The top layers of the Washington rumor mill say the president today will announce a tough new inflation fighting program linked to a pledge to limit the October federal-military pay raise to no more than 5 percent.
Insiders say a tough policy fight has been taking place within the administration. The issue is the wisdom (and fairness) of "capping" federal-military wage package is the biggest single payroll in the nation, and the only one over which the president has direct control. Speculation has it that the president will call on labor and industry to cool it on wages and prices this year, and offer up the lid on federal-military pay as an example of how the bullet is to be bitten.
Any sort of pay "cap" would be a blow to federal unions, and to nearly 4 million civil servants and military personnel, who had counted on at least 6 percent as a catchup-with-industry this October.
President Carter's budget for this year asked funds to finance a 6 percent raise, and speculated that the amount of the keep-up-with-industry increase might even be 6.5 percent.
Each 1 percent raise in federal-military wages adds another $500 million to government salary costs. Locally, more than 300,000 white-collar civil servants are due the October raise, along with anothe 70,000 military personnel stationed nearby.
On Jan. 24, this column reported that top administration officials were saying the October raise might be held to 5.4 percent. Now the word is that the president could fix a 5 percent ceiling.
"The economists want him (the President) to slap a lid on federal salaries, and announce it now as a psychological gesture to the private sector," a top White House aide said yesterday. "But the people in government and within the White House who deal with the bureaucracy, and with unions, do not like the idea of a lid or cap. We'll see who wins tomorrow and whether he talks about regulatory reform, or wades in with an anti-inflation message."
If the president decides to limit the amount of the October pay increase now - before the data on 1978 industry wage changes is in - he could have trouble with the only major federal union that is backing, his civil service "reform" package.
That union, the American Federation of Government Employes, has given a cautious endorsement of parts of the "reform" package that other groups covered represents a sellout of employe rights and benefits.
"We sent Carter a letter earlier this week," an AFGE official said, "telling him in effect, don't do a dump thing like putting a cap on federal pay.'" He said the union had no received a reply, and hopes it does not get it today in the form of tough new antinflation plans that include limiting the pay raise.
Thanks, But No Thanks: Most government officials look for an escape route when they hear that Jim Boren wants to give them an award. Boren heads the International Assocation of Professional Bureaucrats, an irreverant society aimed at perpetuating paperwork and dynamic inaction.
Boren, whose coat of arms is a bird named "Status Quo" with the legand, "When in doubt, mimble," loves to give the INATAPROBU award of the bird to deserving federal officials. Most would rather have a double dose of the Russian flu.
Because of Boren's reputation, it was with special gratitude that Civil Aeronautics Board Chairman Alfred E. Kahn accepted a "rejection scroll" from Boren. The rejection, meaning Kahn did not get the bird, came because of his order that CAB lawyers write and use simple English on the job.
Boren believes Kahn's action requiring attorneys to talk like people borders on the subversive. Hence the rejection scroll, which was presented in ceremonies recently. Kahm said he was "honored" to be rejected and pledged he would "continue to try to justify your lack of confedence."
Boren next hopes to have President Carter's Zero Based Budget concepts printed on wallet-size cards, in Elizabethean English, for distribution to all government workers.