As federal employees worry about how to make ends meet during a government shutdown ordered by President Trump, who has suggested they do odd jobs alongside their federal employment to make ends meet or throw themselves on the mercy of their creditors.
But even when the shutdown ends, Trump’s latest executive order will make sure federal employees still struggle.
The president issued an executive order Friday to freeze pay for non-military federal employees — including the more than half million that are currently working without pay or are on furlough. This makes good on a promise from earlier this year, when Trump pledged to scrap the across-the-board 2.1 percent pay increase federal employees were promised.
Trump’s new order also blocks pay increases to keep pace with cost of living expenses based on location, called “locality pay increase” also due to take effect in January.
“This is just pouring salt into the wound,” Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents government employees from 33 agencies and departments, told USA Today. “It is shocking that federal employees are taking yet another financial hit. As if missed paychecks and working without pay were not enough, now they have been told that they don’t even deserve a modest pay increase.”
Trump called that modest pay increase “inappropriate” in a letter to Congress in August. He wrote: “We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases.”
President Trump has also made an effort to weaken government employee unions, efforts which were overturned by the courts last week.
This freeze comes immediately on the heels of Trump tweeting about the booming nature of the economy and that “more good news is coming!”
The news from the Financial Markets is even better than anticipated. For all of you that have made a fortune in the markets, or seen your 401k’s rise beyond your wildest expectations, more good news is coming!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2018
It should be noted that to any extent that this move deals with the budget deficit, that deficit has ballooned as a direct result of Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy that were signed into law one year ago.
Congress can implement the pay raise on its own, and the Senate had overwhelmingly voted to do so at 1.9 percent, but that would require passing a budget and reopening the government, which more and more appears will require an override of Trump’s veto authority.
Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) said passing these pay raises was a top priority for the new Congress, saying that doing so “should be the first order of business when we return.” Maryland has 147,000 federal employees.
Stars and Stripes notes that a similar freeze for political appointees is set to expire January 5.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.