- Bipartisan support endorses ending vital social benefits
incrementally, principally Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, healthcare
for those who can't afford it, and public pensions.
- Notably, deep Medicare cuts were made. Much more is planned,
including slashing Medicaid. Now federal pensions are being targeted. Civilian
federal employees receive benefits under the Federal Employees Retirement
System (FERS), consisting of three components:
- -- a FERS annuity defined benefit plan;
- -- mandatory Social Security participation; however most
Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) employees aren't part of Social
Security unless they qualify separately from additional private sector
- -- the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), a 401(k) type defined
- On March 19, Senators Tom Coburn (R. OK) and Richard
Burr (R. NC) introduced S. 644: Public-Private Employee Retirement Parity
Act to prohibit federal annuities for employees hired after 2012. In other
words, beginning January 1, 2013, they want defined pensions for newly
hired federal workers ended, eventually eliminating unfunded ones altogether.
- Although the other two FERS components are maintained,
S. 644 is another step toward halting all federal obligations to working
Americans to provide more funds for imperial wars, corporate handouts,
and greater tax benefits for America's super-rich. But don't expect Congress,
Obama, or major media reports to explain.
- Coburn justified S. 644, claiming federal workers earn
over 20% more than private sector ones. In fact, according to a National
Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) study titled, "Out of Balance?
Comparing Public and Private Sector Compensation Over 20 Years:"
- Wages and benefits for public workers are lower than
for private sector ones with comparable earnings determinants, such as
education and work experience. Moreover, the pay gap widened over the last
15 years. Other studies agree, saying public workers can earn more by using
their skills in private sector jobs.
- As a result, the National Federation of Federal Employees
(NFFE) called S. 644 unfair. For example, a federal employee earning on
average $50,000 in his or her three highest earning years, with 30 years
of service, gets a $15,000 annual pension, hardly a generous amount.
- NFFE also said FERS pensions are less than under the
Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), the one FERS replaced in 1986 for
- Coburn and Burr claim defined benefit federal pensions
are going broke. Last September, in fact, the Congressional Research Service
(CRS) denied insolvency problems, saying FERS and CSRS (for eligible employees)
will be able to meet their obligations "in perpetuity." Moreover,
CRS expects their assets to grow for decades, reaching $15.3 trillion in
2080, far exceeding outlays.
- Nonetheless, congressional Republicans, known as "You
Cutters," plan other slash and burn efforts to:
- -- cut federal pay;
- -- freeze hiring;
- -- end early retirement benefits;
- -- eliminate the time the American Federation of Government
Employees (AFGE) has to defend federal employee rights; and
- -- calculate pensions based on the highest five (instead
of 3) working years, among other proposed draconian anti-worker measures,
including stealing pension funds by borrowing them to fund government operations.
- On May 16, Washington Post writer Zachary Goldfarb headlined,
"Treasury to tap pensions to help fund government," saying:
- Federal retirement funds will be tapped to help fund
government operations after the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling was reached
as Congress keeps wrangling over raising it. In fact, "the Obama administration
has shown growing interest in altering (pension) programs to curb the debt
in the long run (by) raising the amount that federal employees contribute
to their pensions."
- Both parties agree on social spending cuts overall, disagreeing
largely on timing ahead of the 2012 election, besides posturing for political
advantage. In fact, Obama already committed to cut trillions of dollars
over the next decade, mainly essential entitlements, education, healthcare
for working households, and aid for America's poor. In addition, federal
workers pay was frozen last November for two years. Moreover, as explained
at the time, cuts from his April 8 budget deal included:
- -- $3.5 billion from Children's Health Insurance Program
- -- $2.2 billion from nonprofit health insurance cooperatives;
- -- $600 million from community healthcare centers;
- -- $1 billion from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other
disease prevention programs;
- -- $1.6 billion from EPA's clean/safe drinking water
and other projects;
- -- $950 million from community development grants;
- -- $504 million from nutrition aid for poor Women, Infants,
and Children (WIC);
- -- $500 million from education programs;
- -- $390 million from home heating subsidies to the poor,
as well as $2.5 billion for the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
announced in February;
- -- $350 million from labor programs, including grants
for community service jobs for seniors;
- -- other social service cuts;
- -- $786 million from FEMA first-responder funding;
- -- $407 million from energy efficiency and renewable
- -- $260 million from National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- -- $127 million from the National Park Service; and
- -- billions less for public infrastructure and transportation
spending, while increasing war appropriations by multiples more, including
for conquering and controlling Libya.
- Moreover, Obama agreed to more draconian FY 2012 cuts
and corporate tax breaks as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling. It's
still being debated at least until August 2 while Congress loots federal
pensions to keep government operations running.
- Overall, bipartisan support endorses ending safety net
protections, especially healthcare for retirees and working households,
Social Security, and public pensions, forcing Americans to pay more and
get less if anything at all.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays
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