Most unions and groups representing career civil servants expect the new LAT (life after Trump) era will be much, much more fed friendly. That the image — not to mention pay and working conditions — for career government workers will be much improved. Could be! Should be! Right?
What has been a four-year nightmare for some civil servants has been replaced by a dream scenario: A Democrat in the White House, and also control of the House and Senate. And the COVID-19 situation appears to be improving fast.
So what could possibly go wrong? Short answer: Lots.
There is a belief to many that Democrats treat feds much better than Republicans. They are certainly more apt to say kinds things — and advocate for bigger raises. But once in control, some say they are less likely to actually deliver the goods they proposed and promised when they were the opposition. Playing defense is a lot different from being in attack mode. An example, provided by a long-time and now retired lobbyist, is the 8 years of the Obama years. It was a time when the president pledged to make government service “cool again.” And when he made a point by taking the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to some Cabinet meeting. Good for the ego and image of feds. But not legal tender that could be used at the grocery store or with the landlord. There were kind words and inclusion for civil servants everywhere. But when it came to real world actions, like January federal pay raises, Congress and the White House imposed a 3-year pay freeze as part of the program to climb out of the Great Recession, which the administration inherited, but still had to solve. Also during that time period, the White House introduced “sequestration.” Good or bad, it led to what many believe were unnecessary government shutdowns. Without pay for a critical time, then with retroactive pay for being forced to do nothing.
When it comes to beating up on government institutions, workers and career officials, no POTUS can, pun intended, trump Trump!
But looking over the track records of past presidents, many old-timers say that as far as being good to feds, Nixon (as in Richard) was the one. He cut separate private deals with two federal union leaders (AFGE and the Letter Carriers Union) that significantly benefited their pay. At the same time, presidents who said nice things about feds often left it at that.
Attitudes — and generosity, or lack of same — toward feds depends a lot on things like the economy, inflation and who is in power. Personalities aside, many believe that actual pay raise data shows President Trump was slightly more generous than President Obama. The numbers back it up.
In January, FedSmith published an excellent and detailed piece titled, “50 Years of Federal Pay: Democrats v. Republicans.” Author Fred R. Smith ran the numbers as to pay raises over the past half century. Guess which party comes out as the most generous to feds? To check it out, click here.
Of course there are many things that will determine how well, or not, feds fare under new management. Most signs point to good things ahead for feds. When it comes to understanding Washington and the ways of government, President Joe Biden is the ultimate insider. But hold that thought, because hopes and expectations don’t always pan out.
So fasten your seat belts and enjoy (hopefully) the ride!
Nearly Useless Factoid
By Alazar Moges
This state of Rhode Island was named by Dutch explorer Adrian Block. He named it “Roodt Eylandt” meaning “red island” in reference to the red clay that lined the shore. The name was later anglicized when the region came under British rule.
Source: Rhode Island Government