Taxpayers on the Hook for New Government Benefit?

In another demonstration of Democrats’ not understanding the impact the current recession is having on Americans nationwide, the Congress is set to consider as early as today, new legislation, H.R. 626, that guarantees four weeks of paid parental leave for government employees at a cost of close to $1 billion to the rest of the taxpayers.

The rationale behind the bill — according to its Democratic sponsor — is to make federal employment more appealing in the job market and to increase employee retention. Never mind the fact the pay gap between public and private sector employment is increasing at breakneck speed.  A study released in April by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that government benefits rose three times more than those in the private sector last year.  Moreover, public employees are earning an average $13.38 per hour in benefits, while private sector workers earn only $7.98.

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.

Just last month for instance, President Obama convened the first meeting of his cabinet with a furrowed-brow, finger-wagging challenge to cut a paltry $100 million from a swelling federal budget already deep in the red without the additional $938 million of this bill.

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.

Generous benefits, however, are one thing. Creating an inequitable system whereby government jobs receive expensive and ill-advised perks while the rest of the country is struggling to put food on the table is another. Had the 18th century French nobility understood that lesson a little better, they just might have kept their heads.

And if you think I’m exaggerating, recall the intense anger of the American people when it was revealed that a handful of corporate executives — who received government bailout money — had been awarded perks and bonuses at the taxpayer’s expense. The outrage was intense, and deservedly so.

In its current form, there is no way Congress can justify granting a costly benefit government workers at the expense of a nation that is struggling to survive the affects of a deep recession resulting in the loss of more than two million new jobs since January.  There is no way 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.

That is why I am offering an amendment that would require federal employees to “exhaust all annual and sick leave” before using any paid parental leave.  It would also classify the leave as “advanced” leave that would be “subject to recovery” preventing the incursion of any new costs for the benefit.

It’s not that federal employees shouldn’t receive paid leave for hospitalization, recovery and adjustment time following the birth of a new child — it just shouldn’t come at the expense of an American workforce struggling to make ends meet.  This amendment doesn’t get rid of the benefit, just the cost.  It will relieve taxpayers of the financial burden and allow it to pass with overwhelming bipartisan support.