Beyond the Beltway worries

Tuesday - 10/23/2012, 2:00am EDT

In wonkier parts of the Washington area — Capitol Hill, Georgetown, Arlington and Chevy Chase — much of the table talk at the local Starbucks is about the fiscal cliff, sequestration and the upcoming elections. Lesser subjects include sex and the Washington Redskins, not necessarily in that order.

Children of politicians in Alexandria, lobbyists in Bethesda, lawyers in Potomac and talking-head journalists who reside in Cleveland Park are warned that the coming financial crisis if (fill in the blanks) is elected, might mean a furlough for their nanny or au pair. That's their fiscal cliff.

Dogs that fail house-training lessons in Somerset or McLean are made aware they may wind up at the vets where they will be sequestered.

In short, the potential crises that politicians here have created, and are now fighting to save us from, is a big deal inside the Beltway. But how about in the real world?

In cities like Zanesville, Ohio; Bowling Green, Ky.; Reno, Nev.; Orlando, Fla.; and most other real-world sites, the fiscal cliff and the prospect of government belt-tightening don't appear to top the list of things to worry about.

We heard from a fed with 37.5 years service who said:

"Here's what's missing that nobody has latched onto: Retired feds will get a 1.7 percent cost-of-living raise. But for long-service, long suffering feds who have continued to work during the two-year pay freeze, they will NEVER recover what they have lost ... Those who retired before the pay freeze got a 3.6 percent COLA this year, and 5.8 percent in 2009.

"Those who continue to work will, eventually, get back most of the pay lost to the pay freeze. But it is the oldest, longest serving feds who have served their nation, the public and both Democratic and Republican administrations who are going to be the only ones who will never receive their frozen pay." — Frozen Fed

The reader said he believes the White House and Congress should approve a bailout — similar to the one for GM and Wall Street banks — that would credit long-time, pay-frozen feds with the COLAs they missed while they were working — when they actually retire.

Another correspondent says he's not concerned with the threat of furloughs or sequestration. He writes:

"I don't know if I'm dumb or what, but as for what could happen to me here at IRS if Congress can't get its act together, I think the answer is: Nothing, They can't afford to lose the income I help bring in and I don't think I'll be furloughed since I have 25 years of service. The union was here a couple of weeks ago saying they are trying to keep any of us from being furloughed." He said he's more worried about his TSP account. "I've been 100 percent in the F Fund (bonds) since July of last year. My latest statement says my return for the last 12 months was 5.27 percent. That's not as good as the C (stock) Fund return or the S and I Funds. But it is steady and better than the G (treasury securities) Fund. Some people said I was smart to have it all in the G Fund when the market fell apart. I'm not out to break the bank. Just be able to retire and do things, like a European river tour." Tony IRS

NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

China has been the world's largest beer producer by volume in each of the 10 previous years. The United States ranks second.

(Source: Kirin Institute of Food and Lifestyle)


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