October 22, 2013

As a retired federal employee, this is admittedly self-serving, but I must take strong exception to the way that Robert J. Samuelson’s Oct. 21 op-ed column, “Our entitlement hang-up,” lumped civil service retirement in with other “entitlement” programs, as if the so-called entitlement programs he cited were all of a kind. They’re not.

I contributed 7 percent of my salary toward my retirement throughout my years of federal employment. In exchange, the government promised certain benefits, including retirement compensation. I made financial decisions — how much to invest, to spend, to borrow — based on an assumption that the government would keep those promises even while acknowledging that there’s no legal obligation to do so. I believe I earned the retirement check I now receive just as I earned my paycheck and other benefits while working. My paycheck was hardly an entitlement; neither is my retirement check, which is simply a (deferred) benefit.

Not everyone who gets a check from the government is receiving an entitlement, even though Mr. Samuelson lumps them together as if they were related. Surely he wouldn’t include bondholders on his list, would he? Am I less entitled because I invested labor and bondholders invest capital?

Ed Rader, Alexandria

Robert J. Samuelson left out a number of entitlement programs in his Oct. 21 op-ed column:the oil depletion allowance,home mortgage deduction, capital gains tax rate, Amtrak subsidy, postal subsidy and so on and on, thanks to special interests and Congress.

George Berard, Beltsville