Don’t Look

By: Dennis Bates

Annual pay raises for federal employees, when I still got such things,  used to show up on the first pay check for the first full pay period of the new fiscal year. That wasn’t the first of the year, as in January. The federal government employees new year started sometime after September 1, and that’s about as specific as I can get.

Never an employer to do anything that would be normal by most employer standards, those who decide such things have determined that federal employees get  paid through an elaborate, almost logarithmic formula.

The amount for a two-week paycheck is calculated roughly as follows: annual salaries for the different pay grades are set; they are divided by 2087, which is the number of hours in a federal government year. Never mind the fact that every other business has determined that there are 2080 hours in a work year. (52 weeks times 40 hours a week.) The hourly number is then multiplied by 80, which is the number of hours in a two-week pay period, and that’s the employee’s gross pay.

Logic would tell a person of normal intelligence that the government is having its own way twice with this system. The hourly rate is effectively lowered by dividing annual pay by 2087, but the employee is paid by multiplying that number by 80. (Guess what: 80 times 26 pay periods in a year is 2080.)

The government is not content to stop at this point. Tax rates change, life insurance payments change and health insurance changes, none at the same time of the year. Therefore, the federal employee’s pay check is constantly adjusted and readjusted to reflect those changes until everything settles out sometime in February.

Just think of how much money could be saved if the government programmed its computers to make all the changes just once. Of course, that would mean that the programmers would have to be changed too, and the fiscal minds that actually run our government might find that to be too mundane. After all the government thrives on continual chaos, so where would the sport in that be? Look how well our current system has worked. Oh, wait a minute…we are having  this temporary down turn, deficit thing, aren’t we.

The creative lunacy of the pay system has different effects on different employees, all of whom are taxpayers themselves, I might add. I used to work with one woman who refused to look at the information that told her how much her “raise” was. (They weren’t always raises, just in case you wondered.)  Her reasoning was that that government always cheated us and no matter how much the pay adjustment ended up being, it was always $50 a week less than she needed.

As the diatribe above reflects, there’s some small truth in her position, even if it’s very small.

The whole process always made me think about the passage from Matthew 6:19. Jesus told the multitude on the hillside not to bother itself with storing treasures on earth because moth and rust ultimately consumed those treasures.

Instead, Jesus told the crowd to store its treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust could touch them. Perhaps Federal fiscal policies, including those that set federal employee pay should be added to moth and rust as destructive agents, or, maybe my coworker had the right idea after all. Don’t be so concerned about money and other treasures you can store up on earth. You can’t store enough here anyway.


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