Sunday, December 30, 2018

Deserving Versus Entitled

     One of the mad fantasies of the post-World War II era is the notion that employees “deserve” an annual raise, irrespective of what they do, how well they do it, or how well the company is doing. Belief in this lunacy is so widespread, and is defended with such vitriol, that even persons who know better normally keep silent about it. But silence, as you know, is not my way.

     To say that you “deserve” something is identical to saying that you’ve “earned” it. But how does one earn more than the wage one has already agreed to accept for his labors? It seems inescapable that it’s a matter for negotiation with one’s employer. That explicit negotiations about it seldom occur these days doesn’t vitiate the argument.

     Earlier this year, President Trump announced that he planned to freeze the pay rates of federal workers other than those in the military. Yesterday he signed an executive order that does so. And of course, the Democrats, the government workers’ unions, and all their allies are up in arms. Their mouthpieces demand to know why federal bureaudrones can’t have the raises they “deserve.” Seldom does anyone challenge the embedded assumption.

     It’s entitlement syndrome from top to bottom: the attitude that because the employee is still “on the job,” he “should” get a raise regardless of any other consideration. Considering how seldom a federal employee actually leaves his job (retirement excepted), that amounts to a claim on a perpetually escalating salary just for remaining at one’s desk, other developments and considerations notwithstanding.

     We private sector types ought to know better. However, in my experience, few of us do.

     Some matters have always struck me as self-evident, a bit like the right to life. But nothing is self-evident to one with entitlement syndrome. Government employees, whose jobs are heavy with opulent benefits, tend toward the extreme of entitlement. Whether because of the incentives involved or more nebulous factors, this employment cohort displays a degree of arrogance about what it “deserves” that would get the lot of them fired from any non-union billet.

     The federal government is bankrupt. Massively insolvent. Unable to service its existing debt without incurring even more debt. An employer in that condition that blindly gives out raises would be regarded as corporately insane. Washington gets away with it through the evil magic of the Federal Reserve system.

     President Trump is not a career politician. As far as I know, he’s never worked for a government of any level. When he sees a huge and steadily increasing debt, he has the rational reaction of any private sector employer: cut costs. And employee salaries are always the biggest cost.

     What drives the spear home is that a great many federal employees are officially classified non-essential. It’s a designation I’d have hated to wear when I was working for wages. How can a “non-essential” employee be entitled to a raise as a matter of right? It makes approximately no sense...which, at least, is consistent with the degree of sense 90% of federal activity makes.

     Just now, those “non-essential” employees are on furlough due to the partial government shutdown. We in the private sector haven’t so much as hiccoughed over it, but of course the Democrats and the government workers’ unions are in a state of apoplexy over it. Clearly there’s a “problem” to be “solved” here, and as the Curmudgeon Emeritus to the World Wide Web it naturally falls to me to solve it. My prescription?

Ignore them.
They’re entitled to nothing.

     Happy New Year.


sykes.1 said...

I have to disagree. It is the official policy of the Federal Reserve to maintain an inflation rate of 2% per year. This means that the cost of living for workers is raised by 2% per year, a choice they did not make and cannot influence. So, as long as that is the Fed's policy, the workers do deserve a raise of 2% per year.

In fact, they deserve a pay raise equal to whatever inflation rate the Fed imposes/engineers.

Kye said...

Interesting take, sykes 1. What you are saying is that it is the employers responsibility to maintain the employees at a level equal to inflation. Why? How is an employer who is subject to the same inflationary pressures responsible for other people's money?

I was a small businessman all my life and over the years had thousands of employees. I never had "automatic" raises based on time on the job. I had periodic reviews during which a person could be given a raise if he demonstrated he deserved one. He could also end up fired if I thought he was a bum. And I owned businesses in the mid 70's when inflation was 18-20% and I was struggling to keep ahead. People should never be paid based on anything other than their own performance and their value to the business.

Col. B. Bunny said...

Sean Hannity has proposed something like everyone getting a government dollar should agree to accept 99 cents on the dollar.

A different direction from "up, up" has a lot to recommend it.

SiGraybeard said...

We private sector types ought to know better. However, in my experience, few of us do.

I wonder if that is a function of age/years of experience?

About 25 years ago, I was working for whom I'll call Major Southeast Defense Contractor. They froze wages saying an annual raise was "compound interest" because it was X% on top of last year's X%. Some people continued to get raises, others had pay *cuts*. Over the next half a year they lost an average of a two engineers every week. (IIRC - it was 25 years ago) There are reasons to believe that getting experienced engineers to quit was their goal in this.