September 21, 2018
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Tax cuts, not federal worker raises, are ballooning the deficit

Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald
Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald
Mark Vigliotta, president of Federal Employees Metal Trades Council Local 836 based at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, left, is seen with Seacoast Shipyard Association Chairman John Joyal in this Seacoast Online file photo. Vigliotta was critical of a proposal by President Donald Trump to freeze the pay of 2 million federal workers, including some at the shipyard.

President Donald Trump has cancelled scheduled pay increases for federal employees because, he says, the country can’t afford them.

“We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” Trump wrote in a letter to House and Senate leaders.

Our nation is not a fiscally sustainable course, but not because federal workers are due for a small pay increase in January. Our federal budget is a disaster because Trump and congressional Republicans insisted on passing a tax cut package, which will mostly benefit wealthy people and corporations, without any offsetting spending cuts or revenue increases.

As a consequence, the federal government is on track to borrow $1 trillion this year, the Treasury Department reported earlier this year. That’s twice last year’s borrowing.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the higher borrowing was the result of lower tax collections because of the Republican tax cuts.

The amount of corporate tax revenue collected has reached a 75-year low. This has grown the federal deficit much faster than experts predicted, The New York Times reported.

At the same time, Trump has increased federal spending — mostly on the military.

The nation’s approximately 2 million federal workers were scheduled for a 2.1 percent pay raise in January. Locality pay increases, designed to compensate for local costs of living, were also scheduled for the new year.

The average annual base salary for federal employees, adjusted to include locality pay, is $84,913, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

The difference between federal wages and those for private sector employees vary widely. Federal workers tend to be older, more educated and concentrated in certain professions. Federal workers with a bachelor’s degree earn slightly more than their private-sector counterparts while federal workers with no more than a high school diploma earn a third more, the CBO found in a 2017 analysis. Federal workers with a doctorate or professional degree earned 24 percent less than similarly educated private-sector employees.

Veterans account for nearly a third of the federal workforce; about a third of these veterans are disabled. Many work for the Pentagon and Veterans Administration, along with the Departments of Transportation, Homeland Security and Justice.

There are more than 11,000 federal workers in Maine.

Unlike corporations that used tax savings to buy back company stock, enriching shareholders and top executives, these workers spend their paychecks in the local economy.

In his letter to congressional leaders, Trump said the pay increases would cost more than $25 billion next year. That’s a tiny fraction of the cost of the GOP tax cuts. The CBO projected in April that Trump’s new tax law, which gives big corporations large tax cuts, would grow the annual deficit to $1.9 trillion between 2018 and 2028.

As Mark Vigliotta, president of Federal Employees Metal Trades Council Local 836 based at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, told the Portsmouth Herald: Trump is “definitely trying to deal with his budget on the backs of working men and women for the federal government.”

Trying to pay for unnecessary tax breaks for the rich by blocking raises for federal workers is wrong — and the math doesn’t add up. Congress has the power to reverse this decision. It should.

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