Pending threats: Separating the sharks from the minnows

Friday - 7/11/2014, 3:30pm EDT

Thanks to the upcoming mid-term election, even the most anti-bureaucrat politicians have mostly suspended their whack-a-fed game until next year.

We will (should) hear a lot more about VA bonuses and paperwork problems. And maybe more about what happened to potentially incriminating IRS emails that disappeared in the ether.

Was that a computer glitch, or a 2014 version of the mysterious gaps in the so-called Nixon tapes?

But for the most part, efforts to reform (or fold, staple and mutilate) federal pay, pensions and investment options are largely on hold.

Even with the summer lull and the autumn elections, there are still dozens of bills on Capitol Hill getting varying degrees of attention and, in some rare cases, even action. Limited action.

The bills range from everything to combat tax parity for feds in hostile situations, to scaling back future cost of living adjustments for retirees, to replacing the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program by putting workers and retirees under the Affordable Care Act.

Others would change the default option in the Thrift Savings Plan. At present, new hires who are automatically enrolled in the TSP have their government contribution directed to the Treasury G-fund unless they pick another option. The proposal would make the L-fund, lifecycle, the default option.

Several of the pending bills are definitely in the long-shot category. That includes a proposal to give white collar federal workers a 3.3 percent raise in January, rather than the 1 percent proposed by the White House. Not likely to go anywhere.

The other when-pigs-fly bill would repay all federal workers who were furloughed last year. In addition to being a very, looooooooooooong shot, it would mean that any fed who got unemployment benefits during the furlough would have to repay the money.

The one proposal most feared by many pro-fed lobbyists is the plan to base future retiree COLAs on the so-called "chained CPI". Backers—which includes the Obama administraton—say it provides a more realistic picture of what retirees do when prices for certain items go up — they buy less expensive items. Opponents say the steak-to-chicken-to-hamburger scenario doesn't include the last step: dog food!

By one estimate, moving from the current CPI to the chained CPI index would cost the typical CSRS retiree (who gets $32,000 per year) about $50,000 over his or her retirement lifetime.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

If you work in an office and you drink coffee, you probably throw out around 500 disposable cups in a year. Across the U.S., over 23 billion paper cups end up in the trash annually, along with another 25 billion made from Styrofoam.

(Source: Co.EXIST)


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