Career advice: When in doubt, duck!

Tricky (but not a trick) question: What is the difference between an adult duck during hunting season and an adult federal civil servant in all seasons?

Aside from the obvious (feathers, webbed feet and the beak), the correct answer is that the duck probably doesn’t know what might be about to happen. That tens of thousands of adult humans (mostly males) will be settling in along the flight path, praying to get a shot at their prey. The only thing the ducks did wrong was being ducks.

By contrast, most federal workers have learned, long ago, that they are almost constantly in season. That somebody for sure is gunning for them. Politicians, lately mostly in the House and almost exclusively Republicans, are constantly taking pot shots at feds. Democrats (from Clinton to Obama) in the past have also joined in to create shutdowns, block federal pay raises, trim future inflation adjustments for retirees, etc. But usually not with the zeal shown by so many Republicans. Their hope is to eliminate as many feds as possible while cutting retirement costs by making workers pay for less generous annuities when they retire.

The House has also unearthed something called the Holman Rule. That 1870s dandy has the potential of becoming a modern, modified version of the Spanish Inquisition, allowing individual members of Congress to cherry-pick federal agencies looking for workers they think are unproductive, disobedient, or just about anything the member of Congress decides makes them unworthy of remaining on the federal payroll.


There is also a plan to eliminate one in 10 federal (not congressional) jobs via a hiring freeze. Most administrations try the freeze approach, usually early on to show they mean business about getting the bureaucracy in hand. And smaller. Freezes usually crash and burn because the largest agencies —the Defense, Homeland Security, and VA departments — and health and safety operations are exempted right off the bat.

Also in the works are various proposals to cut benefits for people who retire before age 62: Raise the amount FERS workers pay into the retirement fund by 1 percent a year for each of the next 6 years. Reduce future cost-of-living adjustments for workers/retirees under the CSRS retirement plan and eliminate COLAs entirely for those retiring under the FERS system.

Some in Congress also want to curb or eliminate “official time”. That is when the government pays a union rep while he or she conducts official union business. If that happened, it would be costly and potentially crippling to federal (and postal?) unions at the grassroots level.

There may be some other stuff. I forget. The point is there is no much — some of it very confusing, all of it controversial — going on that you need a play book to keep track.

The saving grace for feds may be the very thing so many people are complaining about in today’s political climate: The bickering, partisan, hateful in-fighting in Washington that in recent years has produced little more than gridlock. Last week’s failed, time-consuming fight to repeal or do something to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is a perfect example of what Congress can’t do when it sets its bipolar (Democrats v. Republicans) mind to it.

It is entirely possible some of the above reforms/horrors (choose one) may be visited on folks in the federal family. It is also just as likely that what usually happens — either nothing or not much — will again prevail. And that if you get through this year’s job, pension and security intact, you can assume that it will start all over again next year.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Jory Heckman

Wild parrots name their children, and that name sticks for life.

Source: Wikipedia

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