Barack Obama and Third Way: Hatred of Federal Civil Service Totally Out of Line; Wall Street that Placed United States in the Financial Crisis Exempt from Scrutiny

A common thread in Third Way publications is that somehow employees of the federal government (also U.S. citizens and taxpayers) should be called to make dramatic sacrifices for symbolic purposes. Yet, the functionaries of Third Way are scions of Wall Street. As the financial sector threw the United States into a recession because of its shady, conflict-of-interest, and casino-like business practices, Third Way does not call for any sacrifices from Wall Street millionaires. Sacrifices are only called for from one group—federal civil service employees (their military service colleagues are exempted from the inane vitriol), a group effectively unable to speak a word in opposition.

Because of this discrepancy, I find Third Way a dishonest and untrustworthy source of advice. Clearly, these opinions sprout from bitter Wall Street types wanting to cast blame for its manifest failures onto innocent people. That President Obama takes advice from this fork-tongued group is galling.

Third Way Publication

Statement Against Federal Employees

The Case for Entitlement Reform “Democrats must couple entitlement reform with a credible set of proposals to demonstrate that government is taking the first and the deeper cut. A place to start is the financing of federal pensions, which is completely out-of-kilter with the way private sector retirement works. Voters need to see Washington give its share.” (Page 7)Comment: My question is what “private sector” is being talked about as the sector is not monolithic (it is made of many separate entities). As a result, the federal pension system cannot be compared to the so-called private sector.

Why is it that “Washington’s sacrifice” only consists of federal civil service employees (who are also citizen-taxpayers, a point often forgotten (even by so-called Third Way democrats)).

Frequently Asked Questions about Federal Retirement Reform Doesn’t this amount [5.2% additional FERS contribution] to a pay cut for federal employees?Yes, it does. Federal employees will have to contribute more to a very generous retirement plan. When fully phased in, it would reduce take home pay by 5.2%. The truth is that for the last 25 years, federal employees have gotten a very good deal. In today’s environment, in which everyone is going to have to give something up, it’s a deal the taxpayer can no longer afford.”

Comments:  This point (and the others in the memo) reflect a pervasive use of the author’s self-interested calculations as fact (see, e.g., memo’s footnote 11).

The Third Way point also is not in line with the history of FERS (federal employees contribute 7%, not just 0.8% for their pensions (6.2% to Social Security and 0.8% to the pension (both components of FERS). “This landmark legislation resulted in large part from the need to shore up Social Security system by broadening its base (by mandating coverage of the federal civilian work force), along with pressure from then-President Ronald Reagan to reduce federal spending.” (See Jamie Cowen, “Twenty-Five Years after Federal Pension Reform,” page 3).

Also, there is a special case made to single out the federal civil service for particular and sole scorn, a practice that is underhanded and unbecoming.

Does the proposal affect veterans and military employees?

No, this proposal covers only those in FERS—federal employees, congressional employees, members of Congress, and judicial branch employees. Military retirees are covered under a separate program administered by the Department of Defense.”

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