White House war against federal workers

Julianne Malveaux | 9/6/2018, 6 a.m.
The economy is doing well, crows the pugilist-in-chief, complaining that he doesn’t get enough credit for the things that he ...


Julianne Malveaux

The economy is doing well, crows the pugilist-in-chief, complaining that he doesn’t get enough credit for the things that he has done to “make America great again.” 

Every time a positive number is released, he brags like a banty rooster. 

GDP growth higher than expected? He did it.

Unemployment rate down? He did that, too. 

He has little to say about the fact that wages remain stagnant. And he has dared to scold the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank about increasing interest rates, which is a reasonable strategy during economic expansion.

So if the economy is doing so well, why has the president declared that federal workers will not get the 2.1 percent pay increase budgeted for them for 2019? 

He says our economy can’t afford it. But his tax cuts will cause the deficit to balloon by $1.5 trillion.

We can afford to give businesses $1 trillion in tax cuts, spend $200 billion providing rich folks a break by eliminating the estate tax, and throw ordinary people $300 billion in tax cuts, with folks at the top getting most of the break. But we can’t afford to pay 2 million federal workers $25 billion in raises! 

The raises represent just 2 percent of the cost of the tax cut. The president says this is a cost-cutting measure, but many see it otherwise. Indeed, since he came to Washington pledging to “drain the swamp,” he has had it in for federal employees.

His pledge to “drain the swamp” is now laughable. The conviction of his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, along with the guilty plea of his personal attorney suggest that he added quite a few of his own alligators to the swamp he pledged to drain. 

The troubled resignations of his feed-at-the-trough cabinet members like former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price are proof positive that 45 did not want to drain the swamp but profit from it.

A thorough investigation of the way that 45 and his family have financially benefited from his presidency would be most illuminating. Consider the money the Trump family extracts from the hotel; the trademarks First Daughter Exploiter Ivanka has been able to obtain from the Chinese government, perhaps in exchange for implied favorable treatment from her daddy; the exploitation of federal resources whenever 45 plays golf at one of his own golf courses, with our government paying for it. This guy is not draining the swamp; he is swimming in it.

At the same time, his attack on federal employees is reprehensible. Why can we afford $1.5 trillion in tax cuts but not $25 billion in raises? And why does 45 keep bragging about the healthy economy while playing poor with federal workers? 

Actually, we can afford the raises, just like we provided the tax cut. It is a matter of choice. 

This administration has attacked the rights and dignity of federal workers from the moment he stepped into office. Legislation has been passed to make it easier to fire federal employees. Workers in federal offices have been capriciously reassigned, often given the choice of moving or losing their jobs. Federal employee unions have been challenged and attacked, with rules about union activity changing with little notice, office space taken away from union workers and other assaults.

Now, 45 is escalating this war on federal workers, taking away their very modest pay increases for the year.

In some ways, this seems directed at the federal workforce in Washington, Maryland and Northern Virginia, all areas that have no love for the blustering, bullying 45th president. But the federal workforce is national, and there are heavy concentrations in California, and in Trump-loving states like Texas, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. Notably, 18 percent of the federal workforce is African-American.

If Democrats win the mid-term elections in November and the U.S. House of Representatives, this attack on federal workers will stop. 

Congress can halt this edict to suspend raises through legislation, but the Republican-majority House is too bonded to the swamp-dwelling president to do the right thing. 

This is yet another reason to tune it up and turn out the vote in November.

The writer is an economist and author.