Federal Bargaining Chips


The shutdown standoff has made bargaining chips of all of us. Everybody pays the price when the government– federal, state, local – is not functioning at its utmost, denying services to the very people who fund it: us.

It is callousness and carelessness. Donald Trump said federal workers eventually would “adjust,” according to a Wall Street Journal story. But the same story pointed out the shutdown, currently entering into its fourth week, would have a lasting impact on people’s finances, that it will be difficult for many federal workers to spring back from the financial hit of not getting paid for weeks on end. That rings very true

A 2018 Bankrate study pointed out only 29 percent of Americans have enough emergency savings to last more than six months. About 18 percent said they have enough to cover three to five months, the 2018 Bankrate survey found.

Here’s the worse part – about one out of four or 23 percent have no money. And when you add the people who have up to three months’ worth of savings, less than half is ready for an emergency.  Painful.

In addition, when Trump calls out the federal workforce for “being all Democrats,” what does that mean? That we should care less? Trump is anything but subtle and so this is what I hear: It is in keeping with a decades-long war waged against the federal bureaucracy as being useless, bloated, bureaucratic, inefficient and ineffective.

It was Ronald Reagan who famously said to be afraid if you hear these words: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” That was 33 years ago, although some historians say it predates that era.

But I also think about how the Democrats’ base is significantly African American, especially women, and thus Trump also is saying, Who cares? Not my base.

But, as in many things, he is wrong again. Blacks do not make up the majority of the federal workforce. They are less than 20 percent, which is higher than their percentage of the population, but nowhere near the majority of the federal workforce.

Here is the demographic breakdown of the permanent federal workforce, per a report by the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) published in March 2018:

Whites … 63.6 percent

Blacks … 18.4 percent

Hispanic … 8.6 percent (under represented as percentage of population)

Asian … 5.8 percent

Native American … 1.6 percent

In the United States, where work is revered – where the workplace is the only reliable place to obtain health care benefits and qualify for a pension or retirement of sorts – how does the political class go back to talking about “the dignity of work” when they take it away so nonchalantly, making a mockery of it? What is the proper pushback when the highest government officials play with people’s livelihoods?

˜˜María T. Padilla, Editor

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