February 27, 2012 at 2:48 pm #154315
Did folks see this Washington Post article “I Work for Uncle Sam & I’m Proud of It”?
Right now there are 717 comments and looks like a flame war.
What’s your take? Any way to have a civil discussion about government employment?
March 2, 2012 at 3:44 pm #154343
From personal experience, I don’t think there is. I find myself constantly defending the unbelievable people I have met who live and breathe public service; and they do it because they believe in the mission. They are super intelligent people who I’m thankful for and we need more people like them. I had to stop reading the comments because it started to make my blood boil. All in all, keep doing what you do best…eventually we’ll all prove the nay say’ers wrong!
March 4, 2012 at 1:10 am #154341
March 4, 2012 at 4:18 pm #154339
Until we can convince the American people that they are the government and that government employees are just like them and have the same dreams and challenges, there will always be this false division of the people versus the government. Politicians from both sides have found that whipping up the argument of the “outsider” coming in to “clean Washington” wins elections and thus it will never stop. Ronald Reagan made it the cornerstone of his 1980 campaign and President Obama has found the same tactic to be useful when needed.
Nothing surprising about the flame war. Of course, the same people who write the nasty postings today will be the same people tomorrow who are thankful that a police officer, a fireman, or government official was there to protect their life, save their home, or provide government benefits when they needed it. Or they still may not be thankful and persist in their belief that government is the enemy. Doesn’t change my belief that the civil service is a vital and noble profession.
March 4, 2012 at 6:46 pm #154337
My take. Well it took me awhile to realize that the average american person when speaking negatively about government employees are referring to those employees who work in DC vs. other parts of the country and on military installations. In military friendly states, the citizens who are not government employees rally around same said employees, because the little “burgs” know, “if the base goes, so does their town and the tax base.”. Yeah, we joke about the gov employees in DC too, all the time. GS5’s walking around with gov supplied androids, the latest and the greatest technology with nary a thought about the long crappy process everyone else has to go through to get technology, training offered “all the time” with breakfast and or lunch “included”, while we are here with a miserly training budget, SES’s making money hand over fist, not because of what they know, more like because of “who” they know, no hiring freeze there, here we are “stuck” doing more with less and less and less……
No, the average citizen isn’t talking about us…their talking about DC gov employees.
March 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm #154335
You are combining two separate issues, civil online discourse and discussion of government employment.
Gene Wiengarten from the Washington Post has said that reading online comments to news articles is like eating sirloin steak with a side of maggots. Flame wars commonly erupt online over everyting from politics to sports to music to computers to the proper temperature of wine. I am no longer sure it is possible to have a civil discussion about anything online and have started to severly limit my participation in them.
Yes, we can have a civil discussion regarding government employment (probably not online). We simply need to be willing to view the issue from all sides (there are more than two) and understand that those who make the most noise for or against government employees usually represent the smallest constiuencies. Most people, including elected officials and long time career government workers, are more moderate.
March 5, 2012 at 3:25 pm #154333
I think part of the problem is on the part of us Federal employees. We need to seriously think about what are the proper levels of compensation for our work and what should we be expected to pay into our pensions. Federal employees didn’t cause the deficit, but we are a large source of spending and any attempt to examine the proper role of compensation doesn’t necessarily need to be seen as an attack – even as unions like to perpetuate it as such.
As a FERS employee, I receive a 15-to-1 match for every dollar that I pay into my retirement. Is that fair? Eh, not sure, but it’s certainly generous. Far more generous than what public sector employees at the state and local levels receive (they get about a 2-to-1 benefit match). But recent efforts to bring the amount we contribute into line with state and local levels (including a proposal by the President to increase employee contributions) was met with a war of words – on both sides of the aisle.
March 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm #154331
Where does the 15 to 1 match calculation come from?
TSP is basically 1 to 1. Referring to adding the FERS retirement annuity? Which I feel most people dont understand
March 5, 2012 at 8:51 pm #154329
The normal cost of FERS is the percentage of one’s current salary that must be put in the trust fund to pay for future pension benefits. The normal cost is currently 12.5% of salary for normal FERS employees. Employees pay 0.8% of salary and the employer currently pays 11.7% of salary. That is a 15-to-1 match if you consider the amount the employer pays vs. the amount the employee pays. Another way of looking at is to say that employees cover 6 percent of their future pension benefits.
The median for state and local government are: employee pays 5% of salary and the employer pays 9% – almost a 2-to-1 benefit.
Further, every time the normal cost increases, the employer covers the entire increase because the employee’s contribution is defined in statute at 0.8%. So, the employee used to only pay 10.7% of salary in 2004 and now pays 11.7% because the normal cost keeps increasing.
So even though the amount future federal employees have to contribute is increasing to 3.1% of salary, as a percentage of the benefit received, it’s actually closer to what FERS employees originally paid in 1987 when the program first started.
March 5, 2012 at 8:55 pm #154327
And yes, you are absolutely right, TSP is a 1-to-1 match up to 5% of salary with the first 1% being automatic even if you don’t contribute.
March 5, 2012 at 8:56 pm #154325
Yeah – I think fixing the FERS pension is important and also easy. Almost all young feds I know don’t even understand the FERS pension (most don’t even know it exists). So to me its an expensive benefit that most people don’t appreciate.
March 5, 2012 at 8:58 pm #154323
If I count up everything that the Federal government (as my employer) pays into my retirement, it equals:
Social Security Employer Tax: 6.2%
FERS Employer Contribution: 11.7%
TSP Matching Contribution: 5.0%
Total: 22.9% of salary
For law enforcement and other employees subject to mandatory early retirement, employer contributions towards retirement benefits equal nearly 40% of salary every year.
March 5, 2012 at 9:03 pm #154321
Some local governments (e.g., Gwinnett County, GA) have switched to solely defined contribution programs (with larger 401k matches) because they found young professionals, especially in our generation, have little interest in a pension benefit that requires spending an entire career in one workplace.
It’s an easy fix numbers wise, but very difficult politically. It’s gets to what I think the purpose of this forum topic is: that any discussion about compensation automatically turns into a flame war.
March 5, 2012 at 9:19 pm #154319
March 6, 2012 at 4:59 am #154317
I’m with the State of Illinois. The legislature spent the entire pension fund, so now we’re a ticking time-bomb and the source of our credit woes. My goal for this year is to leave state employment and go someplace where my retirement will be a bit safter. I don’t expect the pension fund to be viable by the time I retire.
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