It’s the presidential election season so it’s time for the candidates to go around the country speaking to different groups and telling the audiences why they should be elected.
What are the candidates for president promising voters that would impact federal employees?
Here is as quick summary of what the three leading Republican candidates have said that would impact federal employees.
Nothing in this article is intended as support for or against a particular candidate. Also, we have not forgotten or ignored the leading Democrats. They were featured in a recent article.
Businessman Donald Trump has been leading in the polls among the Republican candidates for some time. His public utterances, for the purpose of this article, have largely been how to save money that the government spends, although he has not revealed many specifics.
At a New Hampshire town hall meeting, he said he would reduce the pension and healthcare benefits for members of Congress. Elected senators and representatives become vested in the federal pension system after five years in office.
Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at the age of 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. Members are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on years of service and the average of the highest three years of salary. By law, the starting amount of a Member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final salary.
As of October 1, 2013, there were 367 former members of Congress who had retired under the Civil Service Retirement System. Those members were receiving an average annual pension of $71,664. The pensions of the 250 former members who retired under the Federal Employees Retirement System averaged $42,048 in 2013 according to the Congressional Research Service.
He has also said that he would not accept a salary if he is elected president. “The first thing I’m going to do is tell you that if I’m elected president, I’m accepting no salary….”
If Trump should win and does not accept a salary, he would not be the first president to do so. Herbert Hoover donated his $75,000 salary ($1,062,000 in today’s terms, adjusted for inflation) to charity, and John F. Kennedy also declined a $100,000 salary ($723,000 in today’s terms).
Candidate Trump has also said that he would cut the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The Department of Education employs about 5,000 people. Eliminating this agency would presumably save about $68 billion a year, although much of what is now spent provides federal funds to the states and it is not clear if this would also be eliminated.
The budget for the EPA is about $8.2 billion per year and it employs more than 15,000 people. It is not clear if he would support eliminating the entire agency as he stated that “We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.”
The Trump platform also includes a proposal to “Attack our debt and deficit by vigorously eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in the Federal government, ending redundant government programs, and growing the economy to increase tax revenues.”
Senator Ted Cruz also wants to cut the federal budget. “The total federal debt currently stands at $18.6 trillion, larger than our entire economy. That is up 75 percent since President Obama took office, and by the end of his tenure, he is expected to have added almost as much to the national debt as all past presidents combined,” said Cruz.
His proposals to cut federal spending are specific and comparatively thorough.
To cut the federal deficit, a president Cruz would support eliminating five federal cabinet level agencies. Cruz said, “During my first year, I will fight to abolish the IRS, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.“
In addition, he would also eliminate 25 Agencies, Bureaus, Commissions, and other programs. These are:
- Appalachian Regional Commission
- Climate Ready Water Utilities Initiative
- Climate Research Funding for the Office of Research and Development
- Climate Resilience Evaluation Awareness Tool
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Corporation for Public Broadcasting (privatize)
- Corporation for Travel Promotion
- Global Methane Initiative
- Green Infrastructure Program
- Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program
- Legal Services Corporation
- National Endowment for the Arts
- National Endowment for the Humanities
- New Starts Transit Program
- Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund
- Presidential Election Campaign Fund
- Regulation of CO2 Emissions from Power Plants and all Sources
- Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Vehicles
- Renewable Fuel Standard Federal Mandates
- Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation
- Sugar Subsidies
- Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery
- UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- UN Population Fund
- USDA Catfish Inspection Program
A president Cruz would also support implementing the Reins Act. His website states that, “The Competitive Enterprise Institute estimates that Americans paid a total of $1.86 trillion in federal compliance cost in 2013, which averages to $15,000 of hidden regulatory cost per household each year. President Obama’s regulations alone cost an additional $80 billion annually.” This Act requires Congress to approve of any regulation or major rule that will have an economic impact of $100 million or more and ensure that Congress does not unlawfully delegate its authority to agency officials.
As president, Cruz would also implement a freeze on the hiring of new federal employees. No vacant positions would automatically be back-filled; and no new positions would be created. No circumvention would be allowed through the hiring of contractors.
For those agencies in which it is determined that a vacant position needed to be filled, he would authorize the hiring of a maximum ratio of one person for every three who leave.
I will also reduce the annual across-the-board adjustment for federal civilian pay but provide more opportunities for merit-based pay increases. According to Cruz, “The federal civilian workforce exceeds 2 million workers and costs the taxpayers more than $260 billion each year in wages and benefits. Since the 1990s, compensation of federal workers has outpaced that of private-sector workers: on average, federal workers make 78 percent more than private-sector employees.”
Senator Rubio has in the past supported opening up the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) to private sector workers who do not have access to similar retirement plans. He has stated, “The twisted irony is that members of Congress – who are employees of the citizens of the United States – have access to a superior savings plan, while many of their employers – the American people – are often left with access to no plan at all.”
He has also supported as a co-sponsor the “Reducing the Size of the Federal Government Through Attrition Act.” The bill would have reduced the federal workforce by 10% over a multi-year period.
In a similar vein, in the Republican response to the 2013 State of the Union address, Senator Rubio stated, “More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back. More government isn’t going to create more opportunities. It’s going to limit them. And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs. It’s going to create uncertainty.”
With regard to a bill that would make it easier to fire senior executives in the Department of Veterans Affairs, Marco Rubio stated: “if you work at the V.A., and you aren’t doing your job, they get to fire you. I think people are shocked that that [doesn’t] actually exist in the entire government, since there is really no other job in the country where if you don’t do your job, you don’t get fired. In this instance, we’re just limiting it to one agency. This should actually be the rule in the entire government. If you’re not doing your job, you should be fired.”
A major issue is the amount of the federal debt which has ballooned in recent years. Senator Rubio has stated: “Our $19 trillion debt amounts to over $150,000 per taxpayer. Our families and our children are on the hook for this….The bill might not come in the mail, but if we do nothing to change course, it will come in the form of higher taxes, cuts to our safety net, fewer jobs, and fewer opportunities to achieve the American Dream. For those reasons, the federal government needs to cut its spending, now.”
Here the main ways he supports to accomplish reducing the massive federal debt:
- Fight for a Balanced Budget Amendment and force Washington to live within its means without raising taxes
- Repeal ObamaCare and cut trillions in spending on the job-destroying law
- Push for line-item veto authority to cut wasteful spending
- Permanently ban pork-barrel earmarks
- Reduce the size of the federal workforce in Washington
- Prevent massive, irresponsible spending bills
- Allow states to use wasteful federal funds to pay down the national debt
- Oppose corporate welfare like the New Deal-era Export-Import Bank
- Reform budget rules to provide taxpayers with the true costs of government spending and the benefits of pro-growth policies
- Reform and save Medicare and Social Security for future generations without impacting those in or near retirement