Trump Wants to Block Scheduled Pay Raise for Federal Workforce

With so many federal workers living in Northern Virginia, it shouldn’t be surprising that people here have been expressing outrage over Donald Trump’s decision to block scheduled pay raises for federal civilian employees. It not only impacts people employed by the government, but local businesses who depend on those customers.

In a letter he sent to Congressional leaders, Trump claims he has the authority to make such decisions during a “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare.” But if this is the basis for his decision, how can he justify recently pushing a $1.5 trillion tax cut through Congress that largely benefits billionaires and corporations while this will only save $25 billion?

Members of Congress have been quick to call Trump out on this. Gerry Connolly, for instance, quickly put out a statement highlighting the hypocrisy.

“President Trump is feeling cornered and lashing out by cancelling a modest, planned pay increase for our dedicated federal workforce. His tax bill exploded the deficit, and now he is trying to balance the budget on the backs of federal workers. I will not accept President Trump’s mismanagement of the federal government as fait accompli.”

Rep. Connolly went on to say Trump believes “the federal workforce is just a punching bag” and wants “to hollow out our cancer research centers, public health agencies, and national security staff.” Connolly, on the other hand, remains committed to seeing a 3 percent pay increase for federal employees through passage of the FAIR Act (HR 4775).

Even the Republicans in Congress are going after Trump on the issue. Rep. Barbara Comstock, who has literally voted with Trump 98% of the time, released a letter she sent to the president condemning the move. She highlighted how “we need well paid professionals” to “do the important work of protecting our country and providing for a stronger economy.” She went on to say “we simply cannot balance the budget on the backs of our federal employees.”

This is also drastically different than what a lot of state and local governments have been doing recently. Delegate Danica Roem, for example, tweeted about how she proudly voted for giving public sector workers a pay raise here in Virginia.

Unlike the President disrespecting my federal worker constituents, I voted to raise pay for Virginia’s public employees: -3%: teachers & support staff -2%: state & state-supported local employees; -2%: merit raise for state workers w/ 3+ years of service.

Perhaps the best part about Danica’s comments is how that vote received praise from people all across the political spectrum because they realized public employees deserve to be compensated fairly for all their hard work.

Moving forward, the good news is Congress can still override Trump’s decision and the effort appears to have support. The Senate already passed a minibus earlier this month that included a scheduled pay raise, for instance, and people like Comstock and Connolly in the House have come out in favor of pay raises. The struggle will be finding a way to ensure the issue receives attention even after this initial coverage dies down.

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Cynthia Nixon Asked If She’ll Give Up Salary As Governor

As many of you might already know, I spent some time as a community organizer for a liberal organization based in Rochester, NY. I was there back in 2010 while Andrew Cuomo was running for his first term as governor of New York and was in several strategy meetings trying to figure out how actively we should be supporting his candidacy. I came down on the side of saying he was better than the GOP nominee (Carl Paladino), but that we should be focusing on winning local elections and supporting Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in the special election she faced to keep her seat.

With that in mind, I’ve been closely following the Democratic primary for NY governor this year between Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon. Hofstra University hosted the first and only debate between the two candidates last night and featured several interesting exchanges between the candidates (including one where Cuomo called Nixon a “corporate donor” and she had to remind him she’s actually a person), but one moment really stood out to me.

During a “lighting round” of questions, Cynthia Nixon was asked if she would refuse to take a salary as governor since she’s wealthy and identifies as a Democratic Socialist. While she quickly responded “sure” and confirmed the answer when the moderator followed up, there are several reasons why this question should never have been asked.

Perhaps the biggest objection I have to this question is it implies we only want elected officials who are in a position to work without receiving a salary. In other words, only the wealthy need apply. While somebody’s economic success shouldn’t disqualify them for office, we shouldn’t be creating an environment where only the super wealthy can serve. In fact, the Founding Fathers actually specifically dictated in the Constitution that elected officials receive “a compensation” so our country wasn’t solely represented by the aristocratic elite.

Secondly, it’s wrong to assume someone believes we should work for free just because they belong to the left-wing of the Democratic Party. The left doesn’t think we should be working for free, we simply believe everyone should be treated fairly. Anyone who doesn’t understand this hasn’t been paying attention to the political debate in recent years.

Thirdly, Andrew Cuomo is also extremely wealthy. Why wasn’t he asked if he’d give up his $179,000 salary if he’s re-elected? It seems weird that the liberal female candidate was asked, but the male candidate with a demonstrated history of corporate ties wasn’t asked.

Finally, refusing to take a salary doesn’t automatically mean a politician will look out for the best interests of the general public. Look at Donald Trump. The president promised he wouldn’t take a salary and claimed it meant he wouldn’t be beholden to corporate interests. Since being elected to office, however, he’s given out tax cuts to billionaires and corporations (a move that added billions to the deficit) but announced today that he won’t give federal workers scheduled pay increases because it would be bad for the budget.

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