Could you use 140-plus days off? Plus weekends?

Workers and retirees who love, appreciate and are depending on their CSRS or FERS retirement programs to get them through their Golden Years must be hoping that 2018 will be a repeat of 2017 when House Republicans and the White House took a number of swings at feds but didn’t score any hits. Many of the most draconian changes to Uncle Sam’s pension plan were proposed by House Republicans. But they ran out of steam (and time) thanks to vigorous opposition by the federal community and the fact that members were not in session and literally ran out of time.

But a quick look at the 2018-election year House calendar shows that members anxious to carve billions from the federal retirement program won’t have much time to do anything but try to keep their own jobs another two years. The House is looking at a calendar that gives it more than 140 days off this year and that does not include weekends!

The year 2017 started out hard for federal and postal workers and retirees. It looked as if the two major retirement plans would take big financial hits. And that workers and retirees would wind up paying more but getting less.

Groups representing federal and postal workers, managers, executive and retirees combined forces to beat back plans that would have eliminated inflation catch-ups entirely for current and future FERS retirees and reduced future COLAs by 0.5 percent each year for those under the CSRS plan. They also held off plans to raise employee contribution rates to the FERS program, base future retirement benefits on a less generous time-worked vs. average salary computation and eliminate a major benefit for anyone retiring under age 62.

It also helped, a lot, that Congress was out of town ,a lot , in 2017. While Capitol Hill staffers were mostly on the job, members were all over the place raising money out of town so they could come back to the swamp (that would be D.C.) most profess to loathe and want to fix. And one look at the congressional calendar makes it clear that there will be less action, as in a lot less, this year. Especially on the House side where everybody is up for reelection, where a record number of members are retiring (or running for other office) and where there is a real possibility Republicans could lose control of the House. Traditionally, the party that takes control of the White House tends to lose House seats in the following congressional election. That proved true for both Presidents Bush and Obama.

In fact, in spite of numerous efforts to fold, staple or mutilate the government retirement program, and two shutdown threats, things improved for government workers and retirees. The federal Thrift Savings Plan announced a number of improvements in the in-house 401(k) plan. When fully effective (within the next two years), the changes will provide much more flexibility.

So what has some feds thinking that, for once, time is on their side? The House congressional calendar is what! It shows members taking lots of time-outs in January, February, March, April, May, July, plus all of August and a big chunk of September, October and November in order to campaign. Check out the official House calendar. Might inspire you to run for elective office.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Michael O’Connell

German Chocolate Cake originated in America and not Germany. The name comes from German chocolate, a sweetened baking chocolate that Samuel German created in 1852 for the Baker’s Chocolate Company. The recipe for the first German Chocolate Cake was published in 1857 in a Dallas newspaper.