Federal and postal workers would be required to join, and pay into, the social security system under legislation introduced by Rep. Barber Conable (R-N.Y.). His bill is a long way from becoming law. But it is the vehicle that will be used to attempt to integrate the financially healthy federal staff retirement system with the not-so-healthy social security system.
Most American workers are required to be covered by social security. Federal and postal employes represent the largest single bloc of uncovered workers. Most of them would like to keep it that way.
Although federal workers pay more for their retirement benefits than persons under social security, and although their pensions are taxable (social security is not) the federal program is generally superior to the social security system. Because it is a staff program, not a minimum benefits welfare system like social security, federal employes generally get better retirement incomes, and can retire earlier, than most persons under social security.
The fact that goverment employes pay a larger share of salaries for these benefits (7 percent a year) and get taxed on them, does not satisfy critics who want to bring them under social security. Conable is one who believes it is unfair for government workers who administer social security to be exempt from it.
His plan also would require members of Congress -- who have a very generous pension program based on the civil service retirement plan -- to come under social security. Whether they will buy it themselves is doubtful.
Various study groups are considering merging the social security and civil service programs. But their reports are not due until the end of this year. The Conable bill (H.R. 14) would probably have to wait until the study groups have reported before any final action could be taken on it.
Meantime, any merger of the CS system with social security, raises a lot of unanswered questions. Among them:
Would federal workers have to pay more -- in contributions to social security and CS -- to maintain retirement benefits promised them as part of employment? If so, how would it work?
Would the merger -- partially designed to pump federal retirement funds into social security -- wind up costing the social security fund money in the long run?
What would happen to federal workers who retired at age 50 or 55? Would they get both benefits at that time, or would they have to wait seven to 12 years longer to get benefits of both?
What about the "contract" federal and postal workers entered into with the government and its pension plan when they elected to work for Uncle Sam? Is it fair to change the game in mid-career for hundreds of thousands of workers?
Would federal and postal workers forced to join social security then be forced to take pension "offsets" as a result of the merger?
A lot of questions must be answered before Congress and the White House can rationally decide on the merger issue. Meanwhile, the committees are studying, and the Conable bill is there if any backers of the merger want to run with it.
Bring On The Snow: At least one section of the bureaucracy here thrives on snow and frigid temperatures. That is the ACTION agency, and its after-hours skating/drinking society known as the Alligator Skaters. They meet Thursday evenings at the National Sculpture Gardens nearby rink. Participation is open to anybody -- bureacurat or business type -- who loves winter sport.
JOBS: Commodity Futures Trading Commission has a Grade 13/14 supervisory personnel management specialist opening, and needs a GS 14 budget-accounting officer. Call 254-3275... Army wants a GS 12 safety engineer (or GS 7 safety intern). Send resumes to the MDW personnel office, Forrestal Building, Zip 20314, Attn: C. Bush.
'Secretary-Steno: Energy Department has a GS 6 or 7. Call 633-8330.