A drop in the bucket -- 11/30/10

So there are screams of outrage now because President Obama is talking about saving five billion dollars by not giving federal employees pay raises for the next two years. Note that this does not eliminate step raises (nor bonuses nor promotions); it simply eliminates the automatic "cost of living" increase for two years. Gee, this is the second year in a row that there has not been a cost of living increase for people retired on Social Security because the official inflation rate has been low.

Why should federal workers be entitled to such an automatic raise? Those of us who work in the real world don't have any such guarantee. In fact, out here in the real world, many people have taken pay cuts.

I've not had any pay cuts but during the past five years I've had just one pay raise -- what they call a market adjustment (i.e., the average pay for my kind of job had increased in the northeastern U.S. job market so I got a $1k raise). I have received annual "bonus" payments based on a calculation of how well the company reached its targets, my division reached its targets, and my annual performance ratings -- but each year that is a temporary one-shot deal; next year is a whole new calculation.

In the meanwhile, I pay taxes every year to support a bloated federal workforce that gets cost of living raises and longevity raises plus better benefits. I don't have a golden pension plan like they do either; I just get a fifty cent match for each dollar I contribute to my 401(k) plan for the first few percents -- but I sure get to keep paying taxes to support the benefits for federal workers.

Senator Jack Reed (D, RI) says that "Everyone's got to start tightening belts" and that it "sends the right signal." When I heard his statement, of course, I amused myself by wondering how he would have reacted given all of the same facts except to have a Republican in the White House. Is there any chance? And the freeze is similar to earlier proposals from Republicans. Do you think they will say "Good idea" or will they begin to nitpick and quibble?

Now I suppose any individual federal employee will say "But I didn't cause this mess. Why pick on me?" Ah, but individually -- except for the politicians and the Wall Street funny money crowd and the investment bankers and the mortage industry and the morons who bought houses they couldn't afford but assumed they could sell at a profit next year to an even bigger fool (ah, that's a lot of people you might say, but even in their millions they are a small part of the nation) -- individually we had nothing to do with the economic crisis. True. It wasn't our fault, but nevertheless we all have to pay for it. The Chris Dodds and the Barney Franks won't suffer, but the rest of us have to pay for it before it gets worse. Yes, even federal employees.

And yes -- this pay freeze (saving five billion dollars over the next two years) is but a drop in the bucket compared to what has to be done to reduce the cost of government and to eliminate the deficit and to begin to pay down the national debt. First it was Greece... now Ireland... next Portugal or Spain? Or will the government just print dollars until they are worthless?

Okay, I've got to post this and take my computer to Blue Moon Computers in Wakefield to get a new hard drive. This is an old computer with a 40 Gb drive. I am replacing it with a 250 Gb drive. Yeah, sure, I could do that myself, but I am having Blue Moon move the entire image of my old drive to the new one, including all installed programs. (Yeah, I suppose I could to that myself as well, but I would have to buy the software to do it and I would probably have to spend hours doing it.)

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