Federal Workforce Waterloo?
Now that we're beyond 30 days of shutdown, there may be an opportunity on the horizon.
A mainstream media that no longer hides its alliance with the Democrat Party is hectoring Americans to sympathize with the 800,000 government workers who were furloughed or are continuing to work without pay. Yet these workers and their allies should be wary: As the shutdown continues, more Americans than ever may not only learn the true meaning of the term “nonessential,” but how much better government workers have it compared to their private sector counterparts. Counterparts who underwrite federal employee salaries, pensions, and health care benefits — all of which will be retroactively restored in full when the shutdown ends.
We begin with nonessential, and an anonymous furloughed government worker, who self-describes as a “senior Trump official,” paints a devastating picture of his colleagues. “On an average day, roughly 15 percent of the employees around me are exceptional patriots serving their country. I wish I could give competitive salaries to them and no one else,” the official writes. “But 80 percent feel no pressure to produce results. If they don’t feel like doing what they are told, they don’t. Why would they? We can’t fire them.”
Truer words were never spoken. Anyone remember the VA scandal that emerged in 2015, when 238,657 of the 847,822 veterans listed as waiting to be enrolled in VA health care died while waiting? How about the EPA employee who watched porn two to six hours a day while at work since 2010? How about the 2012 General Services Administration (GSA) scandal involving $822,000 of taxpayer funds spent on a lavish blowout in Vegas? How about two separate tests revealing TSA employees failed to detect contraband, including explosives and weapons, 96% and 80% of the time, respectively?
Former VA Secretary Robert McDonald insisted he fired 900 people. The NY Times revealed internal VA documents put the actual number at three. Five years after investigators found 7,000 porno files on the EPA employee’s computer, and even caught him in the act of watching it, that employee also remained on the payroll. Two GSA managers were initially fired, then reinstated by the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB). And two weeks ago, a TSA official actually insisted the current shutdown has “adversely impacted security operations.”
The aforementioned Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) ostensibly prevents government employees from getting fired for political reasons, and gives employees the right to appeal any termination.
Sounds good on paper, but the same Trump official reveals that “employees held liable for poor performance respond with threats, lawsuits, complaints and process in at least a dozen offices, taking years of mounting paperwork with no fear of accountability, extending their careers, while no real work is done. Do we succumb to such extortion? Yes. We pay them settlements, we waive bad reviews, and we promote them.”
Unfortunately, it gets worse. “Most of my career colleagues actively work against the president’s agenda,” the official adds. “This means I typically spend about 15 percent of my time on the president’s agenda and 85 percent of my time trying to stop sabotage, and we have no power to get rid of them.”
In other words, the adage that “elections have consequences” has been rendered inoperable by a workforce who favored Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a margin of two-to-one, according to a 2017 survey.
Thus, the will of the electorate be damned.
Moving on to compensation, that would be the same electorate underwriting employees who, according a CBO analysis, make as much as 52% more than their private sector counterparts in combined pay and benefits. Using data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Cato Institute put the gap at 76%, noting that the average federal employee earns $123,160 per year in pay and benefits, compared to $69,901 for private sector workers. It is a gap that has widened from 39% in the 1990s — because even when ordinary Americans were enduring recessions, federal employees kept getting annual pay raises.
Federal employees also get 13 days of sick leave per year, 10 paid federal holidays, and 13 to 26 days of paid vacation, depending on years of service. They also get flexible work schedules, telecommuting, first priority and subsidies at highly rated day care facilities, and the widest selection of health care plans offered to any U.S. employee, including access to vision and dental plans, life insurance, flexible spending accounts, and long-term care strategies.
As of 2017, the federal government employed 2.1 million civilian workers at an annual cost of $276 billion. Workers who put in an average 38.7 hours per week, compared with 41.4 hours in the private sector. Workers rated “fully successful” or above by their managers 99.5% of the time, despite a GAO report revealing that $3.1 billion was spent from 2011 through 2013 on paid administrative leave for “problematic” workers, including 260 who got at least a full year of paid time off. Workers ultimately laid off at one-sixth the rate of their private-sector counterparts.
There is some hope on the horizon. After the shutdown reaches 30 days, government employees are subject to Reduction in Force (RIF) criteria that could precipitate layoffs. Criteria that take tenure, veteran status, total federal and military service, and performance into account. Yet when this reality was revealed by the media, the Office of Management and Budget OMB issued a statement that such furloughs don’t apply to “emergency” or “shutdown” furloughs without a reorganization plan identifying which positions are permanently unnecessary.
However, a plan can be formulated at some point, and as as columnist Thomas Lifson explains, “After the 30-day deadline is reached, the ‘shutdown furloughs’ become ‘administrative furloughs,’ and the RIF layoffs are possible.”
Yesterday marked the 30th day of the shutdown.
In the meantime, political optics and reality intrude on a Democrat Party aligned with federal workers and open border advocates. Last Thursday, Democrats held a rally for federal workers — less than 24 hours after snubbing a group of Angel Moms whose children were murdered by illegals. A day later, Customs and Border Protection officials revealed 376 illegal aliens tunneled under an Arizona border wall and requested asylum — meaning they will join the “catch and release” club that makes an utter mockery of anything resembling genuine border control. On Saturday, Trump offered Democrats an extremely reasonable Dreamers-for-wall-funding deal Nancy Pelosi called a “nonstarter.”
But it’s Trump keeping federal employees in limbo?
“The lapse in appropriations is more than a battle over a wall,” the Trump official asserts. “It is an opportunity to strip wasteful government agencies for good.”
In theater parlance, that’s called a “two-fer.” In a nation with $22 trillion of national debt, and porous borders that enable a de facto invasion, sex trafficking, and drug smuggling so successful that Americans are more likely to die from opioid overdoses than car accidents, it is a two-fer whose time has come.
In fact, it’s long overdue.