In their quest for votes on Nov. 4, the Carter, Reagan and Anderson people are spending a lot of time wooing the hyphenated-American market. It includes Italian-Americans, Greek-Americans, Black-Americans, Polish-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, etc.
As the days dwindle down to darn precious few, presidential vote hunters are anxious to bag another group that could hold the balance of power in such key states as Texas, Florida, California, New York and Pennsylvania. sThe other important hyphenated bloc, which includes all of the above, contains a minimum of 4.4 million people and a maximum of 9 million, depending on how one counts them, and who does the counting.
They are found in every city and county in the nation in all kinds of jobs, from pilots to truck drivers, from beauticians to nuclear physicists, from secretaries to scientists. They are the U.S. Americans. People who carry the mail, or did; who test soil and water, or did; who help carry out foreign policy, or did; who work as prison guards, or did. They are present or former federal workers who have a big stake in this election since they will be electing not merely a president, but also a boss.
The numbers of federal workers and retirees aren't lost on the politicians. Carter's decision to go with a 9.1 percent pay raise (rather than the lesser amount he budgeted) was based largely on political reasons. He felt it was the maximum amount he could give civil servants without alienating the antibureaucrat segment of the population. Carter, as a boss, appears to be unloved by the civil service. How feds feel about him as a president is unknown.
Reagan, perceived as an antigovernment, antibureaucrat type, has made a real pitch for the votes of U.S. workers. Unlike Anderson and Carter, who favor cutting federal-military retirees back to a single cost-of-living increase each year (the same formula used for recipients of Social Security benefits), Reagan says he opposes changing the system that gives the 2 million federal-postal-military retirees inflation adjustments each March and September.
Federal workers and retirees are all old enough to vote. They are among the nation's best-educated, best-trained, best-paid (white-collar salary average is now more than $21,000 a year) people. And there are a lot of them. Consider these numbers in key states. First the active duty federal workers:
Alabama, 60,227; California, 292,929; Colorado, 48,991, Florida, 80,167; Georgia, 76,786; Illinois, 101,994; Maryland, 130,826; Massachusetts, 56,447; Michigan, 54,039; Missouri, 64,914; New Jersey, 68,714; New York, 157,844; Ohio, 89,087; Oklahoma, 45,463; Pennsylvania, 126,370; Tennessee, 69,872; Virginia, 144,191, and Washington state, 60,942. And Arizona, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin each has a federal employe population of between 25,000 and 45,000.
Retired government workers are more inclined to vote than almost any other group. There are a lot of them out there. For instance:
California has 183,128 retired federal workers, plus a large military retiree population. Florida has 110,732 U.S. retirees; Georgia more than 40,000; Illinois nearly 50,000; Maryland almost 60,000; New Jersey more than 30,000; New York, 56,000; Ohio, 33,000; Virginia, 74,000; Texas, nearly 60,000; Missouri, 22,000; District of Columbia, 42,000; Arizona, nearly 27,000; Massachusetts, 43,000; Washington state, 43,000 and North Carolina, 28,000. Tennessee, South Carolina, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon, Michigan and Utah all have more than 20,000 U.S. retirees, and Pennsylvania has nearly 80,000.
Nobody has suggested or been able to prove that either U.S. workers or retirees vote as a bloc. But in an election year, when economic issues are paramount in the minds of many voters, pay and pension benefits could weld them into a block vote that could affect many close congressional races, and even the presidential election.