Thursday, December 11, 2014

Boxing Day is a sucker punch

Boxing isn’t my thing. Too much blood and I never much saw the point of beating the crap out of somebody else. It’s a sport, but never seemed to be very sporting. Boxing Day has nothing to do with the sport. As fans of Downton Abbey know, it’s a holiday traditionally celebrated the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradespeople would receive gifts, known as a "Christmas box", from their bosses or employers. It’s usually a European celebration that is a vestige from a time where there were “Upstairs” and “Downstairs” classes. President Obama made it American this week when he signed an executive order giving every federal worker the day off this year.

Friday December 26, 2014 is now a Federal holiday – meaning that all Federal employees do not have to report to work and will be paid for it. Since Christmas falls on a Thursday this year, that gesture makes for a nice four-day weekend. And, really, who am I to be Scrooge about people getting a day off that would likely be one of the least productive of the year?

Federal employees get a pretty nice benefit package – 36 days off, or 14% of the year out of the gate:
  • ·        10 paid holidays (and Inauguration Day every 4 years)
  • ·        13 days of vacation for the first three years service, 20 days of vacation with three to 15 years of service, and 26 days after 15 years.
  • ·        13 sick days are accrued each year regardless of length of service and employees can carry over any sick leave accumulation to the next year. (It can be converted to cash upon leaving.)

Other benefits include medical plans and multiple retirement plans. You’d think that Federal Employees would just get Social Security, but in addition the government also kicks in an equal amount (up to 5%) to 401K accounts along with pensions and an array of other programs that require a full website to detail.

Popular thinking has been that in exchange for lower pay government workers receive job security, a generous benefits package and the opportunity to serve. According to a study using information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Government workers cost 45% more than an equivalent worker in the private sector. A 2012 non-partisan Congressional Budget Office study compared wages and benefits of private sector workers to public sector workers and found that pay and benefit variances – with federal workers having overall more compensation than their contemporaries.

The total number of Government workers is up under the Obama Administration thought it is down significantly from the Reagan era.

It is estimated that each Federal Holiday costs the American taxpayer somewhere around $500 million dollars.  Half a billion dollars.  In a $3.5 trillion dollar budget it’s not actually a significant number, but it’s still a lot.

If Federal employees want to take off Boxing Day – let them! No Scrooge here. That’s what a benefit package is provided is for – so that people can take time off with pay. It’d be a different situation if there was no paid time off, but there’s plenty of buckets for government workers to choose from. It’s the American taxpayer who has been sucker punched by the President in his half-a-billion dollar give away.

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