President Trump at the White House on Tuesday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
President Trump really knows how to say thank you.
Just as festivities geared up for Public Service Recognition Week, which began Sunday, his administration sent a letter to Congress proposing $143.5 billion in compensation cuts for federal employees.
In a letter to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) on Friday, Office of Personnel Management Director Jeff T.H. Pon pushed four proposals that, over 10 years, would significantly cut retirement benefits for 2.6 million federal retirees and survivors.
Saying he wants “to bring Federal benefits more in line with the private sector,” Pon proposed:
  • Eliminating supplements for Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) annuitants who retire before being eligible for Social Security benefits.
  • Reducing federal pensions by basing them on workers’ basic pay five-year averages instead of three years.
  • Increasing employee retirement contributions with no increase in benefits. The plan would sharply boost the 0.8 percent of basic pay most FERS employees contribute. The letter makes the impact on federal retirees clear. “Under this proposal, FERS employee deduction rates will increase by 1 percent per year until they reach 7.25 percent of basic pay. … This proposal would require FERS employees to fund a greater portion of their retirement benefit.”
  • Reducing or eliminating retirement cost-of-living adjustments. The administration plans “to reduce the cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) by one half of one percent and to eliminate COLAs under the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) for current and future retirees.”
In addition to these retirement cuts, the administration also has proposed freezing federal pay next year. Employees suffered a three-year freeze on basic pay rates under the Obama administration. With next year’s planned freeze, federal employees would have been hit with $246 billion in cuts to wages and benefits, complained J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which released Pon’s letter after getting it from a congressional source.
    "President Trump’s war on working people knows no limits,” Cox said. “As Wall Street shareholders are reporting record profits and the wealthiest 1 percent are basking in their massive tax cuts, President Trump believes the career employees who keep the government running deserve another cut, this time to their retirement.
Paul Ryan did not respond to a query about the letter, but Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was upset. Calling the Trump administration’s proposal “draconian,” he said, it “would betray the promises the nation has made to middle-class federal workers who dedicate their lives to public service — as well as their families — and it would severely degrade recruitment and retention.”
In a conference call with reporters last week, Pon talked about the need to have “data required for having an intelligent conversation” with federal unions about compensation and having “that dialogue with the same data.” So why he is pushing major compensation cuts before there is any dialogue or agreement on the data?