U.S. Congress: GOP Stewardship of Their Legislative Responsibilities Disappointing; Must Cease Blaming and Punishing the 99%
Yet again the GOP is playing games to force votes that, if successful, would continue to cut programs and services to the 99% under the guise of performing their duties: exercising the power of the purse under the U.S. Constitution–extending the debt limit (which should not exist these days because cash coming into the Treasury from FICA and FERS are immediately taken and their respective accounts are issued Treasury securities that will be redeemed with cash in the future). The so-called debt limit should be automatically raised now and not used as a dubious bargaining chip to pass unacceptable GOP proposals in any form. (Passing a form of an unacceptable plan, that is, incrementalism, must also be rejected.)
The Congress must accomplish its mission responsibly. I cannot expect the process to be perfect, but I can expect that these legislative responsibilities are carried out fairly and equitably for all those who reside within the United States of America. The vulnerable and suffering are our fellow human beings; help is what is needed not condemnation or punishment. The Affordable Care Act is the law and must be implemented on time.
Because the GOP only wishes to work for the 1% only, no further negotiations, appeasements, or discussions can be had with that party until and unless they are prepared to do the work on behalf of all of the people of the United States. The debt limit should be passed as a separate bill; appropriations bills should be passed for the entire fiscal year, not embarrassing fits and starts.
Because of the way that the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund (CSRDF) is set up, when federal employees contribute more (without an increase of the pension benefit), they actually are paying that money to the Treasury. In the case of the recent new law (P. L. 112-96, title V), this money is going to pay for an extension of unemployment benefits (and not an increase in pension benefits). So, basically, federal employee pay was effectively cut back.
The group, Third Way, still has influence. It asked for a 5.2% increase of employee’s contributions; the Congress delivered 3.1% not only for the civil service but all participants of the Federal Employees’ Retirement System.
[The crocodile tears of Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Representative Chris Van Hollen (member of the so -called supercommittee) did not affect me at all, except to make me marvel at their skills of “gaslighting.”]
As I suspected, in part, President Barack Obama delivered his deficit reduction plan to the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction.
I have yet to read all of the contents, but one thing I did notice is that the proposal for federal employees to “contribute” more to their pensions is really a giveback of salary (because of the operation of the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund). I guess “Third Way” got its way in part (1.2% rather than 5.8%). But knowing how this town works another time that the media whips up the public about federal employees, watch for the so-called contribution to increase. [With all of the givebacks and pay freezes, federal salaries may never keep up with the cost of living in this expensive country.]
Will the plan get a majority vote and get a expedited vote in Congress? I do not know. Maybe some of the very bitter provisions can be tolerated if (very big “if”) every income class participates in addressing the lack of revenue problem.
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.”
A common thread of Third Way publications on federal pensions and Social Security is a strong faith in the 401(k)s. Because the private sector switched to them (at tremendous profit to executives and shareholders and tremendous cost to employees), Third Way strongly advocates for them. This move would absolutely come to the tremendous benefit of Third Way’s board of trustees, many of whom have Wall Street interests.
A PBS program, Frontline, outlined the situation in 2006. Having viewed the program, I take a dim view of Third Way’s proposals seeming to favor strongly flawed and expensive 401(k)s to make the Federal Employees Retirement System unaffordable (and ultimately transferred (at great profit) to Wall Street.
A thought: Suppose President George Bush succeeded in privatizing Social Security and then Wall Street crashed, wiping out Social Security funds. What would happen? I say at a minimum that profit-taking Wall Street firms should have all profits disgorged until such time that the Social Security program would have been made whole. If this result is uncomfortable, then Wall Street has absolutely no business handling Social Security or federal pension monies.
In all of the discussions concerning the 5% contribution proposal for federal employees’ to pay into the Federal Employees Retirement System, little is mentioned that members of Congress, congressional employees, federal law enforcement officers, air traffic controllers, military reserve technicians and some CIA employees also have agency contributions paid on their behalf.
Despite the sentiment of the politicians that they have to address the deficit (difference between revenues and expenses) and the debt (borrowed to pay for expenses beyond revenues), their obsessive focus on federal employees truly demonstrates the failure of the governing structure of the United States.
It does not help that the many members of the upper levels of our so-called representative government all come from the same high-income, Ivy-League-educated strata of the society that cannot relate to the legitimate issues of the working people. One example of this is that in the discussions involving Vice President Joe Biden and Congress, the only things they can agree on is cutting farm assistance and making low level civil servants only pay a higher portion for the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).
The tax system has been ruined by Congress with excessive tax expenditures that overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy and drain off revenues. It has gotten to the point that the tax rates represent a level of taxes that no one pays.
Republicans have the audacity to act like they are fiscally responsible when they declare that the United States is “broke” (it’s not, not as long as it has a system to collect revenue), steadfastly oppose any increase to revenue, believe that cutting all spending will solve the problem of insufficient revenue. The Republican Party’s beliefs stem from the core of their party is wealthy and therefore can pay for all they need and do not wish to pay for the remainder of the society that cannot be “self-sufficient.”
Democrats are no better. I have absolutely no confidence in most of them. Yes, they support some social policy causes, but when it comes to fiscal matters the core of the party are wealthy elites that also do not wish to pay for services used by the majority of the citizenry. While the Republicans parry, the Democrats, generally speaking stay silent (maybe even secretly hoping that the Republicans make some headway). The only time that I have seen the Democrats speak up is when the tides have already turned against the Republicans and they want to ride the waves to victory. They had the Senate, yet lots of policy proposals were left unaccomplished.
With stagnant income and the Congressional intention to shift the burden to those who earn $100,000 or less, the majority of citizens in this should pay close attention to what these politicians do and don’t do.