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GOP gives millions to the rich, shortchanges federal employees

Jennifer Rubin

Jennifer Rubin

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Monday, September 3, 2018

It is as if the Republicans are trying to lose the midterms by a mile. This week, the administration announced two initiatives: Deny federal workers a measly 1.9 percent raise, and, by executive fiat, index capital gains to inflation, saving the rich billions.

President Donald Trump on Thursday headed off a potential substantial raise for federal workers in the event of a congressional budget deadlock, repeating his call for lawmakers to freeze the salaries of 2 million federal employees in 2019.

The House has passed legislation making no mention of a raise, effectively endorsing the freeze that Trump originally proposed in February. The Senate has passed a competing measure allowing a 1.9 percent increase, a dispute that adds another sticking point to already delicate budget talks on Capitol Hill.

In a letter to Congress, Trump — who never tires of telling us the economy is the best ever — argues that the freeze is justified by "serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare." Moreover, he would have us believe that we "must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases." Perhaps if those efforts didn't give him, his children and his cronies enormous tax breaks, there would be enough to pay these people a raise that does not even keep up with inflation.

This would hit postal carriers, park rangers, Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors, Head Start teachers and aides, and the rest. Yes, federal employees are most heavily concentrated inside the Beltway, but there are federal workers in every state, of course. 

Only about 1 in 6 of the 1.87 million civilian full-time federal employees live in the Washington, D.C. metro area, which includes Northern Virginia, suburban Maryland and even a touch of West Virginia. The rest work around the country.

Although the Washington area has the highest number of federal workers, government employees make up large shares of the workforce in many other areas, often near military bases. Federal civilians are 15 percent of the workforce in the small metropolitan area near Robins Air Force Base south of Macon, Ga. Similarly, federal civilian workers are 13 percent of the workforce in the Bremerton-Silverdale metropolitan area near Seattle. Federal workers are 16 percent of the workforce near the Patuxent Naval Air Station in Southern Maryland.

Remarkably, Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., who represents Northern Virginia suburbs outside Washington, complains, "We cannot balance the budget on the backs of our federal employees and I will work with my House and Senate colleagues to keep the pay increase in our appropriations measures that we vote on in September." Perhaps she should have thought about that before she voted for tax cuts for the rich that are responsible for a gusher of red ink.

And, as we noted, the administration doesn't even have the political sense to wait a bit before announcing their reverse-Robin Hood scheme is getting worse. CNBC explains the plan to index capital gains:

It would be an estimated $100 billion tax cut that would benefit largely those who own assets such as stocks and real estate. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told The New York Times in July that the Treasury was looking at whether it could use regulatory powers to allow for the change. Critics have said Congress would need to approve it.

Indexing to inflation means taxpayers could adjust the initial value of an asset for inflation when selling it, potentially saving a lot of money on long-held assets by reducing the amount of capital gains tax they would need to pay.

There really is no end to the greed, the desire to reward the donor class over working- and middle-class people. If Democrats cannot explain the fiscal recklessness and robber-baron mentality that now drives GOP economics, they really should hang up their cleats.

Jennifer Rubin is a columnist for the Washington Post.

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