Pay, bonus holiday, retirement: Scrooged again?

Tuesday - 12/18/2012, 2:00am EST

Sometimes timing really is everything. Take the political game of chicken over sequestration and the fiscal cliff. After months of posturing, threats and partisan chess moves, both sides appear to have decided they don't want to take the PR fall if the legislative time bomb they created actually goes off.

If you are following the news, it appears — as many predicted — that a last-minute compromise is in the works. If there is a winner, it will likely be the White House rather than GOP fiscal conservatives in the House.

Losers are yet to be determined, but...

You, as a fed worker or retiree, may be on the side that gets the short end of the stick.

A compromise that avoids sequestration and a cliff dive would spare feds from the worst-case scenario: furloughs of up to 20 nonconsecutive days. But it is likely that the two-year pay freeze will be extended beyond next year's March 31 cutoff spelled out in the stopgap continuing resolution that expires on that date.

Unless an agreement is reached fast, as in real fast, feds have little chance of getting the day before Christmas off, even though it had become something of a tradition. In 2009, President Obama gave feds a half-day off on Thursday, Dec. 24th.

Even worse — for feds and people under Social Security, civil-service or military retirement — is the possibility that White House-congressional dealers will OK the feared, but little known chained COLA. That was the subject of yesterday's column. If the new yardstick was used to determine the rate of inflation, future benefits would be an estimated 0.3 percent less each year.

Although it is very late in the game, feds are starting to become aware of the impact of the so-called chained COLA. And they have mixed opinions. Such as:

Mike, I am a firm believer that our federal government should have a balanced budget, stated in understandable terms without any bookkeeping gimmicks. However, as you point out, chained CPI-based COLAs will have an immediate and future profound negative effect on all federal retires (civilian, postal and military) Social Security beneficiaries and also on the future recruitment ability of the federal sector. Stepping back a couple of decades, this is similar to a period during which our government attempted to renege on promised health benefits to retired military members and their spouses. Spouses of military personnel from our Greatest Generation were verbally promised lifetime health benefits after WWII if their spouses would convert to regular from reserve and stay on as a career soldier to continue to ensure the "American Way of Life" and our freedoms they had fought for over the previous five years. Only when the federal budget got tight decades later, did those on Capitol Hill ask, "Where is the piece of paper that promised that benefit?"

As I stated in a previous note to you, given the current continuing pillorying of the federal workforce, it will become progressively more difficult for our federal agencies and military to recruit the brightest and best once prospective recruits realize that their government has the ability to change the terms of their employment after the fact to suit other needs. — Mike L.

Or...
I just don't understand all the hullabaloo about the so called "Diet COLAs." How can you miss something you don't have? And if you do miss (want) it, doesn't that violate the biblical admonition about coveting your neighbor's COLA?

You know, it's not like they're going to go back in time and make it retroactive for the past 10 years. And if it does go into effect, then, they'll only complain when it is a low inflation year (such as this one). If the COLA were .057 and the diet COLA made it .054 do you think anybody would really notice? — Paul M at the IRS


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

The University of Chicago received a package last week addressed to Henry Walton Jones Jr. — that's the "real name" of the movie character Indiana Jones. In the film series, Jones is an archaeologist at the school. The package contained a replica of a journal featured in the 1981 film, "Raiders of the Lost Ark," but no explanation.

(Source: WTOP)


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