President Obama, because he promised change, signed into law a bill which will cut the federal pay of some Hawaiians, Puerto Ricans, Alaskans, and citizens in the American Territories by between 14 & 25%.
Here is the kicker - according to Senator Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Obama this group of Federal Employees were getting screwed out of federal benefits so this dynamic democratic duo came up with pure genius - further eviscerate their pay!
Not only does this screw the very employees both Obama and Akaka have identified as already getting screwed, it puts American citizens, who rely on federal law enforcement, disaster management, defense, etc. on a collision course with the type of incompetence we saw in New Orleans with Michael Brown.
I'm not sure anyone is playing 4 dimensional chess.
I know this is long but if you want to see a prelude of how this new government is fixing the problems we face read on. If they can screw this up so royally I can't wait to see the Health Care Bill. It will likely look like a bill which forces us to buy insurance from people who have been screwing us blind for decades.
President Barack Obama signed into law the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference agreement, which included Senator Daniel K. Akaka's Non-Foreign Area Retirement Equity Assurance (AREA) Act to replace COLA with locality pay for Federal workers in Hawaii, Alaska, and the Territories. COLA rates will be frozen as of today's date, and the transition to locality pay will start in January 2010.
So what does that googly gop mean?
Localities like Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and other American Territories don't enjoy the relatively low cost of living we have here on the Mainland. Hawaii's cost of living is reported by some to be as much as 55% higher than the Mainland. Puerto Rico is getting hammered flat as the Island hits the skids and prices prove to be mercurial. The end effect is that a federal employee in Puerto Rico or Hawaii, while getting the same pay as an identically situated employee in D.C., takes home relatively much less. If Hawaii's cost of living is 55% higher a federal worker on the Island is taking home relatively less than half his equal is on the Mainland.
To fix this half pay for equal work dilemma places like Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Hawaii pay white collar federal workers an extra benefit called the cost-of-living-allowance (COLA). Makes sense, Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico are America so why can't those American Citizens make the same relative dollar their equals make in D.C.? Thus, if you make $50,000 in Hawaii as a white-collar Federal Worker you get paid an extra 25% to offset the fact you are really making less than your Mainland Brother. It doesn't really put the Islanders on an equal playing field but what the heck.
There was some belly aching, legitimately, about the way retirement benefits were being calculated for the far flung places which were given COLA's. Retirement benefits for COLA recipients were being calculated using the base pay only and not taking into consideration the COLA benefit. Thus, if you were making $50K base pay with a 25% COLA your retirement package was calculated as if you were only making $50K. This meant retirees in these areas were being treated like they had the financial retirement needs of someone in D.C. and not like someone who lived in uber expensive Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
Well Senator Akaka thought this screwing of retirees should not stand and he came up with a real brain-child. Get rid of the COLA and merely increase the base pay. Then calculate the retirement package on the base pay. So, the a Hawaiian's $50K wouldn't get the 25% COLA tacked on but would instead be paid a base salary of $62.5K and the retirement package would be based on this newly increased base pay. Unfortunately, these silly men didn't realize it was legally impossible to increase the base pay past the hypothetical $50K for many employees. So yes, they took away the COLA but didn't increase the base pay.
So Akaka and our president ushered and signed into law a bill which gets rid of the COLA and for scores of federal employees it does not allow their pay to go up a red cent. If you think you read that wrong you didn't. The clowns erased the employees only salvation, the COLA, and for many employees the new law will not raise their pay by a nickle. Thus, that $50K employee's new compensation will be $50K plus a COLA of ZERO! With this four dimensional Nija logic no wonder D.C. allowed our economy to be driven by clowns until it hit rock bottom. When they hit rock bottom they just started digging. I guess with this type of moronic fix we shouldn't be all too surprised we didn't get the Public Option Obama didn't campaign on.
Here is where that silly Senator Akaka lost his way - many white-collar federal employees don't have a base salary which can be legally increased. For instance the United States Attorney in Hawaii has a set income of around $155K. Many of his top deputies are equally limited to making no more than that. This is because many of the heavy lifters are either given a fixed salary or are hired at the top of the allowable range. For instance Obama's Press Secretary, Gibbs, makes around $172K Do you think maybe Obama hired Gibbs at $172K but the top of his pay range is $190K? NO! Obama hired the guy and paid him the max under what the law allowed for the position. For an employee in Gibbs' positon you would erase his COLA of 25% but since you hadn't the good sense to also raise the statutory maximum pay you wouldn't be improving his lot in life you would just be reducing his pay by $43K. And this would be after you had identified him as a person who was getting screwed out of retirement benefits. It is like fixing a screwing by merely doubling up on the screw factor. Like the highly qualified Gibbs a large group of important, and very highly qualified, Federal Employees have no room to have their pay grow - the ceiling is set by law and this very dumb law didn't think to increase the ceiling only lift the floor. And all while erasing of the COLA.
Now I know you are all getting this picture of a fat government employee who does little more than punch in and out. Yet, these are not the people we are talking about. Instead we are talking about the professional class of federal employee who are providing the federal support we desperately depend on. Federal Law Enforcement, Federal Judicial Staffs, U.S. Attorneys Office, Federal Criminal Defense, disaster management, on and on. Nor are the people in these jobs slouches. Instead they are the best of the best and they have opted to provide a public service for a fraction of what they would be paid in the private sector.
The loss to the citizens of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Alaska is far worse than the COLA - this asinine reduction in real pay will mean the top dogs, who insure the delivery of citizen's most important federal support, will be forced to finally go somewhere else. If a U.S. Attorney and most of her top legal staff can make an easy $250 in the private sector on the Mainland why would they live in Hawaii for $150 reduced by the 55% increased cost of living? This is what Islanders in Puerto Rico and Hawaii refer to as "brain drain." Few professionals worth their salt remain when the good feeling of providing public service gets lapped by a pay plumbers would laugh at. So big deal, a bunch of less qualified people will be more than happy to take the pay. Well, we know what happens when less qualified people assume important federal positions which should be reserved for capable journeymen - We get yahoos like Michael Brown screwing the pooch as they fail to deliver the federal services we absolutely depend on. The likes of Brownie should not be the employees left standing and willing to take the lower pay because their low level of ability couldn't make a dime more. Simply put, you don't want the second and third stringers doing the most difficult of federal jobs. It spells risk of disaster and the poorest of delivery when it comes to much needed federal programs. I'm willing to bet New Orleans would have gladly ponied up an extra 25% in pay to insure they had a better FEMA director and not that guy the cat dragged in.
So why does Obama, Senator Akaka and the rest of Washington feel Hawaiians, Alaskans, Puerto Ricans, and people from the U.S. Virgin Islands deserve to make as much as 55% less than their important equals do in D.C.? How could these people have identified important and vital employees getting screwed and come up with a fix that merely doubley screws them? If this is their fix I would hate to see their mistakes. I'm growing increasingly scared of these people because if they are willing to give us this as a fix who knows where rock bottom is?
There is a simple fix here but when I called Akaka's people they actually snickered at me. It would be to merely raise the level of the ceiling. Make sure the top pay is increased by the COLA percentage you just took away. Make the former $50K top pay $62.5K. I also contacted the point person in the Office of Personnel Management working in D.C. He basically said "statutory maximums are a reality. We all live with them." I guess what he really meant to say was "we are screwing you solid so get use to it." This glib remark smacked of the racism Puerto Rico and Hawaii have been battling for decades. Almost as if he was saying "you people should be happy with what you get." I wanted to slash his paycheck by 25% and watch him get use to that "reality."
With change like this what the hell gives?