The monster in the closet is real

Question: What is it that so many federal workers have in common with some pre-school-age kids?

Answer: Some in both groups go to bed each night fearing the monster that lurks under the bed or in the closet.

The good news is that most kids get over it. A night light, maybe a careful nightly monster check by mom or mad, and the fear eventually goes away.

The bad news for many feds is that the fear never goes away. Because there really is a bipartisan monster lurking in the closet. It’s not a figment of your imagination. Not your delayed childhood. It’s real. While it’s been several years since he’s attacked (remember the pay freezes, furloughs and shutdowns), he’s always out there, ready to take a bite out of your pay or benefits package.

The monster most recently appeared in the House budget resolution, which went after the federal retirement package. While many members of Congress cash in on it: good retirement, highly-subsidized health insurance, a 401(k) plan to die for, etc., many politicians also find it the place to target when looking for long-range (often politically rewarding while being fiscally unreal) savings. So they can get reelected and return to the D.C. swamp they say they hate.

For most of this year, feds who pay attention were standing at attention lots of the time. There were a series of proposals to cut back their retirement plan, make it more expensive, while at the same time less valuable for employees, and to eliminate a temporary gap payment that is vital to many occupations — from firefighters and air traffic controllers to law enforcement officers — who are forced to retire as much as five years before they can collect Social Security. The combined savings in the plan approved by the House was estimated at $32 billion over a 10-year period. Reverse that and it means feds, postal workers and retirees would get $32 billion less in take-home pay by losing inflation protection over the next 10 years.

Many civil service old-timers, who’ve been to this rodeo before, said it would never happen. And sure enough, the Senate came up with a budget resolution that doesn’t make any cuts in civil service retirement benefits. The House adopted the Senate plan and that is that. For this year.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Earlier this week, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), in a town hall meeting with feds, said they should be outraged over attempts to trim their benefits. He warned that the pending GOP tax plan may have offsetting cuts that would impact government workers and retirees. Cardin represents a state with lots of federal workers, including the headquarters of the Social Security Administration, the National Security Agency, the National Institutes of Health, as well as giant operations at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Department of Agriculture. He warned that the Thrift Savings Plan accounts  could be in trouble under the GOP tax plan. True enough.

One other thing might help keep the fed-bashing monster at bay. That would be if House and Senate Democrats showed the same outrage and push back in protecting career feds when a Democratic president proposed cuts, including pay freezes. During the Clinton and Bush years, a bipartisan coalition — led by Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), with former Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) — beat back numerous proposals to cut federal benefits and trim or eliminate pay raises, whether they came from Clinton or Bush. And they were successful. For whatever reason, that fell apart in 2011, 2012 and 2013, when pay freezes, proposed and supported by the White House, were imposed, even as health premiums jumped each year.

Feds can probably relax this year. Probably.

But the benefits-eating monster is real. And still out there. Just as you suspected.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By David Thornton

The oldest living tree is called “Methuselah” and is 4,765 years old. It lives in a secret location in the White Mountain range of eastern California.

Source: National Park Service

Read more of Mike Causey’s Federal Report.

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L 2025 11.8130 -0.0658 9.75%
L 2030 41.4224 -0.3233 12.37%
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G Fund 16.7546 0.0007 1.38%
F Fund 20.4930 -0.0184 -1.46%
C Fund 65.8063 -0.8115 28.68%
S Fund 72.7500 -1.5311 12.45%
I Fund 37.3647 -0.4035 11.45%
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