Boost to Federal Workforce in Weak Economy: Bad Bill

Rep. Darrell Issa
The Hill
6/3/09

Added to the growing list of bird-brained schemes to increase the size of the federal government in the midst of a struggling economy is H.R. 626, the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, introduced earlier this year to guarantee four weeks of paid parental leave exclusively to government employees.

The justification behind the bill — according to its Democratic sponsor — is to make federal employment more appealing in the job market and to increase employee retention. Questionable timing when you consider that the latest monthly economic snapshot showed the U.S. unemployment rate rose to 8.9 percent in April with 539,000 jobs lost. Is this the time for Congress to create a new and costly benefit for the federal workforce?

It’s not that federal employees shouldn’t receive paid leave for hospitalization, recovery and adjustment time following the birth of a new child. Already federal workers are allowed to designate up to one month of accrued sick and vacation leave for this important time in a family’s life.

What we don’t need, however, is for Congress to tell nearly 14 million unemployed Americans that 2.7 million gainfully employed federal workers will receive additional benefits at a projected cost close to $1 billion to taxpayers.

Already we’re seeing record increases in the federal payroll — 37,000 new jobs in the last year alone — at a time of record unemployment in the private sector — 2 million jobs lost since President Obama took office.

H.R. 626 sends the wrong message at the wrong time to American taxpayers and job-hunters reeling from a disastrous economic freefall. Nevertheless, the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress seem content to push ahead in spite of glaring hypocrisy.

Demonstrating once again a propensity for political doublespeak, the Democrats are trying to create a smokescreen of feigned fiscal discipline to obscure a never-ending stream of deficit-spending programs.

Uncle Sam is a pretty good employer, and he takes good care of his employees. A recent analysis by the Office of Personnel Management found that existing federal government leave policies and programs compare favorably with benefits offered by most private sector companies.

And when it comes to paid time off, federal employees already receive five more paid vacation days per year than the average American worker.

Americans have the right to expect Washington to tighten its belt in these tough economic times, not start looking for new ways to spend their money on expensive legislation, however well intended.

Congress should focus its energies more on helping 14 million unemployed Americans find good-paying jobs with benefits before they give 2.7 million employed Americans a sweeter deal.