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The Journal Gazette

Friday, February 08, 2019 1:00 am

Shutdown raises issue of paycheck inequities

Kevin Krajewski

In the midst of the partial federal government shutdown, I noted the imposition of a significant pay raise ($10,000) for senior government officials, including Vice President Mike Pence.

This had resulted from “inaction” on the part of the 115th Congress, whose members throughout the shutdown continued to receive their pay, while of course 800,000 federal workers went without pay – some were even compelled to work.

These raises stood as an insult to the general public and were a direct and damning affront to a significant portion of the federal workforce, many of whom – the air traffic controllers, members of the Border Patrol, Coast Guard and TSA, to name a few among many – remained faithful to their duties to the nation they serve.

They were at various times derided by members of an administration, some of whom stood to benefit from the windfall raises, even though most were themselves already millionaires. It is not a draining of the political swamp infesting Washington, D.C.; it was merely replacing it with more foul water.

Fortunately, Congress has passed and the president has signed legislation allowing for payment of back wages and salary to many of the affected federal workforce. Now, under a Democratic-led initiative, a proposal, House Resolution 790, calls for a 2.6 percent pay raise for the civilian workforce in 2019 to match what has been implemented for members of the military.

For his part, President Trump had called for no raise for 2019 for the 2.1 million-civilian federal workforce, even as he took swipes at the workforce he had been complicit, along with Congress, in shutting out or furloughing without pay.

Republicans in Congress, led by Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, have made known their opposition to HR 790. It should be noted, of course, that among the most influential of Republican legislators on Capitol Hill, Meadows, chair of the ultra-conservative Freedom Coalition, stood at the forefront of those urging on the president to carry out the shutdown.

And, in long-standing principle of their opposition to across-the-board federal pay increases, which amount to little more than cost-of-living adjustments which in the past members of Congress also received, Meadows has voiced the need for merit-based pay. That is, reward the most highly productive and proficient of federal workers while perhaps doubling down on efforts to seek removal of those who are lagging.

As a retired federal worker whose own salary was certainly nowhere among the highest, I am led to wonder: As part of an institution which has received approval ratings of 9 percent or less from the tax-paying public, have Meadows and his congressional colleagues merited their raise, which, by the way, places them among the top 5 percent of all salaried workers in this country?

 

Fort Wayne resident Kevin Krajewski is retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs.