it a use-it-or-lose-it-deal?
  • Is it a union shop or a right to work deal? Which is better for you? Is your job dependent on good times? Does it offer job security when the economy goes south?

The answer: Pick the employer that has a monopoly in printing money. You know, U.S. currency. Amazon may make a lot after the fact. But Uncle Sam is where it starts.

Thanks to the federal monopoly on printing money, and the fact that members of the House and Senate are paid as feds — not by taxpayers from their home state — all remain on the payroll. If they are cut, it isn’t for financial reasons.

Like so many valuable lessons, this one is learned the hard way. It could be that lots of people who two years ago were sick of their federal jobs now feel differently. Teleworking, which pre-pandemic was shrinking, governmentwide is now the new normal.

So, knowing what you do now, would you let your daughter marry a federal worker? Would you yourself do it again?

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Alazar Moges

Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt were actually distantly related. They were fifth cousins to each other. However, Franklin’s wife, Eleanor, was Theodore’s niece (the daughter of his brother Elliot). This makes her more closely related to Theodore than Franklin was. It also makes her a fifth cousin, once removed, to her husband Franklin.

Source: NPS

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