Federal Employees have lost $200 Billion in pay and benefits
Trump budget calls for more cuts
Our nation has many outstanding advantages, but one that is often overlooked is our exceptional civil service. The men and women who serve in our federal civilian workforce are among the most hardworking, dedicated and talented individuals in the world.
They support our military, fight crime, keep our food supply safe, keep planes in the air, ensure our seniors receive their Social Security benefits, support American exporters and the jobs they create, and conduct diplomacy across the world to protect our nation and its interests.
With all the important jobs our federal workers perform each day, I am deeply disturbed to see that the budget request President Donald Trump sent to Congress would substantially increase the out-of-pocket costs they must contribute for benefits while they are active federal employees and decrease the real value of their income when they retire.
This assault on our federal employees is the most recent in an ongoing campaign by many Republicans to denigrate those who serve our country in civilian roles and make it harder to recruit and retain the most talented Americans for these jobs. If their agenda is enacted, there is no question it would weaken our country and put our national security and the strength of our economy at risk.
In recent years, federal employees have contributed almost $200 billion to deficit reduction in the form of annual pay freezes and increased cost sharing of benefits. Now, President Trump is seeking to eliminate the cost-of-living adjustments that ensure that the incomes of retired federal employees keep pace with the rise in their local costs of living. His budget would end COLAs altogether for current employees in federal service since 1986 and all future hires.
These employees would additionally be required to contribute an additional 1 percent of their salary each year for the next six years into the pension system until their employee contributions match those from the government. Pensions would also be cut by switching from a "high-three" to a "high-five" system — that is, one's benefit would be calculated based on the average of his or her five highest years of salary instead of the three highest.
The proposed changes represent a very serious threat to our civil service and to our country. Punishing public servants is not the way to reduce our federal deficit. The only effect it has is deterring our best and brightest from pursuing careers in service to their fellow citizens.
If America is to continue leading the world in creating jobs, promoting opportunity for our people and meeting the national security threats we face at home and overseas, we must maintain a strong and skilled federal workforce.
I'm proud to represent 62,000 outstanding federal employees in Maryland's 5th District. But there are outstanding federal employees in every single congressional district in our country. Every member of Congress ought to look carefully at how President Trump's budget would impact middle-class federal employees and their families and how it would shortchange the communities in their districts served by these hardworking federal civil servants.
The Trump budget proposal is terrible for many reasons. But let's not forget that it is federal employees who will be charged with implementing the programs and initiatives Congress provides for in any budget we pass. Let's not ask them to do more for less when we need their talent to do so much for us all.
While I am confident the extreme and irresponsible proposals in President Trump's budget all but guarantee they will not advance in Congress, I do not intend to sit idly by while the economic security of hardworking federal employees is under threat. I look forward to working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues who value the critical contributions of our federal civilian workforce and with the federal employee unions to stop these proposals from becoming law.
U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer is the House minority whip and the representative of Maryland's 5th Congressional District, which includes part of Anne Arundel County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.