Clearly the people were not united in his popular vote defeat, but it is true many are quaking following his electoral college victory.
Among those are federal employees who will twice pay the cost of his governing by deconstruction. Trump wants to cut domestic discretionary programs by $54 billion and increase the defense budget by the same amount. That plan was a focal point during the opening session of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) legislative conference Wednesday.
In addition to suffering service cuts affecting Americans generally if Trump’s severe budget slashing is implemented, the workers also worry about their jobs — the ability to do them and keep them.
“Our concern is two-fold,” NTEU President Tony Reardon said after Trump’s plan was announced. “The very missions of these government programs would be jeopardized by such drastic cuts and thousands of federal employees around the country would likely lose their jobs.”
Feds might be fearful of what Trump means for them, but they aren’t cowering in fear.
Indeed, NTEU legislative conference participants are fired up and eager to push against plans that Trump and congressional Republicans have for federal agencies and the workforce.
“Today we fight for our agency missions and for the service we provide the public,” Reardon said. “We need to fight harder, to defend our work and our rights.”
It will be a difficult political battle.
For years, House Republicans have advocated what Reardon calls “negative legislation.” That category includes retirement changes that amount to pay cuts and attacks on due process among other measures. Those bills now stand a better chance of approval because Republicans control the White House and Congress. Reardon hopes Democratic filibusters will come to the rescue.
“We’ve won in the past,” he said, “and I think we’ll continue to win.”
He listed a five priority issues — securing fair pay, protecting retirement benefits, preserving health care benefits, safeguarding workplace fairness and achieving agency missions.
Saving jobs is not on the list, but it is a very real concern among workers and their organizations. They know Trump cannot cut $54 billion from domestic programs without putting federal jobs at risk.
“It’s a double whammy for us,” said Candis Cardenas, an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee in Dallas. Like others at the conference, she spoke in her capacity as a union member. “We are anticipating further layoffs because of these cuts.”
How can federal employees “adequately or effectively serve our taxpayers if you cut us down at the knees and you say we’re not valuable?” asked Nicholas Pegues, a Treasury Department employee and NTEU member from St. Louis.
Pegues and NTEU members were quick to note the folly of cutting the nation’s breadwinner.
“The IRS collects 93 percent of our nation’s revenue,” Reardon said. “You cannot increase defense spending and cut IRS funding at the same time. It does not add up.”
It does if you take an ax to the workforce and agency programs.
“Remember, the $54 billion cut proposed by the administration is not savings for the taxpayer: It simply shifts the money, dollar-for-dollar, to an increase in military spending,” Reardon said. “These across-the-board cuts do not reduce the deficit and are so deep as to make government less efficient, not more.”
That is a big worry.
“When I see all of these cuts,” he added at a press briefing, “I fear a government that can no longer work effectively for the American people.”