It’s August, so hold that thought

August in Washington, D.C. is usually pretty dead. And always hot! We know that. But while we complain, we have nothing on New Orleans, Houston, St. Louis and lots of other places where the “feels like” temperature humidity is almost always worse. But we complain — because that’s what we do.

It’s quiet, as well as being hot and muggy, because Congress is on yet another extended ‘working’ vacation that will run well after Labor Day. When Congress leaves town, so do tens of thousands of our most important, real and self-anointed, people who work for the House or Senate. Or those with jobs — journalists, lobbyists, lawyers, think tank thinkers, etc. — that revolve around political Washington. Some of them, many in fact, are brilliant and charming. Others not so much. These are the people those of us left behind don’t miss. On the road, in restaurants or just in general. Their absence is our win-win.

August is also a time when things are on hold until at least after Labor Day. Things like:

    • The Stock Market: Monday was a nightmare. After 10-years of a bull market, the U.S. stock market (Wilshire 5000 Total Market index) was down -907.21 points, or 3.01%. It was the worst trading day since December 4, 2018 and the sixth trading day in a row of losses. Is this the start of the long-over due ‘correction’ of 20% — or more. We came close last December, but bounced back. Even with the losses to date the Wilshire 5000 index, as of Monday, was UP 23.03 per cent or about $6 TRILLION dollars. All of this probably, almost definitely means something. But what, when and where are to be determined. Most current working feds who are under the Federal Employees Retirement System retirement program are depending on investments and earnings in their Thrift Savings Plan accounts to provide them anywhere from 30 to 50% of their retirement income. If they follow the pattern of the 2008-9 Great Recession, many will shift money from the C, S and I stock-indexed funds into the ‘safe’ low-yield treasury securities G-fund. The question is how much to the park in the G-fund. And for how-long. When will they know the market is ‘safe’. Some, like last time, will not return to the stock funds and will — if history repeats itself — miss out on the rebound. What’s your plan?
    • 2020 Pay Raise: It’s one-third of the way home. The House has approved a 3.1% increase. That includes both across-the-board and a portion for locality pay. It still must get through the after-Labor Day senate and then past the President who proposed a 0% raise for 2020.
    • 2020 Health Premiums: Most of the plans in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program will increase premiums next year whether or not there is a pay raise. The government will still pay the majority of the total 2020 premium (71% for the average white collar fed and retiree, and 75% for postal workers thanks to their union contracts.) Most people can avoid premium hikes, or minimize them, by moving into a comparable health plan with lower premiums. The problem is that despite the time and help (many can shop on-line at the office for free) feds get from their agencies only about 6 of every 100 workers switch each year. The percentage of retirees who switch plans is even smaller.
    • Retiree COLA 2020: Federal, military, Social Security retirees are on track for a catch-up with inflation cost of living adjustment. The exact amount of the COLA will be determined by the rise in the Consumer Price Index-W from the third quarter of this year (July, August, September) over the third-quarter of the previous year. That figure won’t be known and made public until sometime in early October.

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Nearly Useless Factoid

By Alazar Moges

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You know those foil seals on the top of medicine bottles that can be annoying to remove? They were added there after after a tragic rash of poisonings occurred in 1982, in which seven people in the Chicago area were killed after ingesting laced Tylenol. In 1983, Congress passed “the Tylenol bill,” making it a federal offense to tamper with products. Then in 1989, the Food and Drug Administration went on to create guidelines for manufacturers to make all products tamper-proof.

Sources: Public Broadcasting Service

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