President Obama is quoted as saying “The hard truth is that getting this deficit under control is going to require broad sacrifice. And that sacrifice must be shared by the employees of the federal government.” The problem with his proposals is that the Federal Workers are the only ones doing the sacrificing. The administration is not asking the health care companies that provide benefits to federal workers to freeze their rates, which are projected to go up over 7 percent this year. I think most federal workers would gladly trade their COLA increase of approximately one percent for a freeze on the cost of their health care benefits. Why are the health care executives and companies not being asked to sacrifice along with Federal Workers? Certainly the health care accounts for Federal Workers are lucrative enough that Health Care companies do not want to risk losing them over temporarily not increasing their rates. This unilateral action against federal workers is identical to when Congress placed federal workers on a substandard retirement plan but kept Congress on the lavish plan which provided a decent retirement benefit. If everyone is truly expected to sacrifice, then should not Congress change their retirement such that they receive the same retirement package that all other Federal Workers do?
The United States government spent approximately $1.4 trillion bailing out financial institutions and the housing market, both of which were grossly mismanaged. This November a wave of Republican lawmakers were voted into office who promised to eliminate earmarks (pork projects) from the federal budget which cost the American taxpayer an average of 17 billion dollars a year, or about 8 times the cost of providing federal workers with a modest cost of living increase. The swearing-in of these new lawmakers was hardly over with before this promise was forgotten. Yet this same government claims it does not have the money to provide a GS-5 worker making approximately $30,000 a year a very modest cost of living increase. The inherent problem here that has yet to be addressed is that the agency making the decisions on funding is the same agency generating the metrics on which funding decisions are made, an obvious and inherent conflict of interest which is lacking impartial oversight. Nowhere is this conflict of interest more obvious than the fact that the government chooses for its own benefit to exclude the costs of food and energy when calculating its cost of living increases using the argument that these costs fluctuate too much. Even if we accept such an argument, there is no logical reason for not averaging these costs over some finite period of time and adding them to the index at a later time as opposed to simply ignoring them. Such a decision would probably not be upheld through arbitration or review by an impartial party, and certainly would not be tolerated in the private sector.
The most damaging thing about this proposal is that it shifts attention away from the nature of the true problem which is the degradation of the working conditions in the private sector which has occurred under the auspice of Congress which has done nothing to protect rank and file workers in the United States from greedy corporations which have outsourced and offshored American jobs without oversight to the detriment of both our economic and national security.
When an American job is sent overseas we lose not only the job, but the social security contributions that would have been made from that worker’s salary, the federal, state, and local taxes that would have been taken from that worker’s salary, and the security of having the expertise and industrial base that is retained by having that position reside within our borders under our control. The offshoring and outsourcing of American jobs has now reached the point where unions are powerless to demand fair working conditions for workers and the salaries and working conditions in the private sector have degraded to the point where many public sector jobs are in many instances superior to private sector jobs.
While campaigning, President Obama promised to level the playing field with China and India, a promise which has been forgotten. When a corporation chooses to offshore an American job, the United States needs to collect the equivalent taxes which are lost by outsourcing that position through tariffs and taxation. As things stand today the only “benefit” the United States receives from an outsourced job is a low paying position created at a retailer (often part-time without benefits) selling products which have been produced overseas. The “solution” being put forth by our government is to allow public sector jobs to be eroded in the same manner as their private sector counterparts, a solution which harms our economy, future standard of living, and most importantly, children’s future.
AFGE Local 1923
Social Security Administration, Maryland